On May 26, 1995, Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan signed into law House Bill No. 442, which directed that Missouri Southern “shall develop such academic support programs and public service activities it deems necessary and appropriate to establish international or global education as a distinctive theme of its mission.” That legislation was enacted as part of Missouri’s “Blueprint for Higher Education,” adopted by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education.
The faculty and administration of Missouri Southern developed over the next year the outline of a comprehensive plan of international education. Included was the establishment of the Institute of International Studies, charged with overseeing the internationalizing of the campus.
The most distinctive aspect of Missouri Southern’s effort to internationalize the curriculum, and the one with the most tangible effect throughout the campus community, has been the designation of “themed semesters.” Each fall, a particular country or region of the world is selected to become the focus of intensive study. For the Fall 2015 semester, we highlighted Spain. Missouri Southern was one of 13 U.S. colleges and universities included in Internationalizing the Campus 2004: Profiles of Success at Colleges and Universities, a major report published by NAFSA: Association of International Educators, for its themed semesters. The report showcases U.S. colleges and universities that are making innovative, wide-ranging efforts to integrate global approaches to teaching into campus learning.
Study abroad programs also provide Missouri Southern students with additional opportunities to gain an understanding of other cultures and international issues. In 2015, students traveled to Costa Rica, France, Spain, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Poland, Denmark, Japan, and Sweden under faculty supervision. Individually, students can spend an entire semester in such countries as Austria, China, England, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, or Morocco through the International Student Exchange Program or Missouri Southern’s bilateral agreements with universities around the world.
Missouri Southern has received national recognition for its international mission, including the Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Faculty Development to Enhance Undergraduate Teaching and Learning and an Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education. The American Council on Education selected Missouri Southern as one of eight institutions from 57 applicants for an assessment project called “Promising Practices: Institutional Models of Comprehensive Internationalization.” And Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning published an article about the effects of Missouri Southern’s study abroad program in its May/June 2002 issue.
Senate Bill 55, which changed Missouri Southern State College’s name to Missouri Southern State University-Joplin, also designated Missouri Southern as a statewide institution of international or global education. The bill was signed by Governor Bob Holden on July 12, 2003.