URI honored with national award for campus internationalization efforts

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KINGSTON, R.I. – March 18, 2011 – The Association of International Educators has recognized the University of Rhode Island as one of eight recipients of the 2011 Senator Paul Simon Awards for Campus Internationalization. The winners were chosen from a pool of 60 nominations.

The award honors URI as “a leader in internationalizing its engineering curriculum and in creating a global environment for students through foreign language learning and connections to companies that are globally oriented.” It also is a credit to URI President David M. Dooley’s strategic objective to engage students in international research and education by providing them with increased opportunities to work and study abroad.

According to Sigrid Berka, director of the URI International Engineering Program, who nominated the University for the award, providing students with international study and internship opportunities is vital to the competitiveness of U.S. companies operating globally.

In addition, “knowledge creation and patent development in U.S. universities is strengthened by offering our students research and internship opportunities elsewhere in the world,” Berka said. “They learn how engineering and science is being done in other cultures, and that creates a spill-over effect when they come back and transfer this knowledge to the U.S. The International Engineering Program educates the global bi-lingual engineer and leverages international partnerships to enhance education and research innovation in the U.S.”

URI’s International Engineering Program was one of the first such programs in the country and has been used as a model by many other universities. It requires students to major in an engineering discipline and a foreign language, and students spend a year abroad studying and interning at a global company. Since its founding in 1987, the program boasts a nearly 100 percent job placement rate after graduation.

“It’s the most in-depth model in the country to prepare engineering students for the global workforce,” said Berka.

URI used the engineering model to establish an International Business Program in 2007, and other academic disciplines have been combined with language study as well, including pharmacy and French and textiles with French and Italian.

The Simon Award will be presented in June at the Association’s annual conference in Vancouver.

Named for the late Senator Paul Simon, the awards recognize outstanding and innovative efforts in campus internationalization. The Association of International Educators is the world’s largest non-profit professional association dedicated to international education.