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.

2 thoughts on “W7: Baruch College is uniquely positioned to be a leader in U.S. higher education internationalization

  1. I think it is always interesting to relate the readings to our own college. As you mention, Baruch is a unique institution due to its level of diversity. While reading your blog, though, I was reminded of what one of our classmates said last semester about Baruch’s study abroad program. He stated that not only is it small, but it isn’t very organized or easy for students to access. At first I was shocked to hear that- Baruch seems like the perfect school to have a thriving program. Then, after doing some research, I found out that the majority of students are from another country or have parents who were born in another country. This means that most of the students are already exposed to another culture. Perhaps that is why there doesn’t seem to be much excitement about studying abroad. Immersing oneself in another country may not have the same appeal to these dual-cultured students. Maybe I am overgeneralizing this, but I think it is an interesting dynamic to look into.

  2. Like Ben, I was also reminded about something my classmate mentioned last semester, but about the international office. The international office tends to focus more on the visa paperwork for the students and less on helping integrate the students into the campus culture and environment. Although that isn’t entirely surprising since the paperwork for the visas to study in the U.S. are probably time-consuming and leaves the office with little time and energy to focus on developing the students and helping them integrate into the school. It’s also interesting how you mentioned that the strategic plan promotes the use of student organizations to help the international students integrate into Baruch, because having completed my undergraduate degree at Baruch, I know that Baruch has the same issue many institutions across the U.S. face and that is the segregation of international students and local students. I remember joining the various clubs on campus and realizing that international students stuck with those from their own country, since all the student organizations are formed based off of country of origin and less so to help the students have cross-cultural exchanges. I also remember speaking to international alumni while I was in Hong Kong, and many of them didn’t even participate in student organizations because they were busy with internships and work and school. I think the fact that Baruch is a commuter school and a business-heavy school (that stresses the importance of completing multiple internships and gaining job experience) will continue to make it difficult to effectively realize the benefits of its diverse student population.

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