UC Santa Cruz earns national acclaim: awarded NAFSA’s 2024 Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization

UCSC international students walk through Quarry Plaza
International students walk through Quarry Plaza during the Global Learning Opportunities Fair.

In recognition of excellence in internationalization efforts, the University of California, Santa Cruz has been selected to receive the prestigious 2024 Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization from NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

Granted to only four U.S. universities and colleges this year, the award celebrates institutions that are making significant, well-planned, well-executed, and well-documented progress toward comprehensive internationalization—especially those using innovative and creative approaches. Comprehensive internationalization is a strategic, coordinated process that seeks to align and integrate policies, programs, and initiatives to position universities as more globally oriented and internationally connected institutions.

“Meeting the challenges of today’s world requires the diversity of thought that an international perspective provides,” said UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Cynthia Larive. “This award is a testament to the collective efforts of our campus to offer students a wide range of global research opportunities and learning experiences, and to make internationalization a part of our campus culture.”

During the past decade, UC Santa Cruz has experienced rapid growth in international student enrollments. In 2016, the Division of Global Engagement was established to create a broader campuswide structure and to amplify our international efforts. Since then, UC Santa Cruz has achieved remarkable milestones to become a national model for advancing comprehensive internationalization, guided more recently by the Strategic Plan for Internationalization (SPI) which was adopted in Academic Year 2021-2022.

“The award acknowledges the Global Engagement team's hard work and dedication. We're thrilled to bring national and international recognition to UC Santa Cruz. I'm excited about the impact this award will have on our future internationalization goals,” expressed Assistant Vice Provost of Global Engagement and Senior International Officer, Becky George.

Three years into the SPI, UC Santa Cruz has dramatically increased global learning opportunities for students through a commensurate increase in its institutional partnerships around the world. Thanks to innovative new programs and initiatives like Global Internships and Global Classrooms, and expanded Exchange programs and Faculty-Led Global Seminars, student participation in international experiential learning opportunities has surged. For example, in summer 2024 we anticipate a nearly threefold increase in enrollments in the Global Internship program since the program launched in 2021. Similarly, Faculty-Led Global Seminars, launched in 2017 with 12 students, saw 123 students enrolled for summer 2023, and the Global Classrooms initiative has embedded the COIL model for learning in 15 courses at UC Santa Cruz across 14 departments.

Increases in student program participation come as a result of close collaboration with the faculty at UC Santa Cruz. Faculty engagement in new initiatives has nearly tripled since 2021, and a broad range of international partnership agreements have been established with over 50 institutions across more than 15 countries.

Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education and Global Engagement Richard Hughey, expressed gratitude for the NAFSA recognition, stating, “This award underlines our strengths and builds our reputation as a globally engaged university. Students and scholars who are looking to learn and problem-solve on a global scale will know to seek out UC Santa Cruz.”

Serving more than 10,000 members and international educators worldwide, NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the leading organization committed to international education and exchange.

“I am pleased to recognize such a diverse and dynamic group of institutions for integrating international education into their teaching, partnerships, systems, culture, and student success models,” said Fanta Aw, NAFSA executive director and CEO. “With minority-serving institutions, large land-grant universities, and a community college district counted among this year’s winners, these institutions demonstrate that the principles and practices of internationalization thrive within a variety of structures, geographies, and student populations. We commend these colleges and universities for their exemplary work in advancing the intercultural skills of their students, faculty, and staff in today’s dynamic landscape.”