Sharing Lessons Learned in Internationalization

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Calingo (center) receives his plaque as UPAA Alumni Awardee during the UPAA General Homecoming and Reunion in June 2014. With him are UP President Alfredo Pascual (right) and UPAA President Ponciano Rivera.

Calingo (center) receives his plaque as UPAA Alumni Awardee during the UPAA General Homecoming and Reunion in June 2014. With him are UP President Alfredo Pascual (right) and UPAA President Ponciano Rivera.

Comprehensive internationalization is a commitment, confirmed through action, to infuse international and comparative perspectives throughout  the teaching, research, and service missions of higher education. It shapes institutional ethos and values and touches the entire higher education enterprise. It is essential that it be embraced by institutional leadership, governance, faculty, students, and all academic service and support units. It is an institutional imperative, not just a desirable possibility. (NAFSA, 2011)

My initial forays into international education started in 1986 when I was a young recently tenured professor and academic senator. At that time, Fresno State was the agricultural campus of the California State University system. As “the only game in town,” we had no difficulty recruiting students and attracting donors. We did not even have to recruit international or out-of-state students—the perfect condition for incubating institutional inertia.

Since strategic planning was my doctoral specialization, my dean asked me to coordinate my department’s and our school’s strategic planning processes. As we were conducting strategic planning, we saw internationalization as the catalyst for bringing the school to a higher level of distinctiveness and the enabler for recruiting world-class faculty. The perfect storm arrived when AACSB (the business school’s accrediting body) mandated all business schools to internationalize the curriculum. These efforts led to the business school spearheading the crafting of the university’s Mission Statement for International Education, which would serve as the big tent for Fresno State’s internationalization initiatives. As academic senator, I participated in developing that mission statement, which the academic senate eventually endorsed and the president approved in the springof 1986. You may find a copy of this mission statement at

Lesson #1: The starting point of internationalizing the university is a mission statement, to which future internationalization initiatives should be aligned. This statement should be the product of stakeholder consultations and should represent to the world how the university defines comprehensive internationalization.

At around 1988/1989, our business school began thinking of ways by which we could introduce our school into the international community of scholars. This gave rise to the design to organize and support an annual Asia Pacific Conference on International Accounting Issues. The first conference was held at Fresno State in October 1989 and attracted 150 scholars and practitioners from 96 institutions and 17 countries to participate, discuss, and share their experiences in harmonizing international accounting practices in the Asia Pacific region.

During my deanship, we decided that the best way to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of the fledgling conference was to hold the annual conference in different venues in the Asia Pacific region and to secure an institutional partner as co-host of each conference. The conference is now on its 26th year and has been hosted by many business schools through the Asia Pacific region. You may see details of the conference at

Lesson #2: Raise the visibility of your school in the international community of scholars-teachers by organizing or collaborating in scholarly events to which the international community would be invited.

From 1990 to 1993, our business school decided to introduce our MBA program to foreign locations, specifically Taipei, Hong Kong, and Singapore, and I was tasked to make this happen. This was totally new territory for the CSU, which meant that there were no rules and regulations governing the offering of degree programs overseas (let alone outside state borders). Over a two-year period, I negotiated and secured approvals from Fresno State Academic Senate, the system-wide Chancellor’s Office, and WASC (Fresno State’s accrediting body) before receiving the authority to negotiate with overseas partners. I dealt not only with risk-averse bureaucrats who lacked international awareness, but also with the then-prevailing thinking that public universities were created to educate local residents and not foreign nationals in other countries. Regrettably, a lot of valuable time was lost during these negotiations that, by the time we received our authorizations, our more agile competitors have beaten us in the market.

Lessons #3: Before launching pioneering international programs and going through the formal approval processes, secure the buy-in of your institution’s highest executive. If your chief executive is not willing to join you in crossing a bridge while it is being built, don’t waste your time.

During the period 1993 to 1996, I took a sabbatical to join the business school at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore’s second public university, as one of its founding faculty members. I developed personal relationships with academicians from Singapore, Malaysia, China, and other Asian countries. These relationships proved beneficial in my future leadership positions.

