America’s Higher Education Goes Global: Dr. Christine Schiwietz

American Universities are the most prestigious and sought-after bastions of higher education in the world. Now, even students outside the US can reap the benefits of an education from big name universities like Georgetown University, and the global branch campus is making it possible.

In her new book, America’s Higher Education Goes Global, Dr. Christine Schiwietz provides an inside look at the Georgetown University branch campus in Education City, Qatar. The book provides firsthand experience of internationalization in academia, how Georgetown started their global branch campus, advantages for international and American students, an insight on global experiential learning, and a multiversity experience. 

With fascinating facts, student testimonials and valuable resources, it’s a unique look at the movement bringing the world together through higher education.

Hey, listeners. My name is Drew Applebaum and I’m excited to be here today with Dr. Christine Schiwietz, author of America’s Higher Education Goes Global: An Inside Look at the Georgetown Branch Campus Experience in Qatar. Christine, thank you for joining, welcome to The Author Hour Podcast.

Christine Schiwietz: Thank you.

Drew Appelbaum: I have to ask first. Did I pronounce Qatar correctly?

Christine Schiwietz: You did. 

Drew Appelbaum: Wonderful. Now, help us kick this off. Can you give us a brief rundown of your professional background?

Christine Schiwietz: Currently, I am an Assistant Dean at our Georgetown University campus in Doha, Qatar.

Drew Appelbaum: And how long have you been a professor for?

Christine Schiwietz: I’ve been in Qatar for nine years now as an assistant dean at our Georgetown University campus here. 

Drew Appelbaum: Why was now the time to share this story? Was there an inspirational moment that happened, did you feel like you really need to spread the word of what you’re doing over there to a mass audience, was there an “aha moment” for you?

Christine Schiwietz: I decided to write this book to make people aware of the amazing experience students can have at an American international branch campus overseas. So I was so excited, after I came out first in the summer of 2012, to teach a summer course here at our campus in Qatar, and I absolutely loved it, it was terrific. I thought, “Wow, you know, this is such an amazing opportunity that the students have here.” So, I looked into all the American branch campuses that are in different parts of the world, and I realized that there are so many remarkable programs across different parts of the world.

From undergraduate to graduate programs, spanning from business, international affairs, engineering, through global entertainment, even music scoring for film. I thought, “Wow, this is an ‘aha’ moment.” So, in my book, America’s Higher Education Goes Global, I reveal an inside look at the Georgetown branch campus experience in Qatar, and I wanted to show how branch campuses breed an enormous air of optimism, potential, possibility, and that it’s just a really exciting opportunity for students to get a US degree and get an international experience the same time.

Taking American Higher Education Global

Drew Appelbaum: Now, when you started to write the book, in your mind, who are you writing this book for? Is this for students looking to know about the international experience, is this for faculty members and current universities?

Christine Schiwietz: This book is for parents and also university administrators. I thought that these would be two key audiences although, it is interesting to anyone curious about college. For parents, I thought this would be very interesting to show how many options there are where kids can go to college in a new way. For university administrators, it documents the trends of US campuses going overseas, and it also explains how it works.

Drew Appelbaum: Set that foundation for us. What is a branch campus of a university, and how many of these branch campuses/how many universities are involved in the Education City project?

Christine Schiwietz: So, my book reveals how over three dozen American universities have established full-fledged branch campuses overseas. From across Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, Canada, and these are programs across many different disciplines offering exciting opportunities to get a US degree and, of course, combine this with an unparalleled international experience.

Drew Appelbaum: Is this the future of higher education? Is this where everything is going, to internationalization?

Christine Schiwietz: I think America’s higher education is going global, and it has been steadily expanding to new markets overseas. Now, it’s doing it in a big way by establishing these fully-fledged campuses in foreign countries. What I think is very important to distinguish is that these are not study abroad programs. These are four-year undergraduate programs that are not your typical study abroad program, but a much richer and immersive experience.

I wrote in the book that if a study abroad is the movie trailer, then the US global branch campus experience, just like the mainland campus experience, is the entire movie.

Drew Appelbaum: Sure, you really have time to immerse yourself. What was the decision making process behind Georgetown actually joining?

Christine Schiwietz: Georgetown believed in Qatar’s vision to help them lay the foundations of a knowledge-based economy. Qatar actually has a national vision document called Qatar’s National Vision 2030, and folded this under their vision. Qatar provided funding and established resources for attracting universities, and then students coming to Qatar.

For us at Georgetown, we offer our Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service degree program. It is a branch campus of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, in Washington DC. Since Georgetown has always been considered a leading university in international affairs, being a pioneer in the launching of a branch campus was good fit, and it is Georgetown’s only overseas campus. 

Well, when Georgetown University in Qatar was founded in 2005, it became one of the six elite US universities that are actually currently in Qatar. What is really interesting is that each university that is here hosts a school from their main campus, and each of these schools have a focused expertise and a specific discipline. 

Currently in Qatar, there is a Weill Cornell Medical College, which was the first American university to offer an MD program overseas. There’s Texas A&M University, which also joined Education City and came to Qatar and focuses on engineering. Then there’s Northwestern University, which has an undergraduate degree program in communication and journalism.

Carnegie Mellon University, with an undergraduate program in computer science and business administration and VCU, Virginia Commonwealth University, School of the Arts, which offers undergraduate degree programs and fashion design and tier design. So, as you can see, I mean, it’s a remarkable sextet, so to speak.

