Kokusaika. The Japanese word meaning “internationalization” has long been a buzzword in higher education reform in Japan. A Japanese university administrator, intrigued to see the concept embraced by Virginia Tech, decided to come to the institution to learn more.
Shinji Doi’s internship at Virginia Tech was arranged by the Global Education Office and funded by a Long-term Educational Administration Program (LEAP) grant, LEAP being a program of Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports Science, and Technology. Doi was one of 12 interns in the United States under the program this past academic year.
Doi, from the University of Tsukuba, chose Virginia Tech as host site for his eight-month practicum because of the similarities with his home institution. The Japanese university specializes in science, technology, engineering, and math and is sited in Tsukuba, a city created as a science park. Even the motto resonates: Imagine the Future.
"[President Timothy Sands'] installation speech clearly showed that my university and Virginia Tech share some of the same goals when it comes to international rankings," Doi said.
Doi's research focuses on three topics: how to increase student exchanges between Japan and the United States; strategies the university pursues to raise its global rankings; and strategies for fostering interaction between domestic and international students.
To address the topics, Doi conducted interviews with administrators around campus . One of his memorable interviews was with President Sands. "We talked about rankings, but he didn’t want to focus only on this,” Doi said. “Rankings are important for the university, but President Sands wants to give additional support for international efforts."
Doi also compiled fact sheets on Virginia Tech's international exchange partners to better inform students about programs.
Global Education Director Theresa Johansson said, "There is such value in having someone from the outside take a close, critical look at Virginia Tech as the model of a global university. It provokes us into a more productive assessment of where we serve well as that model and where we have room to do much better."
When Doi returns to Tsukuba University he will join a newly established office dedicated to global ranking initiatives.
"Being at Virginia Tech has taught me things that are not only good for my job, but also for my life as well," he said. "I have learned how it is to be an international from the perspective of a student and a staff member. Because of this, I am better prepared to advise Japanese students who will study in the United States."
The Global Education Office, part of Outreach and International Affairs, supports an average of 2,500 students annually, including exchange students from partner institutions around the world, and helps send roughly 1,200 VT students abroad each year. The office also administers the Fulbright program and provides faculty incentives for the development of programs that infuse global elements into the curriculum.
Rommelyn Conde Coffren contributed to this report.