A Provost's Perspective:
David Colburn on Internationalization

In February, Alumni CLASnotes Editor Laura H. Griffis had the opportunity to speak with Provost David Colburn about the importance of internationalization and UF. Following is an excerpt from their conversation.

David ColburnLG: Why is internationalization a timely educational concern?
DC: Our students are increasingly being called on to work in various parts of the world. We want them to understand and appreciate the value of other cultures and to have a knowledge of language that will allow them to move comfortably in foreign settings. The University of Florida has a special responsibility to prepare them for this world that awaits them after graduation.

LG: How can UF develop international opportunities for students and faculty?
DC: I think there is a lot we can do. There is no doubt that our faculty are engaged internationally. They are involved in research collaborations with colleagues all over the world. They also participate annually in major international conferences. In fact, I think it is the faculty, in concert with the private sector, that is driving us to move increasingly toward international cooperation. UF needs to strengthen and expand its international programs in order to provide more opportunities for students to study abroad and experience other cultures. We can also do a lot to internationalize the curriculum. I think that the faculty have done an extraordinary amount of work to internationalize their courses, and there are remarkably few courses that lack an international dimension. We are encouraging this and examining ways to promote it further.

LG: What kind of ways are you thinking about?
DC: I think we must provide additional opportunities for Florida students to study abroad through short courses and summer terms, as well as during the academic year. We also need to secure internship opportunities so that our students have opportunities to work in different cultures before they graduate. In our academic coursework, we need to provide a comparative perspective whenever possible, so that students understand and appreciate the relationships between the US and other societies and also appreciate the contributions made by those societies.

LG: Why is internationalization particularly important for UF?
DC: Florida is one of the most internationally oriented states in the nation. International trade increasingly shapes our economy, and the airports in Miami, Tampa, and Orlando have traffic and commercial goods leaving daily for points around the globe. Miami is increasingly becoming the major city for Caribbean commerce, and it shapes the culture throughout the region and serves as its major banking center. Orlando and Tampa have become major hubs for Latin American and European trade. We find our students increasingly working for companies in these cities and throughout the US that are international in their activity. Florida is also one of the major immigrant-receiving states in the nation and is heavily engaged in international commerce as a result. Florida is going to continue to be positioned as a leader in Latin America and we have a special obligation to provide our students with an academic background so that they can make the transition into this world comfortably and successfully.

Jane Dominguez

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