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Lehigh Recognized by NAFSA with 2021 Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization

The award distinguishes overall excellence in integrating international education throughout all facets of university and college campuses.

Story by

Lori Friedman

Photography by

Stephanie Veto

Lehigh has been recognized by NAFSA: Association of International Education for excellence in campus internationalization, one of eight exemplary U.S. universities and colleges to receive the 2021 Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization. Named after the late Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois, the NAFSA Simon Awards recognize outstanding innovation and accomplishment in campus internationalization in two categories.

Lehigh was honored with the “Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization,” which distinguishes overall excellence in integrating international education throughout all facets of university and college campuses.

Logo of  NAFSA Simon Awards

“We are thrilled to have been honored by NAFSA for the progress we are making toward comprehensive internationalization driven by ‘Global Lehigh,’ a plan that has formed the foundation of the work of the last several years,” said Cheryl Matherly, vice president and vice provost of international affairs at Lehigh. “The work of the Office of International Affairs is made possible by a dedicated staff and involves many people across campus with initiatives that build from Lehigh's strengths: interdisciplinary education, experiential learning, and our deep and distinctive international portfolio. Lehigh’s international education program advances the university vision to prepare graduates to engage with the world and lead lives of meaning.”

Under the leadership of Matherly and Lehigh President John D. Simon '19P, Lehigh has grown in its capacity as a global university. The university’s recent investment in India includes partnerships with leading Indian institutions including Ashoka University and ITT Bombay. In 2019, Lehigh added two India-based staff to lead efforts to expand undergraduate and graduate recruiting, activate and engage alumni, and develop institutional partnerships to support student exchange and faculty research.

“Internationalization is a top priority for Lehigh reflected in the significant enhancements we've made to our already robust global programs over the last several years,” John Simon said.  “We are honored to be among a handful of distinguished colleges and universities chosen this year for the Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization in recognition of our success.”

In partnership with Lehigh’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity, the Office of International Affairs designed Passport to Success, an innovative year-long mentorship program that connects low-income and first-generation students to high-impact learning opportunities such as study abroad. This collaboration began in 2017 with 50 students receiving Lehigh scholarships. The program grew to 85 students in 2018-2019 and 95 in 2019-2020. To date, 61 students have completed an international experience (19 completed multiple experiences).

The Iacocca Institute provides an example of how Lehigh leverages existing programs. In 1997, the Institute launched the Global Village (GV), an immersive intercultural five-week residential program that helps young professionals and university students from around the world build leadership skills, understand the benefits of diversity in an organizational setting, and develop extensive international networks. There are now 2,250 GV alums from 141 countries. The Institute used the GV alumni network to launch the Iacocca International Internship Program for Lehigh undergraduates in 2012. In 2017, on the strength of its experience with GV, the Institute was selected to host a Mandela Washington Fellows Institute.

The Iacocca International Internship Program was recognized by the Institute for International Education in 2019 with the Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in Student Programs, and the United Nations Partnership was recognized in 2020 with the Heiskell for Innovation in Partnerships. 

“At NAFSA we believe that international education lies at the core of an interconnected world characterized by diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice and well-being for all,” said Esther D. Brimmer, NAFSA Executive Director and CEO. “We are thrilled to honor the achievements of these eight institutions who have demonstrated their commitment to internationalization and providing rich global learning experiences for diverse populations of students and their communities.”

A strong advocate for international education and cross-cultural learning, the late Sen. Paul Simon is also the namesake of the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act. Introduced in nearly every Congress since 2006 with bipartisan support, the Simon bill aims to incentivize U.S. higher education institutions through competitive grants to increase the number and diversity of students who complete a study abroad experience prior to graduation and make study abroad an integral part of higher education.

Institutions selected for the Simon Awards will be featured in NAFSA's report, Internationalizing the Campus: Profiles of Success at Colleges and Universities, to be published this fall, and honored during International Education Week in November. To learn more about NAFSA’s Senator Paul Simon Awards, visit www.nafsa.org/SimonAward.

Story by

Lori Friedman

Photography by

Stephanie Veto

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