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Welcome from Dean Scott Fritzen

Interim Dean Mitchell Smith

July 2020

Dear colleagues and friends of international engagement,

The College of International Studies (CIS) is a hub for internationalization on the University of Oklahoma campus, continually seeking to improve and expand study abroad opportunities, services to international students and international research and partnerships. I arrived at OU in July 2020 and could not be more excited to join this community of committed scholars, staff and students. 

As I survey the landscape here, three things are eminently clear. 

First, these are arguably the most challenging times for international education in living memory. From the dramatic impact the pandemic has had on cancelled study abroad programs across higher education, to the heightened vulnerabilities experienced by international students, the stresses on our people and mission are enormous at the moment.

Second, our work has never been more vital than it is now. In recent months, both the pandemic and the internationalization of the movement opposing systemic racism have brought into stark relief the global interconnectedness of our problems and fates, and the need for mutual understanding and learning in our divided and unequal societies. In such a context, our International and Area Studies (IAS) department mission of "promoting global fluency," defined as "a sensitivity to language, culture, history and society that enables us to engage, perceive and interpret the world more productively," is urgent, and rich with practical implications. Einstein once noted the impossibility of solving problems with the same mentality that created them. “Global fluency” is a critical part of the mentality shift that we need to deal effectively with both global and local problems.

Finally, it is abundantly clear to me that the people of CIS are rising to the enormous challenges we face. Interim Dean Mitchell Smith navigated the College through the turbulent waters of Spring semester, with its highly complex tasks of protecting our students throughout the world, mounting assistance for international students on campus, and pivoting to online course delivery. CIS staff and faculty acted nimbly while dealing with their own complex personal and family challenges and uncertainties. No wonder this year’s Outstanding Staff Award was given to the entire CIS staff!

That dynamic response has continued into the Summer. We mobilized quickly last week to advocate for international students targeted by what OU’s leadership called an “incredibly harmful, unfair, and unworkable” directive from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. With our partners across higher education, we supported a legal complaint against the directive, which culminated in the policy being rescinded. At the request of OU Interim Provost (and former CIS Interim Dean and continuing IAS faculty member) Jill Irvine, CIS is leading a Task Force of representatives from across OU’s three campuses to continue to aggressively advocate for our international students, and to address their needs and vulnerabilities holistically as we enter the Fall.

In addition to serving the needs of international students across OU, CIS has continued its mission to offer students transformative experiences studying abroad. At present, this work is incredibly challenging, as it is across higher education during the pandemic; and we are responding in innovative ways. OU in Arezzo, our center in Italy, is launching its first virtual study abroad course to ensure that students are able to participate in unique study abroad experiences from their homes. Our Study Center in Puebla, Mexico, in turn, has partnered with the Modern Languages, Literature and Linguistics department to provide a special program for Spanish majors and minors for the Spring 2021 term. Together with our overseas study centers and partners across all three campuses, our we are working hard at present to position ourselves to bounce back resiliently in 2021, and to reach an ever growing and more diverse set of students going forward.

Meanwhile, we will continue to build on the strengths of our academic programs, centers and scholarship. Our scholars continue to produce major works of scholarship, including in flagship journals across our several fields of study.  We also recently celebrated the recent or forthcoming publication of nine books and monographs by our full-time faculty over the past two years, including:

  • Cyber Governance and Policy Center Director Mark Raymond’s Social Practices of Rule-Making in World Politics (Oxford University Press, 2019)
  • Farzaneh Family Chair and Professor Afshin Marashi’s Exile and the Nation: The Parsi Community of India and the Making of Modern Iran (University of Texas Press, 2020)
  • Assistant Professor Manata Hashemi’s Coming of Age in Iran: Poverty and the Struggle for Dignity (New York University Press, 2020)
  • Assistant Professor Waleed Mahdi’s Arab Americans in Film: From Hollywood and Egyptian Stereotypes to Self-Representation (Syracuse University Press, 2020)
  • Associate Professor Bo Kong's Modernization Through Globalization: Why China Finances Foreign Energy Projects Worldwide (Palgrave Pivot 2019)
  • Presidential Professor and Interim Provost Jill Irvine's co-edited volume, Gendered Mobilizations and Intersectional Challenges: Contemporary Social Movements in Europe and North America (Rowman and Littlefield, 2019)
  • Assistant Professor Fabio de Sa E Silva's two co-edited books, Respondiendo a la tortura: Perspectivas Latinoamericanas sobre un Desafío Global (International Bar Association 2020) and Global Pro Bono: Causes, Organization, Consequences (Cambridge University Press 2020)
  • My own The Conundrum of Corruption: Reforming Reform, co-authored with Michael Johnston (Routledge, forthcoming 2020)

In addition, the faculty in IAS continue to offer a dynamic and challenging curriculum, not only for our several hundred majors and minors in our degree programs, but also for students across campus who seek to enrich their education with our courses.  Our on-campus M. program has partnered with several entities to provide rewarding internships for our students, while our online MA program reaches thousands of students and professionals across the globe.

As difficult as our challenges are at present, our future looks bright. CIS will continue to mobilize our partnerships that cross international and disciplinary boundaries, and to innovate in international education and research on all fronts. We will manage through this disruptive pandemic, taking care of our students, faculty and staff in the process. And we will position ourselves for renewed progress beyond the pandemic, and for the expansion of our role promoting global engagement at OU. 

The needs are great, and the stakes are high. And we’re on it, together.


With deep appreciation,

Scott Fritzen
Dean, College of International Studies
Associate Provost for Global Engagement
William J. Crowe, Jr. Chair in Geopolitics