International Plan at Georgia Tech
Office of International Education
Higher Ed - Public, Individual
Division of Professional Practice; School of Modern Languages
18,006 (Spring 2009)
The International Plan program at Georgia Tech is a four-year academic undergraduate program that students can choose in addition to their regular majors. It builds global competence by requiring students to engage in a minimum of twenty-six weeks of international experience (work, research or study) related to their discipline. They must also take internationally oriented coursework, and develop proficiency in a second language. This experience provides students with a deeper global competency than traditional international opportunities. It helps prepare Georgia Tech graduates professionally and personally for successful careers in the 21st century. Students gain an understanding of the global economy and international relations, the ability to function effectively in a multi-national workplace environment, and the capability to assimilate comfortably in multicultural environments.
Georgia Tech (GT), a highly selective technology-focused research institution in the United States, has developed a degree designation called the International Plan (IP). It is designed to inculcate the knowledge, skills and abilities that comprise “global competence” within academic disciplines. The IP is a four-year program within an undergraduate’s academic curriculum to produce globally competent citizens. The IP utilizes existing study, work, and research abroad opportunities available through the Office of International Education, and the Division of Professional Practice to help students fulfill their requirements. It also works with the School of Modern Languages on language learning.
Three major components on the IP requirements are specific coursework, an international experience, and language proficiency. The core coursework is a set of four courses that address international issues. The core courses are: the history and theory of international relations; an historical and theoretical understanding of the global economy; a region-specific course that allows students to make systematic comparisons with their own society and culture; and a capstone course in the student’s major discipline that integrates international experience and study into their discipline.
Second, students must complete 26 weeks of active engagement abroad. The students engage in one of the following: university-level coursework including courses in their major; work or internship with local organization; research with local faculty or industrial researchers; or a combination of one semester studying abroad and work or research. The total time for each option is six months. Third, all IP participants must develop proficiency in a language other than English from the country or region in which they plan to study.
A number of Georgia Tech faculty, staff, and administrators worked for more than two years to establish the IP. This plan has three significant features: first, the program is integrated into the student’s major; second, there is a general template in terms of program requirements that students in any major must follow; third, the IP is tailored to meet the particular needs of each academic unit.
Each academic unit that would like to participate is expected to develop a specific version of the IP. When students complete the requirements for the undergraduate degree in their majors and the IP requirements, their diploma and transcript states that the degree is a “Bachelor of Science with International Plan.” This ensures that their international preparation is featured for prospective employers to see.
As of 2009, 67% of disciplines have participated in the IP. There were total 761 participants admitted from 2005 to 2009. Students have reported a better understanding and awareness of political affairs and improvement in their understanding of other cultures and how to work with diversity. IP participants’ average GPA is 3.30, which when compared to non-participants, 2.925, is significantly greater. Alumni of the IP report improved employment opportunities, higher job satisfaction, higher salaries, and improved career advancement.
The faculty and administrators who implemented this program had four key takeaways that led to the successful implementation of the program. First, it took patience. Two full years were spent to develop the IP program including 18 months of bimonthly meetings of the IP faculty committee; and four years to reach student participation goals of 850 students in 2009. Second, support of university leadership was critical. The provost, deans, and department chairs had to be on board and help with problems. Third, all academic units had to participate as equal partners. Fourth, it was important to balance high expectations and reasonable and achievable goals.