July 24, 2023

Longtime leader of Purdue’s international programs announces retirement, search launched for successor

Brzezinski led enrollment surge in number of international students, innovations 

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – In leading Purdue’s international programs for 14 years, Mike Brzezinski helped expand the university’s leadership role as a global institution in spearheading a major enrollment surge of international students.

Today, Purdue ranks among the nation’s largest public universities in international student enrollment and has become a leading innovator in higher education for its recruitment strategies, notably for undergraduate students and study abroad programs.

After three decades holding several key leadership roles in international programs, partnerships and student recruitment, Brzezinski announced today (July 24) that he will retire from Purdue, effective Aug. 31. He first came to Purdue in 1993.

Since January, Brzezinski has served as vice president of global partnerships and programs in the Office of the President.

Brzezinski, who was appointed Purdue dean of international programs in 2011 after serving two years in an interim capacity, deployed the university’s first formal international student recruitment strategy in 1995, which sparked a major enrollment surge in students from abroad, particularly among undergraduates.

In response, international enrollment of undergraduate and graduates reached record levels, including nearly 9,400 students representing 135 countries for Fall 2022 — the most ever. And while it plateaued during the global COVID-19 pandemic, Purdue’s overseas student enrollment  remains strong — it’s up from 8,651 international students a decade ago and places the Big Ten institution near the top among the nation’s largest public universities.

As dean of international programs, Brzezinski also expanded the Study Abroad Intercultural Learning grant program and spearheaded a multiyear, multimillion-dollar study abroad scholarship program that led to a near doubling of undergraduate student participation in Purdue’s study abroad efforts.

Study abroad participation at Purdue jumped to nearly 2,500 students in 2018 , before the COVID-19 pandemic, from fewer than 1,300 undergraduate students in 2012.  Student participation rates are rebounding nicely, Brzezinski said.

“I will always cherish my many years here,” a grateful Brzezinski said. “I had many opportunities to not only recommend but to implement new ideas and initiatives that I like to think benefited students, faculty and staff alike. I’ve always had great staff working for and with me, staff who were willing and able to meet every challenge. The successes that we have experienced over the years would not have been possible without their dedication and hard work.”

Purdue administrators say Brzezinski’s ability to work well with alumni and friends overseas, especially in Asian countries and throughout the Middle East, proved beneficial not only for Purdue students but Indiana businesses as well. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Brzezinski was one of the first American citizens to be a foreign exchange student in Beijing from 1981-83.

During his time at Purdue, Brzezinski also led the launch of the Center for Intercultural Learning, Mentorship, Assessment and Research In 2016. Known as CILMAR, the center has grown to become the premier intercultural learning office among R1 research universities as measured by assessment of intercultural growth of students participating in study abroad programs, research productivity and conference presentations. Through CILMAR, intercultural learning outcomes and assessment have been infused into all aspects of study abroad, and these are starting to be integrated into on-campus curricula, too.

Related to CILMAR, Brzezinski was instrumental in establishing the Intercultural Learning Hub, an online hub known as HubICL that hosts one of the world’s largest repository of intercultural learning activities and research findings. 

More recently, Brzezinski led Purdue’s Ukrainian Scholars Initiative, which was launched in response to Russia’s February 2022 invasion of the Eastern European country. The Purdue program, regarded as one of the first and now the largest and most ambitious university-led program in the United States, offers the opportunity for Ukrainian scholars whose lives have been displaced by the war to continue their academic pursuits. It was expanded this spring to build on the current class of nine Ukrainian scholars who have been at Purdue since May 2022.

Brzezinski joined Purdue in 1993 as director of International Students and Scholars and became co-leader of the international student recruitment strategy in 1995. He served in this role until 2005 when he was named associate dean with additional duties focused on expanding educational collaborations in China.

Brzezinski worked at the University of Houston for five years as an international student counselor while he simultaneously earned his doctorate in educational leadership and cultural studies there in 1993. He earned master’s and bachelor’s degrees from State University of New York College at Cortland in 1983 and 1979, respectively.

From 1983-88, Brzezinski was central administrator and English language instructor in Beijing for an American educational company, Educational Services Exchange with China Inc., and then international student counselor at the University of Houston from 1988-93. He also studied in China, for two years as an exchange student.

Additionally, he has served as a consultant for Florida International University, St. Peter’s College, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, University of Las Vegas-Reno, Temple University, and University of Iowa.

A reception in Brzezinski’s honor is scheduled from 3-5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 28, at the bridgeway between Hovde Hall’s first floor and Elliott Hall of Music. A short program will begin at 4 pm. To RSVP, contact Lacretia Rothenberger at larothenberger@purdue.edu.

An internal search for the next Vice President for Global Partnerships and Programs is underway. Tenured and globally experienced Purdue West Lafayette faculty interested in shaping the mission, vision and strategy of Purdue’s future global agenda are encouraged to apply here. The application deadline is Aug. 15.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked in each of the last five years as one of the 10 Most Innovative universities in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at https://stories.purdue.edu.

Writer/Media contact: Phillip Fiorini, pfiorini@purdue.edu, 765-430-6189

Source: Michael Brzezinski, mbrzezinski@purdue.edu, 765-494-9399

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