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KU announces appointments to support international engagement

Tue, 07/26/2022

LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas Institute for International and Global Engagement (KU-IIGE) was launched in February to enhance KU’s international scholarship and global engagement efforts. Melissa Birch, associate professor in the School of Business, will lead the institute as the inaugural executive director.

In this role, Birch will report to Jennifer Roberts, vice provost for graduate studies and academic affairs.

“Dr. Birch brings extensive experience in international engagement through her research, teaching and community associations through the School of Business,” Roberts said. “She served previously as the inaugural director of KU’s Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) and president of the Association of International Business Education and Research (AIBER), the association of all CIBERs.”

Birch, who started her career at KU in 1997, was the recipient of the 2002 Provost’s Award for Leadership in International Education. Her research focuses on the challenges of management in Latin America, and she has published on topics including public sector management, privatization and regional integration. She was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to serve as a member of the Mid-America District Export Council. She also serves as chair of the Kansas International Trade Coordinating Council, an advisory group to the governor on the selection of the Kansas Exporter of the Year.

Birch managed the business school’s study abroad and international outreach activities while also teaching courses on international business and business in Latin America. Birch is also a member of the faculty of the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies and served as interim associate director in 2011.

Birch will hold a 50% appointment with KU-IIGE and continue as a tenured faculty member in the School of Business. She will release her director role in the School of Business as part of this appointment. As the executive director for KU-IIGE, Birch is responsible for creating and implementing a vision to direct the institute’s future in support of the university’s international and global engagement goals. Birch said she understands the magnitude of her new position, which continues the charge from former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences George Waggoner (1954 to 1975) for KU to be a hub for international education in America’s heartland.

“This institute represents an opportunity to build a 21st century structure for international studies at KU on a foundation that has been at least 60 years in the making,” Birch said. “Generations of KU scholars have left an impressive legacy of interdisciplinary international education, scholarship, and partnership in response to that challenge. Taking that legacy forward into the digital age brings formidable challenges and exceptional opportunities.”

Updates on Internationalization

In other news related to KU’s efforts to strengthen international and global engagement, Megan Greene has been appointed as provost fellow focused on internationalization. She will implement recommendations from the ACE Internationalization Lab that involve faculty engagement in teaching and research, including development of policy and practice to facilitate and incentivize internationalization of teaching and research, and development of mechanisms to collect data on international research and teaching activities and curricular internationalization efforts. Her efforts will align with and complement external engagement activities carried out by the KU-IIGE. She will report to Roberts.

Greene is a professor of history with a research focus on 20th century China and Taiwan and teaches courses on modern China and East Asia.

Additionally, Charles Bankart, who has served for five years as the associate vice provost for international affairs, has a new title and now serves as senior internationalization officer. Bankart will partner with academic and administrative leadership, as well as the new institute and provost fellow, on fully integrating internationalization into KU’s strategic planning efforts under Jayhawks Rising. This move is in recognition of his role in leading internationalization efforts at KU, in addition to his current responsibilities in the Provost’s Office.

Expanding KU Impact

The work of KU-IIGE will align efforts of KU’s five area studies centers: the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies; the Kansas African Studies Center; the Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies; the East Asian Studies Center and the Center for Global & International Studies.

The KU-IIGE will align KU’s capacities and activities in four core areas (curriculum, research, international operations and engagement) to create collaboration and partnerships on campus, across the state and around the globe.

“I’m truly excited to see the teamwork between Charles, Melissa, Megan, our area center directors and our faculty, staff and students who engage in international activities,” said Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, provost and executive vice chancellor. “I’m very confident these efforts will result in KU’s academic programs, research and creative activities having increasingly broad impact on a global scale.”

The KU-IIGE’s mission and efforts led by Bankart and Greene align with institutional priorities and objectives within KU’s Jayhawks Rising Strategic Plan, specifically the objective to “Strengthen Service to Local and Global Communities” under the “Healthy and Vibrant Communities” priority and the objective to “Expand the Impact of KU Research in Kansas and Beyond” under the “Research and Discovery” priority.



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