With nearly 1,700 international students from 110 countries, a campus in Madrid, and an emphasis on developing global thinkers, Suffolk stacks up as a university with a robust international presence.

“We truly have a remarkable set of international initiatives and programs,” says Sebastián Royo, vice provost for Student Success.

Now the University is sharpening its focus on the international experience – both at home and abroad. A recently created internationalization strategic plan calls for making global programs, partnerships, and perspectives a central piece of what Suffolk offers students. A key goal is to knit together the many initiatives and efforts across the University by taking a more centralized and strategic approach that maximizes the impact.

An internationalization strategic planning committee has identified numerous areas of opportunity including:

  • Incorporating academic program requirements into study abroad programs
  • Enhancing non-traditional learning and cultural opportunities such as international internships and travel courses
  • Creating more international partnerships
  • Encouraging faculty exchanges

Just as important, the plan calls for creating links to international experiences for students right on the Suffolk campus in Boston.

International opportunities on campus

Kathleen Sparaco, director of the University’s Center for International Programs and Services, says cost is a barrier to studying abroad for many students. But, she adds, there are plenty of international opportunities right here at home. The strategic plan calls for internationalizing the curriculum and developing pathways for students to participate in international initiatives on campus, elsewhere in Boston, or abroad.

“We’re connecting students with international cultures, whether that’s here or outside the University,” Sparaco said. “We want to internationalize our own academic experience.”

That could include developing forums and functions that celebrate internationalization.

NAFSA conference

Suffolk’s international emphasis will be on full display this week as educational leaders from across the globe descend on Boston for the NAFSA International Association of Educators Annual Conference & Expo in Boston. Suffolk is an event sponsor and will be hosting receptions, campus tours, and more.

A leader among international institutions

Suffolk has been a pioneer among universities opening campuses abroad. Suffolk’s Madrid campus, which opened in 1995, provides students with a unique and supportive educational study abroad experience that encourages the sharing of international perspectives and ideas. The campus also has one of the first and most innovative programs in which students start their freshman year in Madrid.

“It has been a spectacular success,” said Royo. “It has a truly transformative impact on our students.”

About 15 percent of the University’s students are international. A 2014 report by the Institute on International Education ranked Suffolk 144th on a list of institutions nationally that host 1,000 or more international students. Suffolk was 10th among master’s colleges and universities.

In terms of undergraduate students studying aboard, Suffolk ranked 27th among master’s colleges and universities. And Suffolk was second nationally among all schools in that category for long-term duration of stay abroad.

The internationalization strategic plan also calls for identifying funding opportunities for international initiatives, such as the Santander Universities Scholars Program that provides scholarships for Suffolk student study abroad. And it calls for funding sources for faculty international opportunities.

Sparaco says Suffolk is among the universities at the front of the pack in centralizing internationalization efforts. “We see the value of bringing different departments together to address this,” she said. “We’re leading the way.”