Drew Appelbaum: How are universities, especially from the US, are they well-regarded and well-known around the world? I know that Georgetown University is a top tier university but is that the same feeling across the globe? 

Christine Schiwietz: Well, we have the most top-ranked universities in the world. US degrees are perceived as valuable all over the world. Higher education in the United States is a type of status symbol, and I think it demonstrates honor and prestige. In the form of a branch campus, it’s a valuable export. The initial vision to bring US universities to Qatar was actually the vision of her highness, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. 

Her vision — her flagship project — was to modernize her country to bring the best universities in the world to Qatar, and build a knowledge economy that would support the future prosperity of the country. She is the visionary committed to building this intellectual, social and cultural foundation with what we call Education City. 

Drew Appelbaum: You know, this is all very new, if you compare it to the age of Georgetown. Can you talk a little bit about what that classroom and what the campus feels like, and how it differs from DC Georgetown experience? 

Christine Schiwietz: Along with the six US universities that are currently here in Qatar, we have campuses of multiple universities, and each of these universities have their own buildings, libraries and, in addition to this complex, are dormitories, multiple research institutes, recreation facilities that include an Olympic sized pool, bowling, restaurants, there is even an 18-hole championship golf course, an equestrian facility, beautiful gardens. 

All of these together at about five square miles in size is dubbed Education City, so it makes its own city. 

Drew Appelbaum: Are most of the students and faculty global or are they coming over from the US? What does that mix look like? 

Christine Schiwietz: We have a very diverse faculty, a world-class faculty that come from all over the world. 

The Multiversity: Embarking On New Opportunities

Drew Appelbaum: Christine, can you tell me, what are the benefits of a multiversity? What are the experiences like, and why should people be seeking out this new opportunity? 

Christine Schiwietz: The multiversity initiative is a major part of Education City’s overall plan. What’s exciting about the multiversity concept is that, together with the other US universities in Education City, there are unbelievable opportunities. So what does this mean? Well, in Education City, each of our universities has its own brick-and-mortar building. We have a full-time faculty and administration. 

We have a full-fledge degree-granting undergraduate program. I’d also like to point out that the degree is identical to the degree that the students receive on the main campus. What’s exciting is that students enrolled at one school can cross-register with different universities, and they can earn a certificate or a minor that’s been created in this collaboration with the other universities. 

It creates exciting opportunities for students to engage with world-class faculty across disciplines. Let me give you an example: Imagine a class on climate change and sustainability and multiversity course, for example. You could take one semester and you can interact with experts in the field from Cornell, to look at global health challenges, for example, or engineering innovations from Texas A&M. 

You could, in the same course, look at the international policy or the social and economic impact from Georgetown. It’s these partnerships that really create this very unique educational environment. In terms of programs, for example, at Georgetown, we currently have a flourishing multiversity program that we offer in collaboration with Northwestern University. It is a certificate in media and politics. 

In this disciplinary program, the students can look at the role of mass communication in the political, diplomatic and policy-making process. They do this by taking three courses at Georgetown on politics, and they complete three courses on Northwestern on media, and then it culminates in a research project that the students complete under the mentorship of a faculty member. 

Similarly, Texas A&M and Carnegie Mellon have designed a joint minor in entrepreneurship. So, while this multiversity concept is still at a nascent stage, it’s growing, and it is very unique in that the students can take courses at these premier US universities, with world-class disciplines, as they complete their own degree program in their specific discipline within Education City.

Drew Appelbaum: It sounds like such an incredible opportunity. You could tell that some people coming from the US might say, “Oh that’s really far,” might have some hesitation. What do you tell anybody that has a bit of hesitation going 7,000 miles away from a beautiful campus like Georgetown to go experience the other side of the world and get an education there? 

Christine Schiwietz: I think that students can greatly benefit from studying at an international branch campus. I mean, I actually have six good points. They can gain an international experience, and we know, and studies have shown, that employers value an international experience. 71% of employers value an international experience, according to a global survey of 10,000 employers. My second point would be that it broadens your horizons, and you get exposure to diverse cultures and backgrounds. 

You can improve your cross culture communication skills and learn a new language. You can establish a global network of contacts that you will have for life and, after all, it is an adventure going abroad, and you get a chance to travel and to see the world. 

Drew Appelbaum: Absolutely. While folks are reading the book, whether they get midway through or finish the book, are there any takeaways that you hope a reader will have, or maybe steps that they’ll take after reading the book? 

Christine Schiwietz: What I think is incredible is the opportunities offered, and these fully fledged branch campuses, that are not American sponsored schools, but these amazing campuses across the globe all with curricular and co-curricular experiences. I have a call out section in the middle of the book, which lists all of these programs, and this is just an exciting opportunity for American and international students to go to college in a brand new way. You can get a US degree and an international experience at the same time. 

Drew Appelbaum: That sounds incredible. Christine, we just touched on the surface of the book here. There is so much more inside of it. You dig really deep into what happens there, and the benefits. I just want to say that putting this book out there, educating the world on the program, and letting people know the benefits of an international education is no small feat, so congratulations on having this book published. 

Christine Schiwietz: Thank you very much. 

Drew Appelbaum: This has been a pleasure, I’m excited for people to check out the book. Everyone, the book is called, America’s Higher Education Goes Global, and you could find it on Amazon. Christine, thank you so much for giving us some of your time today and best of luck with your new book. 

Christine Schiwietz: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.