From 2002 to 2006, I  introduced our undergraduate business programs to foreign locations, specifically in Malaysia, Singapore, and China. I was then dean of the business school at CSU Long Beach, which, at that time, was America’s eighth largest business school. Our objective was to recapture the international student enrollment that we lost after 9/11. By this time, the CSU system has had some experience in offering MBA programs overseas, but not undergraduate programs. Using the lessons that I learned from my Fresno State years and using the contacts I developed in Singapore, I successfully launched the programs in Malaysia and Singapore and obtained accreditation approval for them. The Singapore program became the destination program for students from ASEAN countries, while students from the Middle East populated the Malaysia program. I also successfully negotiated the financial model for these programs with the CSU Chancellor’s Office, which created a stream of net income to the business school. Today, these programs are no longer operational as the restrictions on the inflow of international students have been relaxed.

Lesson # 4: Being a fast second is an appropriate strategy if you’re dealing with a risk-averse institutional culture. External degree programs should be self-supporting, and you should ensure that no tax-funded funds are used to subsidize these programs.

From 2007 to 2010, as business dean and then provost at Dominican University of California, I negotiated 2+2 degree articulation and transfer admission (“twinning”) agreements with business schools in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. Crafting these articulation agreements is a time-consuming process; figure about six months per degree program. Our goal was to increase our population of international students from four percent to ten percent of the total population. Cognizant that many international students transfer to US universities from the two-year community colleges, we first reformed our General Education curriculum to make our university transfer-friendly.

Twinning programs had the potential of enabling international students to receive a US bachelor’s degree at a fraction of the cost that they would have paid for four years of education in US soil. Despite this value proposition, of these three institutions, only the university in Thailand became a feeder school. The main barrier to participation in the twinning programs was the cost of US education.

Lesson #5: A transfer-friendly lower-division curriculum enables mobility of students who might wish to transfer to your school. Articulation is a time-consuming process; therefore, conduct a thorough due-diligence of the attractiveness and affordability of your degree programs to students from prospective overseas partners.

From 2009 to 2012, as provost, I centralized all activities pertaining to international students under one office—the Office of Internationalization and Global Education (OIGE). OIGE initially had a staff of 3.5 FTE consisting of a full-time director, a full-time international student advisor, one half-time coordinator, and one administrative assistant.

The international student advisor dealt with admissions, legal, and regulatory requirements, while the coordinator dealt with international student experiences. You may find more information about this unit at:

Lesson # 6: There should be a university infrastructure for internationalization. Someone should be accountable for the implementation of comprehensive internationalization. The university should ensure that international students obtain not only good education but also have a memorable campus experience.

From 2011 to the present, as provost and president, I have actively developed short-term, study-abroad programs for students from overseas partners. At Dominican University of California, we hosted MBA students from Thammasat University every summer where they studied contemporary management issues at Stanford University one week and then sustainable entrepreneurship at Dominican the next week. Woodbury University recently hosted a Los Angeles fashion and business boot camp for students from Miriam College over a two-week period. These were income-generating programs that also created a level of internationalization in our constituent schools. They also enable confidence-building between educational partners, especially given the difficulty of launching the more aggressive twinning programs.

Lesson # 7: Hosting a short-term, study-abroad course is an excellent way to build confidence with overseas educational partners.

Looking back at these lessons learned and the obstacles that my school and I had to overcome on our way to internationalization, it is important that the academic leader championing comprehensive internationalization should include patience and tolerance for ambiguity among his or her virtues. This is not the job for a risk-averse, impatient, short-term-oriented dean, provost, or president. As the late Reverend William Shedd wrote, “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” Throughout my academic administrative career, I have probably signed close to twenty agreements with overseas schools, of which only five really got off the ground. A 25-percent success rate is an intelligent risk in the pursuit of comprehensive internationalization. With these words, I wish you the best as you consider how to internationalize your department, school, college, or university.

Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right. (Henry Ford)
Dr. Luis Maria R. Calingo is a UPAA 2014 Alumni Awardee for Outstanding Achievement. He holds a PhD in Business Administration and MBA in Strategic Planning and Policy from the University of Pittsburgh. He earned his BS in Industrial Engineering and MA in Urban and Regional Planning from UP. At present, he is the president of Woodbury University in Burbank, California. Email him at [email protected]
For more articles on the ASEAN Integration from the UP Forum, please click here.