Do consuls have an impact on the strategic internationalization goals of today’s universities?
I started thinking about that when I ran across a newspaper tidbit from 1964 about how the then-mayor of Coral Gables actively sought to attract consuls to his city. At that time, Coral Gables (one of over thirty municipalities in the Miami-Dade area) was home to such major international corporations as International Petroleum and Gulf Oil, and the mayor reasoned that the addition of consulates would facilitate business with them.
From there, the step wasn’t far to the University of Miami. In spite of its name (“Miami”), the relatively young institution (it received its charter in 1926) was physically located in Coral Gables. Moreover, and obviously important to the mayor’s thinking, the university had a brand-new department of international studies. He had already said publicly that he knew federal grants were available to those universities with a foreign student population, and now he expressed his vision of UM becoming “the number one university in America in the area of international studies.” The City of Coral Gables was to gain, both economically and by way of its place in the world, from any added funds for UM. This would then be what we call a win-win situation today.
It’s now fifty-two years later and, even though I’m a UM alumna (MCL ’71), I can’t address the cause-and-effect for the success of Coral Gables and UM in these efforts. What we do know, though, is that among the seventy-plus member countries in the Consular Corps of Miami, there are some twenty consulates or trade offices in Coral Gables.
As for the internationalization of universities throughout our country, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say most institutions pride themselves on their international student bodies and faculty. As I have blogged about before (Consuls and Higher Education; 11/11/2015, and Honorary Consuls and Universities; 11/08/2015) there are many ways to include local consuls in the institutional vision.
Feel free to copy the leadership of your institution with these suggestions, all taken from Chapter 7 of my practical guide, The Foreign Consuls Among Us: Local Bridges to Globalism, http://seagreenpress.com/consuls/:
- The curriculum should include a consular component, even when the university claims it’s already infused with a so-called “international” perspective.
- The position of an honorary consuls comes with prestige and special recognition which, when properly promoted, reflects on the Alma Mater of the consul.
- When the consular role is clear, local consuls are a natural first-link to faculty and student exchanges.
While some bemoan the fact that even those universities that promote themselves as “international” or “global” don’t offer even the smallest consular component I’m the only one who actually did something about it by publishing my reference book to the consular institution. I’m proud to have done so as an alumna of the University of Miami, one of the national leaders in our global institutions.