North­eastern Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun on Monday joined fed­eral offi­cials and higher edu­ca­tion leaders to dis­cuss efforts to bol­ster global study pro­grams for U.S. stu­dents and develop strate­gies and inno­va­tions that enable more stu­dents world­wide to pursue inter­na­tional opportunities.

Aoun spoke at the opening ple­nary at the U.S. State Department’s fifth-​​annual Edu­ca­tionUSA Forum in Wash­ington, D.C. He cited Northeastern’s emphasis on global expe­ri­en­tial learning—particularly through its sig­na­ture co-​​op program—as an effec­tive edu­ca­tion model in which stu­dents learn about new cul­tures and gain valu­able real-​​world expe­ri­ence through work, research, and study abroad.

Under Pres­i­dent Aoun’s lead­er­ship, North­eastern has made a strategic deci­sion to expand its sig­na­ture co-​​op pro­gram glob­ally. Since 2006, the uni­ver­sity has increased global co-​​op oppor­tu­ni­ties by 345 per­cent. Stu­dents have par­tic­i­pated in expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­ni­ties, including co-​​op, study abroad and research in 114 coun­tries and on all seven continents.

Any way you can explore the world is a good way,” Aoun said, noting that this phi­los­ophy applies to U.S. stu­dents going abroad as well as inter­na­tional stu­dents coming here. He also advo­cated for recruiting more inter­na­tional stu­dents to America, adding that it’s impor­tant to help them shed the “inter­na­tional” label and sup­port their tran­si­tion into U.S. higher edu­ca­tion institutions.

We don’t want inter­na­tional stu­dents to see them­selves as inter­na­tional stu­dents, but simply as stu­dents,” he said.

Joining Aoun on the ple­nary were Orfe­lina Garza, pres­i­dent of Houston Com­mu­nity Col­lege South­west, and David Wilson, pres­i­dent of Morgan State Uni­ver­sity. Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of State for Edu­ca­tional and Cul­tural Affairs Evan Ryan mod­er­ated the discussion.

Rela­tion­ships between nations are not just rela­tion­ships between gov­ern­ments. They are also rela­tion­ships between people—particularly young people,” Ryan said in her opening remarks.

Edu­ca­tionUSA is a U.S. Depart­ment of State-​​supported world­wide net­work of more than 400 advising cen­ters that pro­vide mil­lions of inter­na­tional stu­dents with infor­ma­tion about U.S. higher edu­ca­tion and applying to col­lege in the U.S. The Bureau of Edu­ca­tional and Cul­tural Affairs orga­nizes the annual Edu­ca­tionUSA Forum, where State Depart­ment offi­cials and more than 550 rep­re­sen­ta­tives of U.S. higher edu­ca­tion insti­tu­tions share strate­gies for increasing recruit­ment and reten­tion of inter­na­tional stu­dents on U.S. campuses.

At this year’s three-​​day forum, fed­eral offi­cials and Edu­ca­tionUSA advisers joined higher edu­ca­tion leaders to dis­cuss strate­gies focused on strength­ening the United States’ posi­tion as an inter­na­tional edu­ca­tion leader.

For his part, Aoun is a national leader on addressing higher education’s most crit­ical issues. He fre­quently writes and speaks about inno­va­tion in higher edu­ca­tion, with par­tic­ular emphasis on Amer­ican higher edu­ca­tion in a global con­text. Ear­lier this year, he par­tic­i­pated in a higher edu­ca­tion summit hosted by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama that focused on max­i­mizing col­lege access, afford­ability, and suc­cess for low-​​income stu­dents. He also offered guid­ance to the U.S. Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion on its new col­lege ranking system.