The campus community has many reasons to begin this fall semester with a sense of cautious optimism. Strong vaccination numbers for students, faculty, and staff; the return of many in-person events; and a belated celebration for the Class of 2020—all create a positive picture of life at UW–Madison returning to a more familiar environment.
In the International Division, we have additional reasons to celebrate. Over the past months, WISLI hosted a record number of participants; we welcomed colleagues from International Student Services and International Faculty and Staff Services into the International Division; area studies centers were awarded prestigious grants; and rankings continue to show UW–Madison as a top global university. I thank my colleagues in the International Division as well as our campus partners for their part in these successes.
It will be of interest that study abroad/away programs and international internships began returning to in-person delivery in July. We have over 100 students abroad this current fall term. We are also experiencing record interest in study abroad. So far, students have started more than 1,700 applications for spring 2022 semester programs. This is strong even compared to pre-pandemic interest. More than 60 programs have been approved to re-open for this spring semester, and over 100 programs have already been approved in total in multiple locations across all durations.
There will undoubtedly continue to be challenges as we explore the relaunch of many of our activities abroad, and I believe a cautious approach will help us to see success as we do so. Programs and locations are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis, with the health and safety of our students being the primary consideration.
There are other signs of our normal international engagement resuming.
As you may have read, Penny Lukito, a UW alumna and the head of Indonesia’s FDA joined us on campus to sign an agreement for further collaboration with the CALS Food Research Institute. Today, Bi-Khim Hsiao, representative of the Republic of China, Taiwan delivered a lecture in-person at the UW Law School. The Soffa Lecture, a signature event of the division, will be in-person on October 12. And finally, we are finalizing plans for an event to be held during International Education Week (November 15–19) that allow us to celebrate a Badger who has led an incredible career on the world stage. I hope you will all keep an eye out for a save the date.
Some might see these opportunities for international engagement, whether taking place here in Madison or abroad, as a return to “normal.” But the truth is, the international dimension of the UW–Madison experience was never “normal”—it has always been “extraordinary.” In the months ahead we will keep returning to “extraordinary,” while carefully prioritizing the health and safety of the campus community and the places where Badgers live and learn.
Vice provost and dean, International Division