Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth began discussing a statement on “Internationalization at Wesleyan” with the Director of the Fries Center and others in the summer of 2021. Over the next months, that statement and its accompanying goals were discussed with the Fries Center’s Advisory Board, numerous faculty and staff stakeholders, the president’s Cabinet, and the Wesleyan Board of Trustees.

The resulting presidential statement calls for progress to be made in deepening Wesleyan’s comprehensive internationalization over the next five years in the following thematic areas:

  1. Promote internationalized student learning through our curriculum 
  2. Support students and alumni in pursuing global engagement and intercultural growth through activities beyond the curriculum
  3. Expand and support a culture of campus multilingualism
  4. Broaden access for and diversity of international students, faculty and visiting scholars, and staff; foster a campus environment in which all can thrive
  5. Increase support for international student and faculty research, creative practice, and other partnerships
  6. Build attention to comprehensive internationalization into our governance and institutional structure

Progress on these goals will come in various ways: in some cases, they represent continuation of efforts already underway in administrative offices and academic units across campus; in other cases, they are new initiatives that may require further consultation and authorization before they can be undertaken.

Internationalization at Wesleyan

Wesleyan’s new Strategic Plan describes the evolution of the University across its 175-year history, from a local school with parochial concerns to an increasingly internationalized institution promoting global access to knowledge and learning, open inquiry, and mutual impact between our campus and the world to which we belong. Key innovations began more than half a century ago, with the founding of a pathbreaking World Music department and the establishment of study abroad programs in Paris and Madrid. Wesleyan’s experimental and interdisciplinary spirit coupled with support from visionary alumnae/alumni catalyzed continued internationalization in coming decades. Examples include the Freeman Center for East Asian Studies (1987), which eventually grew to become the College of East Asian Studies; the Office of International Studies (1993) with its distinctive emphasis on the centrality of language learning in study abroad; the Freeman Asian Scholars program (1995) bringing cohort after cohort of outstanding students from East and Southeast Asia. More recently the university established the Fries Center for Global Studies (2015) and expanded and reorganized the Office of International Student Affairs (2018). There is little doubt that an expanded engagement with the world lies at the core of Wesleyan’s growth. 

It is now time to articulate more explicitly what internationalization means at Wesleyan and why it is so critical to achieving our institutional mission to promote access, inquiry, and impact in a manner befitting the world of which we are a part. Internationalization is the infusion of international and comparative perspectives throughout the teaching, research, creative practice, and service missions of our institution. As we understand it here at Wesleyan, such an infusion does not just add more knowledge to be learned but actually changes the ways that we teach and the questions we seek to answer. Internationalization means to cultivate intercultural understanding and sensitivity in all and to amplify previously marginalized voices.

There are three main reasons why internationalization must be central to Wesleyan’s future. First, Wesleyan embraces the ethical call to openness, to resisting parochialism, to pushing back against the status quo. Treating this call with the seriousness it deserves requires internationalizing. Second, the same underlying reason that Wesleyan has long valued boundary-crossing interdisciplinarity leads equally to internationalization: the cross-pollination of multiple ideas and experiences leads to innovation. To continue to generate creativity across the academic spectrum, we must internationalize. Third, global flows of power, culture, capital, and people unavoidably shape our world. To attract talented students, faculty, and staff — and to prepare our students to flourish in this world — we need an institution that itself reflects the diverse realities, perspectives, and languages of that world.

As the American Council on Education has clearly articulated, internationalization is not just a matter of increasing the number of students from outside the U.S. nor of adding courses on regions beyond Europe, even if both of those steps are important. For internationalization to be as impactful as it can be, it must be coordinated and comprehensive. It must impact institutional policy and leadership; the curriculum and the residential experience; both inbound and outbound mobility for students, faculty, and staff; the targets and audiences of student and faculty research and creative practice; and the partnerships and networks in which we all operate — very much including the university’s alumnae/alumni. Success requires viewing all these areas through internationalized lenses. In each area, are we anti-parochial and multilingual? Are we asking in what ways we can deconstruct colonial heritages to include and empower all perspectives? Only if we answer in the affirmative can we be confident that we are responding to the three-fold demands for internationalization.


John K. Hudzik, Comprehensive Internationalization: From Concept to Action (NAFSA: Association of International Educators, 2011)