While I’m only in my second semester at Baruch, I have very much settled into the rhythm of campus. Perhaps this familiarity is why reading Baruch’s strategic plan regarding internationalization was so interesting. I am aware of Baruch’s unique characteristics compared to other universities, but reading the strategic plan made me have an even deeper appreciation for Baruch — both personally and in a more general way about how it benefits society.
Baruch’s unique characteristics — diversity, location, and affordability — make it uniquely positioned to be a leader in higher education internationalization. As the 10th most diverse campus in the U.S., where “students hail from over 160 countries and speak over 130 languages”(Baruch College Global Strategic Plan, 2014-2019. pp. 1), and located in one of the world’s most diverse global cities, in many ways Baruch has had internationalization come to it, rather than needed to explicitly seek it out, like most other institutions.
This is true for both international students and the diverse groups of immigrant populations living in New York City. In order to achieve internationalization goals, I imagine that most institutions focus almost exclusively on recruiting international students. While Baruch also focuses on this, it also dedicates time and resources to recruiting international students who are already living in NYC “through existing cultural community centers and organizations” (Baruch College Global Strategic Plan, 2014-2019. pp. 4). Because Baruch College is relatively affordable compared to many other private higher education institutions in NYC, it has an incredible advantage when recruiting international student populations.
So while Baruch College has many things working in its favor to achieve its internationalization goals, it also has significant challenges. Regarding incoming international students or faculty, the lack of a traditional campus likely makes things much more difficult. For one, there is the logistical question as to where these incoming students will live. Because of the limited available space in NYC (and also, I imagine, the high cost of living), Baruch College has limited student dorms, which might put off potential international students. On a related note, this lack of a more traditional physical campus could be perceived as alienating to international students who already face additional challenges integrating into campus life. The strategic plan was very upfront about that challenge, and it proposed an increased attention towards building campus life through student organizations. While this is an important initiative, it will not change the fact that Baruch is largely a commuter campus that will make integrating international students all the more challenging.
However, the biggest challenge facing Baruch College’s internationalization efforts is funding (or a lack thereof). While funding constraints impact virtually all higher education institutions, they are especially challenging in Baruch and other CUNY schools, since 46 percent of Baruch College students are Pell grant recipients. Fortunately, the strategic plan calls for an increase in fundraising initiatives to raise grants to help students with the costs of study abroad programs. While there is likely always going to be more work to be done in terms of controlling costs, it seems like Baruch’s efforts have yielded results, considering the number of students who study abroad has increased over 500% in the last five years.
Thus, despite significant logistical and financial challenges, Baruch College has many factors working in its favor regarding internationalization, including the global environment of NYC, the diversity of the student body, and the relative affordability of education, especially compared to private universities in NYC. The strategic plan addressed many of these assets and also challenges, and provided concrete steps and goals in order to increase internationalization, but it also left enough room for flexibility and adaptation, which I really appreciated. “Since any strategic plan, especially one addressing the global, will constantly need to respond to change, we are aware that we must also be prepared to revisit or reshape one or the other priorities as needed” (Baruch College Global Strategic Plan, 2014-2019, pp. 11). Between the strategic plan itself, as well as the College’s willingness to continue to be flexible with new trends in higher education, I imagine that Baruch College will likely continue to thrive in its internationalization efforts and can serve as a model U.S. institution in this area.