Internationalizing the Curriculum
Le Hoang Dung absorbed a wealth of information on best practices in international education as a 2016-2017 United Board Fellow, including two memorable phrases. During the opening Summer Institute, held on the campus of Boston College, he was inspired by the words he found on a poster: “Understand the world so you can change it.” Later, during his two-month placement at Sophia University in Japan, he observed the varied ways that faculty and administrators apply the motto “Bringing the world together.” Those phrases deepened Dr. Le’s desire to further internationalize his home institution, the University of Social Sciences & Humanities, Vietnam National University-Ho Chi Minh City, (USSH VNU-HCM) where he serves on the Faculty of English Linguistics & Literature.
Internationalization, Dr. Le finds, often is discussed in terms of “international cooperation and mobility of programs, staff, and students,” and indeed, USSH has active programs with 90 institutions from different countries. Yet Dr. Le also encourages educators to explore another channel. “I strongly believe that internationalization of the curriculum is one of the best ways to make higher education meaningful, especially in today’s era of globalization,” he said, as it offers a chance to “enrich the learners’ real experience and global mindfulness.”
Internationalizing the curriculum seems a natural step in Dr. Le’s department at USSH, with its focus on English linguistics and literature. At Sophia University, however, he saw that global issues and perspectives can be incorporated into engineering, ecology, human development, or virtually any other discipline. Dr. Le was impressed with one interdisciplinary course that drew content from geography, global studies, science, economics, and tourism. “The course is designed to attract local and international students from diverse specializations, with diverse interests,” he explained, and that diversity ensures that a wide range of perspectives will be explored.
Top-level commitment is only the first step in internationalizing a campus: ultimately, its success depends on the commitment of people throughout the university. In particular, Dr. Le believes that “the attitude and actions of mid-level administrators – including deans, vice deans, program coordinators, directors, etc. – will play a crucial role in putting the top administrators’ commitment into real practices via curricular and extracurricular activities.” Dr. Le has created a roadmap to help these mid-level administrators: a case study on internationalization that he developed over the course of his United Board Fellows experience. “My experience and lessons learned are still fresh,” he said, and through sharing his United Board Fellows experience, his case study, and enthusiasm for internationalization, he can help colleagues at USSH and other institutions catalyze new approaches to understanding the world.