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Institute of International Studies

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Our Distinctive Mission

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.

Internationalizing the Curriculum

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 2024 semester, we are focusing on Canada for the second time (our Fall 2009 choice was also Canada). With 3.85 million square miles, Canada occupies the world’s second biggest total area (after Russia). Canada represents the biggest export market for 33 states, including Missouri.. Small but mighty economically, the country holds a special fascination for Americans – almost 10 percent of the population claims some Irish heritage. 

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

Study abroad programs also provide Missouri Southern students with additional opportunities to gain an understanding of other cultures and international issues. In 2024, students traveled to Canada, England and Scotland, Italy, Costa Rica, Ireland, and Scandinavia under faculty supervision. Individually, students can spend an entire semester in such countries as Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain, Japan, the Netherlands, Morocco, or the United Kingdom through the International Student Exchange Program or MSSU’s bilateral agreements with universities around the world.

National Recognition

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 a NAFSA Internationalizing the Campus award. 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.