The University of Colorado's Boulder campus has long had connections overseas, from students taking classes abroad to alumni living and working outside the U.S.

But until recently, all of those international tendrils were separate, moving along independently from one another without a clear direction or goal. Now, the university is taking a more strategic approach to its dealings abroad with several new initiatives aimed at coordinating and streamlining international initiatives.

"How do we get to a place where our academics, our alumni relations, our business relations, our community relations are all integrated around an overall sense of Boulder and what we represent to the world?" said William Kuskin, CU vice provost and associate vice chancellor for strategic relations.

Kuskin and Chancellor Phil DiStefano began discussing the lack of an overarching international strategy during a 2015 trip to the United Arab Emirates, a country the university is partnering with on a project that will send a spacecraft to Mars in 2021. The mission is a collaboration between Emirati engineers and scientists at CU's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.

After that trip, CU officials convened a group of 16 international CU alumni to advise the chancellor, calling them the Global Ambassadors.


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In addition, CU staffers created a website that features a digital globe showing all of the university's international activities. The university changed the name of the Study Abroad office to Education Abroad to better reflect the fact that students complete internships, volunteer and participate in service learning programs abroad.

The university also formed a task force to better support international students, Kuskin said.

As of the 2016 fall semester, international students make up 9.5 percent of the overall student body at CU. Out of 31,861 total students, 3,034 came to Boulder from other countries.

That's near the university's goal of international students making up 10 percent of the student body, so the task force won't be looking at ways to grow enrollment. Rather, they'll consider the international student experience and how to streamline and improve it.

Ten years ago, international students made up just 3.5 percent of the CU student body. After the quick and intense growth of that population, it was time to take a deeper look at how the university serves those students.

"We need to be reflective on our processes as we grow," Kuskin said.

To coordinate these new international initiatives, the university promoted Larry Bell, formerly the director of CU's Office of International Education, to a new position: assistant vice chancellor for global strategic initiatives.

The university was able to eliminate Bell's old job through an organizational structure change, according to Kuskin.

One initiative Bell is already considering is the creation of a global network of institutions with similar strengths or interests as CU.

"As opposed to an institution where we send one student, we would have a series of institutions where we have faculty cooperative research as well as students traveling in both directions," Bell said.

CU officials are also looking into launching additional international internship programs, such as one that started this summer in Japan with help from several successful CU alumni living there.

"We're a global university and we're really engaged with the world and that to me is part of what higher education is," Kuskin said. "Higher education thrives on differences ... We thrive on cultural differences, we thrive on recognizing diversity."

Sarah Kuta: 303-473-1106, kutas@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/sarahkuta