Paul Simon Award recognizes colleges that are making creative, innovative progress

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

The University of Iowa is one of only four schools in the United States to receive the prestigious 2017 Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization by NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

simon award logo

Named for the late U.S. senator from Illinois Paul Simon, a champion of international education and cultural exchange, NAFSA’s Simon awards recognize colleges and universities that are making significant, well-planned, well-executed, and well-documented progress toward comprehensive internationalization—especially those using innovative and creative approaches.

“It is a distinct honor to be recognized by NAFSA for our institution’s commitment to internationalization,” says Downing Thomas, associate provost for academic affairs and dean of International Programs at the UI. “The University of Iowa’s commitment to internationalization has never been more significant, nor more infused throughout the collegiate and departmental missions than it is today.”

The award is granted to a limited number of institutions each year. The UI is one of only four recipients in 2017.

“As an institution, we celebrate the opportunity to educate talented students from around the world,” says UI President Bruce Harreld. “Diversity strengthens and enriches our community and prepares our students to be global citizens.”

The award comes after a year when senior collegiate leaders from across campus worked to develop a shared vision for how the UI could advance its internationalization by focusing on student success, creation and discovery, and engagement.

Its benchmarks included

  • Student Success: The UI is a top 50 institution for international student enrollment and has long been successful attracting some of the most highly qualified students from a variety of geographic and cultural backgrounds. When those students arrive on campus, their support services are robust, with engagement from students, faculty, staff, and university leaders who are committed to easing their transition and providing cultural competency awareness training for the faculty and staff they will work closely with. A few of those programs include a name pronunciation tool, career assistance for international students, accessible libraries, counseling services in multiple languages, and pre-departure orientation sessions and resources that are proven to help students perform better upon their arrival.
  • Creation and Discovery: Through grants funded by the Stanley–UI Foundation Support Organizations (SUIFSO), 465 awards have funded the collaborative international projects of 482 faculty members. The SUIFSO also offer generous funding for students to complete international research in the form of Stanley Undergraduate and Graduate International Research Awards, which support many UI international students who are not eligible for other nationally competitive awards that require U.S. citizenship. In the past five years, 100 graduate students received $250,000 and 26 undergraduates received $59,000 to conduct international research.
  • Engagement: The UI has made an institutional commitment to articulate to its students the value of graduating as global citizens. In addition to integrating curricula to address global perspectives and hosting a Commitment to Internationalization lecture series in the last year, the UI has expanded its study abroad program with special attention to supporting underrepresented students through scholarships, dedicated outreach staff, faculty support, and partnerships with organizations around the world that enhance educational opportunities. Sixteen percent of UI undergraduates studying abroad have been minorities, and an overall 21 percent of UI undergraduates study abroad.

“We are thrilled to award NAFSA’s highest commendation to these colleges and universities for their remarkable efforts to implement internationalization on their campuses,” says Esther D. Brimmer, NAFSA executive director and CEO. “Through their hard work and dedication, each of these campuses has demonstrated how U.S. higher education institutions can succeed at fostering a globally connected and welcoming community using a variety of methods. It is through the continued commitment and innovation of institutions like these that we can ensure a future of greater collaboration and shared progress across the world.”   

As an award recipient, the UI will be profiled in depth in NAFSA’s Internationalizing the Campus 2017: Profiles of Success at Colleges and Universities report, which will be published in the fall. The UI also will be honored at an award ceremony during International Education Week in November 2017.

The other three institutions receiving the 2017 Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization are Florida State University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Santa Monica College.

To learn more about the award, visit