Illinois State’s campus is home to many world travelers who’ve spent years living and working in other countries. Now, a new online tool is turning those global connections into a campus resource.
Illinois State’s new International Experiences database launched last month. The ambitious project maps the international backgrounds of more than 200 faculty and staff members, including languages they know, research they’ve done overseas, and their Study Abroad trips, among other experiences.
If an international student coming to Illinois State speaks Mandarin, she could search the database and find a list of people on campus who do too. If a professor wants to team up with other faculty members for an international grant focused on Africa, he could find a list of potential partners.
“The potential uses for this database are just endless,” said Greta (Schapmire) Janis ’12, an office support specialist in the Office of the Provost who helps collect and curate the tool’s data trove.
The searchable database is the creation of the International Studies Advisory Committee (ISAC), which serves as a conduit between Illinois State’s colleges and the Office of International Studies and Programs.
The idea traces back to 2011, when Illinois State was chosen to participate in the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) International Academic Partnership Program. To help meet the needs of visiting Brazilian students, a list of campus contacts with experience in Brazil or fluency in Portuguese was created.
That list proved really helpful, said Assistant Provost Rita Bailey ’90, M.S. ’92, Ph.D. ’02, who oversees international studies. That led ISAC to explore creation of a larger database with more countries.
ISAC member Aslihan Spaulding from the Department of Agriculture sent out the initial surveys to faculty and staff. After their responses came in and the data was mined and organized, Web and Interactive Communications (including graphic designer Mary Macin ’10) built the database and placed it on the Office of International Studies and Programs website.
The tool is searchable four different ways: country/region, language, department, and name. Illinois State’s colleges, departments, and schools are most likely to use it, at least initially, Bailey said.
The database is one of many steps taken to expand Illinois State’s global influences on campus and its international footprint abroad. Those steps include creation of an international strategic plan and recently announced pledge to double the number of Study Abroad participants over the next five years.
Bailey said this new tool could help campus-decision makers expand international programs, such as Study Abroad, by giving them more information about existing resources—in this case, faculty and staff expertise. Similarly, it may bolster Illinois State’s pursuit of grants from international organizations by making it easier to bring together interdisciplinary groups of faculty members who can team up on proposals.
“This (database) documents where we are today, a snapshot in time,” Bailey told STATEside. “And in the future it could open eyes on campus to what resources are already here.”
Faculty and staff members looking to add their experiences to the database, or correct an existing entry, can contact Greta Janis in the Office of Provost by email or at (309) 438-3662.
Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.