Postcard From the AAC&U Annual Meeting: Global Learning at Emerson College

By Robin Helms

February 6, 2017

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By Robin Helms

In a session at the AAC&U annual meeting in San Francisco last week, I had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Tony Pinder, assistant vice president for internationalization and global engagement at Emerson College (MA), about his institution’s approach to internationalization, and in particular, how Emerson ensures that all students—regardless of major and whether or not they study abroad—gain a global perspective through their college experience.

Tony became Emerson’s senior international officer in 2014. At the time, Emerson was engaged in what Tony terms “random acts of internationalization,” a set of valuable, but disparate and unconnected, globally focused programs and activities. Having been through ACE’s Internationalization Laboratory program with his previous institution, Georgia Gwinnett University, Tony immediately saw the need for coordinated effort to pursue internationalization in a more deliberate way. Following his recommendation, Emerson joined the Lab and engaged in an 18-month strategic planning process for internationalization.

Central to Emerson’s internationalization plan is a set of global learning outcomes, which have been integrated into a broader set of learning outcomes that address Emerson’s core educational mission. These learning outcomes, Tony noted, drive curriculum planning throughout the institution: Because they include a global component, faculty and departments have incorporated international content into nearly every course and program. All Emerson students benefit from global learning opportunities, and student learning remains at the heart of the institution’s internationalization efforts.

Emerson’s global learning outcomes specify that upon graduation, students will be able to:


  • Understand the creative process, which includes experimenting with traditional practices to produce distinctive solutions.
  • Apply foundational theories and practices to their disciplines.
  • Integrate the liberal arts into the various fields of communication and the arts.


  • Effectively work with others across fields of study to produce meaningful outcomes.


  • Demonstrate effective written, oral, and visual communication skills.
  • Demonstrate competency in information, media, and digital literacies.

Critically Think

  • Support conclusions based on research methods appropriate to their disciplines.
  • Make decisions using quantitative and qualitative analysis.

Civically Engage

  • Demonstrate an understanding of diverse perspectives in a globally connected world.
  • Effectively engage with community initiatives.

Tony was quick to point out that these learning outcomes were developed through a collaborative process engaging faculty, staff and students throughout the institution and are specific to the Emerson context. And as he noted in his presentation at AAC&U, “what works for us may not work for you.”

To help institutions get the conversation started on their own campuses, ACE has compiled sample learning outcomes from previous Lab participants and other institutions in our Internationalization Toolkit, and also addressed the process of learning outcome development in our Internationalization in Action online series. If your institution has models to share, please send them to us at—we’ll add them to the Toolkit, and will continue to support global learning and the development of internationally engaged students and institutions.

Students and faculty pose in front of Kasteel Well, the restored 14th-century medieval castle that is home to Emerson College’s premier Education Abroad Program in Well, The Netherlands.

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About the Author

Robin Helms

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