The importance of providing a “global education” becomes more apparent by the day, according to Dr. Aondover Tarhule, Illinois State University vice president for Academic Affairs and provost.

“We see the global supply chain disruptions. We see the effects of the COVID pandemic. We see the effects of the war in Ukraine and how that’s impacting everybody—and on and on,” Tarhule said. “It doesn’t matter where something starts, because of the interconnectedness of the world today, it’s going to circulate around the entire world.

“Therefore, it’s very important that we educate students to have an understanding of what’s going on internationally because we don’t live in isolation.”

Tarhule presented his vision for the future of the University’s international engagement efforts April 20 to more than 50 people in the Old Main Room of the Bone Student Center and simultaneously to an online audience via Zoom during the final session of the Spring 2022 International Seminar Series. He outlined his multidimensional approach to expanding internationalization efforts that involves increased international student recruitment, study or work abroad exchanges, curriculum internationalization, and an expansion of foreign branch campuses.

“Our students need that exposure,” Tarhule said. “They need that understanding, and we expect engagement with their peers about the world so they can better understand other cultures and other people.”

woman speaking on a video screen to a room of people
Dr. Roopa Rawjee, the newly appointed executive director of the Office of International Engagement (OIE), addresses attendees during the final session of the Spring 2022 International Seminar Series.

The University is already making progress toward strengthening its internationalization infrastructure through two recent hires. Tarhule introduced Dr. Roopa Rawjee as the newly appointed executive director of the Office of International Engagement (OIE), effective July 1. The new OIE will merge the Office of International Studies and Programs with the International Pathways unit.

Tarhule also announced Dr. Anthony Piña as director of online education and chief online learning officer, effective June 1, a newly created position at the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology (CTLT). “Online education is of course a critical part of international education,” Tarhule said.

Rawjee joined the International Seminar Series conversation through video conference. She said Illinois State is a “hidden gem” internationally, and she’s eager to expand the University’s global presence.

“I think there is already so much great momentum on campus,” Rawjee said. “There is such a rich plethora of academic opportunities and offerings that are already in place. Everybody wants to be engaged with this work, and I see myself as being that facilitator and collaborator to operationalize our goals.”

Over the next five years, Tarhule said the University aims to double its international student enrollment from about 2.5 percent of the 20,000-plus student body to 5 percent. Tarhule said he would like to expand Illinois State’s partnership with Quality Leadership University (QLU) in Panama City, Panama, and build similar partnerships in locations around the world. He also hopes to consider expanding into foreign branch campuses, developing joint degrees with global partners, and increasing study abroad by 20 percent over the next five years.

“These are ideas that we can implement,” Tarhule said. “No one person can do this. It’s up to all of us as an institution to embrace this view, to embrace this vision and to make it happen, and I know we can make it happen.”

Tarhule said he welcomes feedback and ideas from students, faculty, and staff that can be integrated into Illinois State’s emerging strategy to expand international engagement.

“Getting those ideas and prioritizing those ideas and diligently following through on the implementation is what is going to set the future for us,” Tarhule said. “And I think, if we do that, the future is very bright indeed.”