ECU awarded top honor in internationalization

With its growing international program, ECU was one of four institutions nationwide to receive the Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization by NAFSA: Association of International Educators. The award was announced Feb. 14 and recognizes overall excellence in internationalization efforts by an institution of higher education.

Jon Rezek, assistant vice chancellor for global affairs, and Linda Darty, director of the ECU Tuscany program, speak with Elio Ansaldo, longtime resident of Certaldo Alto, Italy, in 2018.

According to Jon Rezek, assistant vice chancellor for global affairs, it’s like winning the national championship of internationalization. In addition to ECU, Georgia State University, Northwestern University and the University of Kentucky received the award.

“This award represents the culmination of over five years of efforts on the part of university administration, global affairs, faculty, staff and students across all of our academic units to deliberately and strategically strengthen and expand our international programs,” Rezek said. “Over the course of the past five years we have moved from a university with certain targeted strengths in the international arena to one that can truly be called a national model for comprehensive internationalization.”

Rezek said that since 2016, ECU has focused on growing campus internationalization opportunities, including the number of international students and scholars attending ECU and student engagement. Support from campus leadership and funding from donors and grant awards provided the resources needed to change campus culture and grow a comprehensive program.

The number of new international students enrolled at ECU grew by 80% last fall compared to 2017. Students representing 68 countries are enrolled at ECU. About 15 international virtual exchange courses are offered at ECU each semester across multiple departments.

“In addition to our signature Global Understanding courses, we now offer discipline-specific courses in business, health and environmental studies, and are developing another model of virtual exchange that will allow us to increase the diversity and numbers of courses that can be involved,” said Jami Leibowitz, associate director of ECU’s Office of Global Affairs, director of Global Academic Initiatives, and chair of the Global Partners in Education network.

ECU has partnerships with 51 universities in 37 countries. Last spring, in the early weeks of the war in Ukraine, ECU hosted a conversation with students at a partner university in Ukraine, offering faculty, staff and students a firsthand account of the effects of the war and the Ukrainian students a chance to have their story told. Last academic year, the first since pandemic travel restrictions were lifted, more than 400 students went abroad, and faculty members led 20 programs abroad.