Academic journal article Higher Learning Research Communications

Internationalization at Harvard

Academic journal article Higher Learning Research Communications

Internationalization at Harvard

Article excerpt


Founded by European colonists in 17th century New England, Harvard University has historic international roots. By the mid 1900's it had become an international powerhouse attracting top students, academics and scientists from around the world. Yet, the University is international almost by default as it has reacted to world affairs. Looking toward the future, President Drew Faust has outlined a strategy to become "intentionally global". One model, begun ten years ago, serves as an example for the future. In 2002 the University established its first overseas office designed to represent the entire institution. The theory was that a modest local infrastructure would encourage students and faculty to expand international collaborations and make a difference in the region benefiting from this presence. The results have been highly successful. The Regional Office in Santiago Chile, representing Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay, has catalyzed engagement of over 3000 faculty and students in the last ten years. Over 50 significant collaborative research programs have benefitted thousands of preschool children, pioneered new approaches to disaster relief, improved health care, revolutionized public housing, and led to scientific breakthroughs. This model of a small physical footprint exerting large academic influence will be one of the central strategies as Harvard looks toward the future.

Keywords: Internationalization, Harvard, students, university, international expansions, programs.

Internationalization at Harvard

Harvard was founded in 1636 on the banks of the Charles River by European colonists seeking to replicate their scholarly experience in Christ's College, Cambridge. Over its nearly four centuries, it evolved from its colonial origin as an outpost for European higher education to a university by the 19th century. In the 1900's it grew from an influential national university to become an international powerhouse. Over 50,000 international alumni come from all but a five countries around the globe. Leading international research centers are found in virtually every corner of the University. It attracts the top scholars from around the world to serve as faculty and researchers. No less than 70 languages are taught to Harvard students. Global collaborations shaping the world's future motivate faculty and students alike in emerging fields in the social and natural sciences. Heads of state, captains of industry, leading thinkers from around the world obtained degrees at Harvard. Yet, until recently, Harvard did not deliberately seek to be international; rather, it was international by default.

At the beginning of the 21st Century, as higher education faces a number of strategic questions, the most important can be placed in three broad categories: a) the benefits and challenges presented by borderless educational technology and new ways students learn; b) opportunities presented by emerging nations; and c) the future needs of the world's environment and its people. To face these challenges, Harvard President Drew Faust appointed the International Strategy Working Group in 2010 led by Harvard Business School Dean, Nitin Nohria, to help define the University's long term goals and strategy for international engagement. The work of the group led to the conclusion that Harvard:

will become more intentionally global in the years to come, uniting and leveraging its extraordinary intellectual and programmatic strengths to ensure that teaching and research have the optimal potential to make a positive difference. What we do next will have an impact not just on the University's future, but on the world's future, a future in which knowledge and education will play an ever more important role. (Faust, 2012, pg. 6)

In announcing Harvard's upcoming capital campaign, President Faust has emphasized the need to become more deliberate in its international engagement. Recently, she wrote,

"We will enhance our global reach and impact, as well as the integration of global perspectives into our research and teaching. …

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