CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Scrolling through the stories on our homepage and looking at all that has been accomplished, we can see that 2023 was a rewarding year for Illinois International at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).
From welcoming new programs, to expanding our global footprint, to creating new partnerships, all our success in 2023 ties back to our commitment to accomplishing the priorities set forth in university’s Vision 2030 Global Strategy.
We want to take this opportunity to showcase nine exceptional activities that highlight our commitment to the global strategy and show you just how committed our units have been in 2023. We are proud of the work we have done in 2023, and are beyond excited to see what we will accomplish in 2024.
- Partnerships in the Global South
The Vision 2030 Global Strategy, which was unveiled in 2022, is a university-wide plan that outlines five strategic priorities that will not only enhance the university's position as a global leader in higher education, but address critical global challenges to support our state, the nation, and the world. One of those strategies focuses on engagement for impact in the Global South, something we have particularly strived for in 2023.
Specifically, our team has been on the move cultivating and maintaining thriving partnerships world-wide. For example, in February Dr. Reitumetse Obakeng Mabokela, our Vice Provost for International Affairs and Global Strategies, and Director for Global Relations Dr. Sammer Jones were in Waterkloof, Pretoria for the U.S.-Africa University Partnership Initiative Summit.
In March, a delegation from UP visited UIUC and signed a Memorandum of Understanding formally consolidating an existing relationship between the two institutions that was created in 2006. And in May, UIUC Chancellor Robert Jones was part of a delegation that visited the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the University of Pretoria (UP).
- O’Hare Shuttle Service
In August, International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) resumed its shuttle services to incoming international students from O’Hare Airport in Chicago to the UIUC campus.
This was the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic ISSS offered shuttle services.
Marta Schneider, director for Global Communication, said there were 22 trips from O’Hare, meaning 22 Peoria Charter buses picked up students from O’Hare and drove them to campus.
Jennifer Park, assistant director at ISSS, said in total 606 international students traveled on those buses.
“What made this initiative so successful is the campus-wide collaboration aspect,” Schneider said. “There were a lot of individuals supporting the project from different parts of the university. While students may not have seen all those people, it wouldn’t have happened without them.”
- Global Education and Training (GET) programs
During 2023, GET has hosted customized programs for international students and scholars from Egypt, Japan, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, China, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, plus multinational cohorts of Fulbright students and Humphrey Fellows.
They did this while also continuing to sustain regular semester English language programs at the Intensive English Institute (IEI).
Additionally, GET ushered in a new foundation year program with the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman and welcomed a new cohort of Bolashak International Scholarship recipients.
The Oman Foundation Year Program is the first time UIUC is hosting a collaboration with the Embassy, and like the KAUST FY Program, this new endeavor is designed, developed, and maintained by GET and IEI.
The new cohort of Bolashak scholars consists of 15 recipients who will be attending a nine-month program that is also designed, developed, and managed by GET and IEI. This is the third consecutive year that GET and IEI have hosted a customized program for visiting Bolashak scholars from Kazakhstan.
- International Student population
Total international student enrollment at UIUC increased again this year, climbing from 11,548 in 2022 to 11,580 as of September 2023.
International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) reported the increase in its annual International Statistics Book released in December.
Although it is a small increase, this year’s number signals the highest international enrollment since fall 2017 at UIUC, which was 10,826 students.
“ISSS remains honored to serve so many talented international students, faculty, and staff at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and we look forward to continuing to work with a population that is integral to the success of our campus,” said ISSS Director Martin McFarlane.
- Global Relations agreement
The Global Relations team at Illinois International managed over 390 active institutional agreements in 56 countries this year, amplifying the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) mission to promote global engagement for positive contributions to the community, state, nation, and world.
This achievement among other successes was outlined in the 2022-2023 international engagement report released in December.
“This report celebrates and showcases our university’s commitment to creating an environment where innovation can move freely across geopolitical, cultural, disciplinary, and academic borders,” said Global Relations Director Dr. Sammer Jones.
- BRIDGE partnership
UIUC and the University of Birmingham (UoB) renewed the Birmingham-Illinois Partnership for Discovery, Engagement and Education (BRIDGE) for five more years in May 2023.
This partnership is a commitment from both institutions to continue strengthening strategic collaboration, not just with each other, but with other partners around the world in a way that aligns with the goals and values set forth in Vision 2030.
“This is a very exciting time and I think a critical juncture in our relationship, and I can’t wait to see what we will build together next,” said UIUC Chancellor Robert Jones during a May 16 meeting before the ceremony.
This renewal came about a year before both universities are set to celebrate the BRIDGE 10-year anniversary, which will be in spring 2024.
7. Illinois Abroad Day
Every year we host Illinois Abroad Day and every year we always find wonderful stories that amplify the fair’s importance and overall success. This year was no different.
At this year’s fair we met best friends Amber Alvarado and Ari Garcia, two UIUC freshmen who were eager to learn more about studying abroad.
Their story was unique, made us smile, and reminded us about why we do what we do.
We know their story will make you smile too.
8. International Education Week
International Education Week returned to its usual time this year, taking place from November 5-11, 2023.
This year’s week-long celebration featured numerous educational, cultural, and recreational events hosted by student groups, centers, colleges, units, and local partners.
Two of our favorite events, Travel Around the World and the International Cook-Off, returned this year and brought good times and vibes to our campus community.
Travel Around the World featured seven outstanding performances in addition to a room filled with people representing their home countries.
The International Cook-Off took place on three different nights and showcased delicious foods that were inspired by chicken, rice, and dumpling recipes.
Other events included the International Music Night, a virtual Taste of Language, and the International World Cup.
Take a look at a slideshow we put together featuring photos from IEW events.
- Our Colleagues
Undoubtedly, we wouldn’t have been so successful this year if it not for our determined, wonderful, patient, and amazing staff.
Illinois International is made up of amazing folks from different teams including Global Education and Training, Global Relations, Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange, the Intensive English Institute, International Safety and Security, International Student and Scholar Services, and our team at the Shanghai Office.
Each of our units are all assisted by our Shared Administrative Services team. Illinois International is nothing without our units and for that we are forever grateful.
Analicia Haynes is the storyteller and social media specialist for Global Communication. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.