College Wins 2014 Simon Award for International Initiative

February 25, 2014

Albion College education practicum students in Noisy-le-Roi, France
Albion education practicum students teach in Noisy-le-Roi, France, for a week in January.

The innovative relationship between Albion College, the City of Albion and two communities in France made a big impression on the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers (NAFSA), which has honored Albion College with a 2014 Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization. Along with George Mason University and the University of Texas at Austin, Albion will receive a Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award recognizing an international program or initiative that contributes to comprehensive internationalization.

"We are the only private institution to be awarded this honor, maybe because we have a bright example of a special place that has merged campus internationalization with the local community and international partners. This triangular relationship may be a model for others," noted Provost Susan Conner. "While the community has had a sister-city relationship with French partners for fifteen years, only in the past six years has Albion College participated in such an intentional way. Our kitchen conversations with members of the French sister-city delegation turned into mobility agreements, exchanges and formal degree partnerships."

The Simon award specifically recognizes the College's role in triangulating the Albion community's sister-city relationships with Noisy-le-Roi and Bailly, France. A model for international exchange, the sister cities sponsor annual exchanges for dozens of middle- and high school students, college interns, senior citizens and government officials. Albion College faculty and administration have added a number of programs for students, faculty and community members on both sides. In 2013 alone, Albion College faculty and students in modern languages, music, art, business, sustainability studies and education hosted and participated in exchanges specifically designed to enhance academic programs at Albion and other French institutions.

"As a French professor, it is most gratifying to see how these international partnerships have transformed the lives of students and colleagues across disciplines," said Dianne Guenin-Lelle, co-president of Albion's Sister City Committee and the College's Year of Global Diversity. "As a resident of Albion, it is also gratifying to see how vested families, schools, community organizations, local government and local businesses have been in developing and sustaining this relationship. The growth is cultural and professional, as well as linguistic."

Albion can serve as a model for other institutions wishing to develop such programs, says Conner, noting that education professor Kyle Shanton is adapting his department's French practicum to a partnership with the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica. "We plan to replicate that relationship with other countries where we have personal ties," said Conner.

Albion First-Year Seminar students visited Cameroon last month in between semesters.
Albion First-Year Seminar students visited Cameroon last month in between semesters.

Beyond its French connections, Albion boasts a number of international projects. First-year students visit a Cameroonian school built with funds raised by Albion College students. The Spanish and chemistry departments share a graduate assistant, providing chemistry students with a unique applied language experience. Albion faculty helped pilot a Great Lakes Colleges Association project pairing them with international colleagues to team-teach classes. Albion was even instrumental in helping establish the internship program with the U.S. ambassador in Suriname.

Other award recipients include Columbus State University, North Carolina State University, The Ohio State University, and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, which will receive the 2014 Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization for excellence in integrating international education across all aspects of college and university campuses.

“We are proud to present NAFSA’s 2014 Simon Awards to these colleges and universities for their comprehensive commitment and remarkable achievements in bringing global education opportunities to their students,” said NAFSA Executive Director and CEO Marlene M. Johnson. “They are excellent models for how higher education across the country can and must innovate to prepare our students for the global economy we live in today.”

Named for the late Senator Paul Simon of Illinois, the Simon Awards recognize outstanding and innovative achievements in campus internationalization. The 2014 Simon Award winners reflect a broad diversity of approaches to campus internationalization, both in terms of models and implementation.

Senator Simon was a strong supporter of international education and foreign language learning. He supported the creation of the National Security Education Program, which addresses critical national security deficiencies in language and cultural expertise. His vision inspired the proposed Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act. Learn more about the Simon bill on the NAFSA website.

Along with the other award winners, Albion will be featured in NAFSA's report, Internationalizing the Campus: Profiles of Success at Colleges and Universities, to be published this fall, and honored at an event in Washington, D.C. during International Education Week. Learn more about the Senator Paul Simon Awards on the NAFSA website.