Both students and faculty are increasing their efforts to transform RIT into a global community. For the past six years, Student Government (SG) representatives have been working on unifying the SG brand across all of the RIT campuses, while faculty and staff have led efforts to create transformational experiences for students through study abroad as far back as 1997.

The Student Government Global Consortium

SG has worked hard to unify its presence and branding across all RIT campuses. Since 2012, SG leaders from campuses around the world have met annually at the Student Government Global Consortium to discuss standardizing the SG brand. Each year, the meeting takes place at a different RIT campus — this year it was Dubai’s turn to host the event. The Consortium is entirely student-run.

Farid Barquet, SG president of RIT in Rochester, attended this year’s consortium and explained its importance. 

“During that one-week meeting, we talk about every issue we have on our campus, how we can support each other, accomplish our goals and become a more international community across the campuses,” Barquet said.

“During that one-week meeting, we talk about every issue we have on our campus, how we can support each other, accomplish our goals and become a more international community across the campuses,” Barquet said.

Far from being purely abstract, these meetings also provide invaluable information and allow SGs to coordinate across campuses. This saves both time and resources which SGss might have to spend if they tried to do it alone.

“What we got from those meetings is that we want a unified SG brand, which for the past four years we’ve built upon using specific logos, procedures and fonts. One thing we’re working on is a shared drive folder where we can share shirt, bottle and other designs,” Barquet said.

However, the idea of creating a single SG brand has faced some obstacles, because of differences in wealth and culture.

“The resources most of them have are lacking [...] the appropriate funding. Not all the campuses pay student activity fees. I believe Dubai has just implemented this and Croatia is passing a vote this year to pass student activity fees. The difference is that we [Rochester] have a body of 19,000 students who pay student activity fees. For them, they have 600 students on some campuses, or even as few as 200 in others,” Barquet explained.

Different attitudes toward the college experience have also created challenges for SG, according to Barquet.

“Not as many are involved. Another limitation is that most of their students don’t live at the university. For most of their culture, the mentality is: we go to the university for our classes, and then we leave campus for the day,” Barquet added.

Tackling this challenge might be difficult. One main goal is to create that unified SG brand, from shared logos and fonts to working closer together as one organization across all of the campuses.

Creating a unified SG brand goes beyond logos and meetings however. It could also help with students' fears toward study abroad programs. If other RIT campuses function in much the same way as the Rochester campus, encouraging student activities, clubs and events — then potential study abroad candidates might not be so afraid of being excluded from the local campuses’ culture and community. This would, in turn, create a more engaging and inclusive experience for both local and study abroad students.

Other Avenues to Globalization

RIT’s study abroad options began with a single destination — a global campus in Croatia. In a span of only 20 years, it has since expanded and diversified to cover the globe. Currently, RIT has global campuses in Dubai, Croatia, Kosovo and China.

“We have really great partnerships in Africa and in Latin America that we can leverage [as well]. The model that we will pursue there will probably be more of a university partnership, rather than trying to re-create what we’ve done in Dubai, Croatia and Kosovo,” said Jim Myers, the associate provost of International Education and Global Programs. He also hinted at expanding the study abroad program to include India as well.

Students can take advantage of a wide selection of experiences which will enrich not only their personal and academic lives, but their professional ones as well. Yet, few students are taking these opportunities — possibly the largest hurdle in the way of a more global RIT.

“Right now, we send 400 students abroad every year - and that’s counting 200 of which go on international co-ops," Myers said.

“Right now, we send 400 students abroad every year — and that’s counting 200 of which go on international co-ops," Myers said. "We’re a long way away from being one of the leading universities sending students abroad. Ideally, we would have 15 percent of the student body traveling abroad every year to have a meaningful international experience.” 

The goal of studying abroad is not simply for the sake of traveling and having new experiences. Creating “greatness through difference” requires something beyond the standard classroom curriculum, Myers noted.

“What we’re trying to do here is create opportunities for [students], to go and do what you want - to do something important. Do something that affects positive change on the world, and to get exposed to the best practices in the world for your discipline," Myers said.

The challenge has been communicating this message to students. Even those who are aware of study abroad might not be willing to step outside of their comfort zones.

“There’s a lot of students who can’t afford it, [are] intimidated by it or it creates certain disruptions in their life that they’re not willing and able to undertake. We have to create a range of experiences that enables them to step into it in a way that’s accessible and affordable,” Myers noted.

The popular misconception among students is that studying abroad is unaffordable, except for a privileged few. However, that is not the case.

“It is cheaper to study abroad than to stay here for a semester. That’s hard for students to wrap their minds around, when you add in the cost of travel with the cost of these programs it wouldn’t seem so. But, it tends to be offset by the lower cost of living overall - food and rent are much cheaper relative to the U.S.,” Myers said.

With big programs and big plans for the future, the largest challenge right now is getting more students interested in going abroad and being more involved in our global RIT community.

While there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of challenges to overcome, many parts of RIT are working towards the goal of a more global RIT, and because of that our global community is becoming more unified all the time.