November 11, 2013

A Celebration of Inclusion: Center for International Programs

VALDOSTA – The racial integration of Valdosta State in 1963 laid the foundation for more complex cultural diversity and appreciation of world cultures. The institution would see internationalization efforts within the next 10 years. Four decades after the first course on international studies, Valdosta State University’s Center for International Programs serves as a hub for global awareness and understanding.

In a 2005 interview with Dr. Michael Black, director of Institutional Effectiveness at VSU, the late Dr. William “Bill” Gabard spoke about introducing the idea for an international studies department at Valdosta State. Black mentioned that during the fall quarter of 1940, President Frank R. Reade had used institutional scholarship money to sponsor the first two foreign exchange students at what was then Georgia State Woman’s College. However, the concept for a department came decades later.

When the department was established in 1974, Gabard, who had been a professor of history, became the director. Valdosta State’s international studies department was the first within the University System of Georgia.

"Dr. Gabard also started the International Student Dinner at his home, which has grown to be a significant form of VSU outreach to our local community,” said Black.

“The idea for the center was to bring diversity to campus, making faculty and students aware of the world so they would feel connected,” said Dr. Ivan Nikolov, director of the Center for International Programs and professor of educational leadership. “International Programs as such has over 25 years of history. Dr. Tracy Harrington was instrumental in establishing a regular international students service program, as well as institutional and state-wide collaborative platforms for study abroad and faculty internationalization resources.”

Over the past decade, the global dimension functions of the Center for International Programs have grown in depth and complexity, according to Nikolov.

“We have anywhere between 55 to 70 countries represented by our close to 400 international students – a number that has tripled in the last three years,” said Nikolov. “Our study abroad programs are an organizational example followed by many institutions of higher education in Georgia. It is not a coincidence that VSU is the coordinating center for the European Council study abroad programs of the University System of Georgia.”

In addition, the VSU Faculty Internationalization Fund helps to send more than 25 faculty members to international conferences, art performances and other academic exchange activities abroad. The L. Brown Scholar award brings scholars from around the world to teach, do joint research and collaborate with colleagues on campus, in the Valdosta community, nationally and internationally.

Nikolov added that in the past five years the English Language Institute (ELI) has grown into a solid educational platform for teaching English as a Second Language and serves as a bridge for future VSU international students.

“David Starling and his team are amazing,” said Nikolov. “The wide array of cultural programming and community collaboration makes this college preparatory program a great ambassador for what the Blazer spirit and Southern hospitality are about.”

The center’s International Students Services component ensures that international students have a place to be guided, receive support and encouragement, have fun and become integrated into the campus and off-campus community during their time at VSU.

“We are here to support them,” said Lauren Braun, coordinator for International Students Services. “We a part of a federal program within the Department of Homeland Security that assists international students to maintain their immigration status, travel and study.”

Braun also serves as the faculty advisor to the Society of International Students, a registered student organization at VSU.

The Center for International Program’s International Academic Council creates a platform for faculty from all academic units to have their input on the campus international activities.

“With more than 40 international partner institutions around the world, VSU has a strong global presence, which is so necessary today for educational, cultural, research and personal growth,” said Nikolov. “The investment in the global dimension and the engagement of our institution, faculty, students and Valdosta community make VSU a great place to grow, be successful and be closely associated with for many long years to come.”

To learn more about the Center for International Programs, visit .

Valdosta State University’s 2013-2019 Strategic Plan represents a renewal of energy and commitment to the foundational principles for comprehensive institutions.

Implementation of the plan’s five goals, along with their accompanying objectives and strategies, supports VSU’s institutional mission and the University System of Georgia’s mission for comprehensive universities.

The story above demonstrates VSU's commitment to meeting the following goals:

Goal 1: Recruit, retain, and graduate a quality, diverse student population and prepare students for roles as leaders in a global society.

Goal 3: Promote student, employee, alumni, retiree, and community engagement in our mission.

Visit to learn more.