Simon Award recognition validates 20 years of international programming
In addition to the titles of director of international programs and professor of English, Jack Shindler proudly holds the title of “nudge.”
After more than 20 years of nudging North Central College toward a multidimensional international program, Shindler and his staff were honored to receive a 2015 Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization. Accompanying Shindler to Washington, D.C., to accept the award on behalf of the College were President Troy Hammond and Kimberly Larsson, director of study abroad, the first employee Shindler hired to help him build the program in 2003.
“I still had dust on my boots from backpacking around the world when Jack hired me,” says Larsson. “It was the two of us and a part-time secretary.”
The pair worked tirelessly to build enrollment for study abroad programs and to recruit international students. Along the way, they implemented programs that seemed practical and necessary but have been groundbreaking in the world of international education. These efforts included parent orientation sessions, reentry seminars and student study abroad ambassadors. The annual College/community International Festival was another building block.
“Jack always had the overall vision, and other people at other institutions would say ‘wow,’” says Larsson. “I kept reminding him that we really were doing a lot for an institution of our size.”
“The College has made access to programs a real priority over the past 20 years.”
As the program grew to 50 study abroad opportunities, nearly 100 international students, global themes, visiting scholars, an array of D-Term trips, an expanded language curriculum, the English Language Institute and an international staff of six, Shindler and Larsson decided it was time to seek recognition for the College through a Simon Award—the pinnacle of achievement in their field. North Central competed against colleges and universities of all sizes.
The award recognizes efforts of the entire College community. “We were told that we won because we truly have the programs, that this wasn’t just the result of a PR effort,” says Shindler. “That’s a great validation of everything we’ve accomplished.” He’s also pleased when he hears that the campus truly feels internationalized, an ethos that also validates their work, he adds.
Kimberly Larsson, Jack Schindler, and Troy Hammond
As part of the honor, a panel of presidents from the winning institutions convened to talk about their programs during a live webcast. Hammond joined presidents from the Universities of Virginia, Delaware and San Diego, Mount Holyoke University and Rice University to talk about their campus successes. Among other topics, he discussed the many ways students can access international opportunities and the fact that North Central makes international experiences affordable. “The College has made access to programs a real priority over the past 20 years,” Hammond said. “And language offerings and study abroad programs are key factors in recruiting and retention.”
The work of international programs continues to move forward. A major curriculum project underway will help faculty advisors in every campus department clearly understand study abroad destinations that have courses to meet students’ needs.
Adds Shindler: “We’re enjoying the view from the top but we have more work to do.”
Grace Njeru of Nairobi, Kenya, joined in the parade of international flags at Opening Convocation, a colorful reminder of the diversity of countries represented on the North Central College campus.