Dr. Kristen Grace, associate director of Cornell Abroad, spoke to The Sun about the changes that the Office of Global Learning will bring.

February 28, 2018

New Office of Global Learning Aims to Centralize International Programs and Help Students Transition to Cornell

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The newly instituted Office of Global Learning aims to better integrate international students into the Cornell community and sponsor more study abroad opportunities for Cornellians.

Dr. Kristen Grace, associate director of Cornell Abroad, said that the new office — created by merging Cornell Abroad and the International Students and Scholars Office — will allow international students to feel more comfortable on campus.

“In a broader sense, international students coming in want to get to know Cornell students,” Grace said. “Having a closer connection between the study abroad office and the International Students and Scholars Office can provide greater opportunities for those kinds of exchanges.”

Laura Taylor, associate director of faculty and scholar services in the ISSO, echoed Grace’s comments, explaining that the Office of Global Learning will bring together insights from the two offices to offer greater support to the international population at Cornell.

“There will be a new and exciting dynamic as the expertise and energies of staff are combined and enhanced within the larger structure of the Office of Global Learning,” Taylor said. “I am confident that this change will help us provide stronger support and services to our international population.”

Grace said that previously the many study abroad programs offered by Cornell often required different travel applications and procedures, creating a bureaucratic bottleneck as each program had to develop their own connections with the office of risk management and legal counsel to suit their particular needs.

The Office of Global Learning will hopefully minimize this bureaucratic redundancy by centralizing these procedures into a single office, according to Grace.

While the office is a move towards centralization, Cornell’s bureaucracy has always been attempting to walk the tightrope between centralization and decentralization, with both coming with its own benefits.

She explained that smaller colleges at Cornell, like the ILR school, have the ability to look at specifics in academia and apply them on an international scale.

Grace said that a central international office can assist smaller colleges at Cornell, like ILR, implement programs that apply their academic speciality on an international scale.

“ILR has the opportunity to really look at things like comparative disability laws around the world and then engage students in that,” Grace said. “[Those] students have gone to South Africa and looked at what they are doing [with respect to those laws].”

Beyond creating synergies between colleagues, Grace said that the new organizational structure will facilitate interdepartmental and inter college collaboration, rather than being the separate entity known only for sending students abroad on a semester basis that Cornell Abroad was known to be.

“I personally love the name Cornell Abroad,” Grace said. “It’s short, it’s direct, it’s also capacious—potentially a lot could be under it. But it’s a 30-year-old name that had been associated with a narrower definition of international education.”

But despite the structural overhaul, the “work of both previous offices will remain the same” as both Cornell Abroad and ISSO have select individuals that focus on their expertise, according to Grace.

“The same advising that happened in Cornell Abroad will still be there in the Office of Global Learning,” Grace said.