Despite these particular and uncertain times, Università Cattolica still considers internationalization to be a fundamental part of students’ academic development. It is therefore actively promoting new international opportunities, also virtually. In order to discover solutions to current changes, Pier Sandro Cocconcelli, Rector’s Delegate for Internationalization, chaired the virtual meeting held on Thursday, 3rd December, as a part of the International Week of Università Cattolica.
«Our mission is to teach, do research and to serve society. Today key topics are students’ opportunities and mobility. The latter is a very important component of the university curriculum, supported by Erasmus programs and more than 130 fellowship given by the Italian Ministry for Universities», said Cocconcelli before introducing Amanda Murphy, Director of the Centre for Higher Education Internationalization at Università Cattolica. «The definition of internationalization refers to an international or intercultural dimension of all the aspects of university life. Even though we can't really divorce an international experience from the idea of travelling from country to country, it is important to realize that there's so much more than actual travelling. We talk nowadays about trying to create an exclusive and inclusive experience of internationalization by creating internationalization at home and internationalization of the curriculum» commented Murphy, adding that «incorporating different points of view from different cultures and readings that students have to do, means looking even at the composition of the classroom. Diversity is something which is automatically there». In fact, there are different ways to internationalize universities that don’t include mobility, such as «teaching in English or using virtual exchange, promoting the participation to international projects by teaming up universities», concluded Murphy.
A survey conducted in 19 different countries shows that international students decide where to study based on the impact it has on their future career, before considering the reputation of the university or the country. As the Director of Expertise in Labour Mobility and Client Services Europe and North America for i-graduate Nannette Ripmeester explained «every job is international: people need international competencies and the ability to adapt and interact with people from across the globe. That's what we really need as a society, but also what we need as people individually. In particular, we can identify some specific professional skills that could enhance employability: empathy, adaptability, cultural awareness and digital skills. It is also important to remember the app that we have developed with Università Cattolica called CareerProfessor.works which shows intercultural scenarios; we suggest that all of the students use the app because it really helps you to understand how to do business, how to look for a job, and how to socially interact with people across the globe».
Another relevant aspect is the evolution of university context, that the foundation of the World Wide Web in 1989 contributed to change significantly. One of the consequences of the invention of the internet is that teaching methods have changed. «Professors would not be the sage on stage, but they would be the guide on the side», reported Patrick Colabucci the Former Director of International Programs and Director of Business Development at Global Online of UCLA Extension, during the meeting. For centuries professors lectured and students took notes, but nowadays «they are expected to produce knowledge rather than merely reproduce knowledge. Everybody brings and shares their different knowledgebase in the classroom. Universities are creating new resources like tutoring offices, virtual conversation groups, and virtual academic advisors, so that students can connect with their peers online, before even arriving in a new country». To summarize, Colabucci thinks that virtual environment simulate the reality of the future workplaces. This is due to the fact that online learning addresses a growing interaction between students, offering the tools required to collaborate as a team and solve problems together.
The last reflection was offered by Ezio Fregnan, the Academy Director and HR Training Director of COMAU, a world leading company in the field of industrial automation. Assuming that complexity, volatility and ambiguity are 2020 key words, Fregnan said that we should also focus on this unprecedented new working practice: It is the first time that we have 5 generations working at the same time and in a very different way from each other. As Fregnan indicated, there are structures we need for an effective working from home strategy: trust-based culture, management driven by objectives and results, flexibility, high levels of autonomy and openness to continuous change. «There is something positive in every change» added Fregnan «and we must teach our students that there is always a glass half full. There are new releases which deal with humans, deal with technology, agility, engagement, collaboration and interdisciplinarity».
In conclusion, all the speakers have identified different ways in which the world of education is changing and as Rectors’ delegate Cocconcelli underlined «This chance should be taken into consideration. We are in a new world and we need new ways».