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Auburn University has been selected to receive the prestigious 2024 Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization for its commitment to ensuring Auburn students graduate with a global mindset and the skills necessary to succeed in an interconnected world.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators announced the awards — which recognize U.S. colleges and universities that are making significant, well-planned, well-executed, and well-documented progress toward comprehensive internationalization, especially those using innovative and creative approaches — on Feb. 13. Auburn joined Prairie View A&M University, the University of California, Santa Cruz and the Alamo Colleges District as this year’s comprehensive award winners and is only the third Southeastern Conference school, along with the University of Florida (2018) and the University of Kentucky (2023), to receive the comprehensive award since its creation in 2003.

Through international leadership and targeted growth, Auburn has committed itself to strategic internationalization across all university missions, including the student experience, academic excellence and meaningful research.

Auburn has more than doubled its international student population in the past decade, with more than 100 countries now represented among its students. The university also has set a goal to expand student involvement in its study abroad programs from the current rate of 20% to 50% by 2035.

“Receiving the Senator Paul Simon Award recognizes Auburn’s long-standing tradition of global engagement through our robust international programs and scholarship,” Provost Vini Nathan said. “By fostering a campus that values internationalization, we are preparing our graduates to work and succeed in a global society while creating academic and research spaces that enable our faculty and staff to extend our mission beyond borders.”

Auburn has made deliberate and strategic efforts to expand its international programs in the last 10-plus years, including creating a faculty committee on internationalization in 2009 and an assistant provost for International Programs position in 2010. In addition, university leaders facilitated the implementation of an internationalization planning process in 2018, established full-time positions to address internationalization in most of its colleges and founded the Global Teaching Academy within the Office of International Programs to recognize and encourage excellence in internationalized teaching among faculty.

“Auburn’s achievements in developing a campus-wide global mindset all come down to our people — our faculty and staff, who are at the forefront of creative international programs and solutions, and our partners around the world who share our vision,” said Andrew Gillespie, Auburn’s assistant provost, Office of International Programs. “We know Auburn is shaping our shared global future, and we are honored to be recognized for our leadership and innovation.”

Strong partnerships that provide value to the university and the state are a cornerstone of Auburn’s internationalization strategy. Auburn established the Auburn-Keimyung Korea Center and King Sejong Institute in partnership with Keimyung University and the government of South Korea to address the needs and opportunities arising from Alabama’s robust Korean automotive industry. The center is the first of its kind outside a major metropolitan area and provides credit and non-credit Korean language instruction and cultural programming.

Auburn also hosts an exchange program funded by the Korean government and in partnership with the Convergence and Open Sharing Systems Future Automobiles Consortium, a group of seven Korean universities dedicated to creating the vehicles of the future. Through this program, Auburn places students for valuable work experience and assists the local manufacturing industry with workforce development.

Auburn also partners with Yuengjin University to administer the Daegu Gyeongbuk English Village (DGEV) in Daegu, South Korea. DGEV provides English language instruction in an immersive, experiential learning environment. Auburn recruits teachers for the village from students and alumni, creating a unique first destination position for Auburn graduates seeking experience working and teaching abroad.

Auburn is now using the same model to develop similar partnerships with Taiwan, which is home to one of the university’s largest international alumni populations. Following the example of the Korea Center, Auburn established the Auburn-NCKU Taiwan Center of Chinese Language and Culture, a partnership between Auburn, the Taiwanese government and National Cheng Kung University.

While Auburn recognizes that study abroad opportunities are life-changing for students, it is also essential that all students develop global literacy, even if they do not travel abroad. Through its Office of International Programs, the land-grant university also established a Global Medallion micro-credential, which encompasses campus courses, study abroad or intercultural travel and co-curricular activities that challenge students to think globally.

Auburn also was touted for its concerted efforts to develop internationalized teaching skills among Auburn faculty through grants and travel, the Global Teaching Academy and the International Perspectives on University Teaching and Learning (IPUTL) symposium, a biennial symposium for Auburn faculty brings together a diverse community of international educators, policy makers, researchers and teaching and learning professionals from around the world who are dedicated to sharing best practices in internationalizing teaching in higher education.

NAFSA will present the awards at its Annual Conference and Expo in New Orleans in late May, and the organization will profile Auburn in its online report titled “Internationalizing the Campus 2024: Profiles of Success at Colleges and Universities” this fall.

“I am pleased to recognize such a diverse and dynamic group of institutions for integrating international education into their teaching, partnerships, systems, culture and student success models,” said Fanta Aw, NAFSA executive director and CEO. “With minority-serving institutions, large land-grant universities and a community college district counted among this year’s winners, these institutions demonstrate that the principles and practices of internationalization thrive within a variety of structures, geographies and student populations. We commend these colleges and universities for their exemplary work in advancing the intercultural skills of their students, faculty and staff in today’s dynamic landscape.”

In addition to the Comprehensive Internationalization Award, Oklahoma State University, Syracuse University and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute were selected as Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award winners for specific programs geared toward internationalization efforts.

The award is named in honor of the late Sen. Paul Simon, who served the state of Illinois and the nation as a strong voice for civil rights, prison literacy, peace initiatives and international education. Simon, who died in 2003, was a strong advocate throughout his career for international education, using his positions on various committees in the Senate to advocate for exchange.