As the oldest Catholic and Jesuit University in the United States, global engagement is fundamental to the mission and development of Georgetown University. An animating principle of the Jesuit order—as our Jesuit community likes to remind us—is going to and serving where there is the greatest need. The storied tradition of engagement that brought Matteo Ricci, SJ, to China in the 16th century to both learn and teach lives on at Georgetown in unique ways that capitalize on the strengths developed through more than 225 years as one of our nation’s preeminent universities. The age of globalization and interconnectedness has enabled an unprecedented opportunity for the University to carry forward its ethos of engagement through the specific competencies of its individual schools. At the School of Continuing Studies (SCS), we are activating our competencies, including program design expertise, technology-mediated learning, and the expertise of more than 400 faculty members to serve evolving and emerging needs all over the globe.


The Institutional and School-level Strategy

Like many universities in the United States, Georgetown’s global programs and sites were created according to the interests of particular departments and donors, benefitting from gifts directed to specific study and research locations all over the world. At the same time, the University’s location in Washington, D.C., increasingly drew international students, and the evolving portfolio of professionally-oriented programs in units such as the School of Continuing Studies gave rise to case studies and study abroad projects focused on global regions. The opportunities were complementary to a mission-oriented impetus to address the prospects and challenges presented by globalization, including questions of moral responsibility that accompany our opportunities to be engaged, connected, and present in all parts of the globe.

These various factors impacted SCS differently from the other schools at the University due to its focus on program development and its mission to serve the adult professional student. The School’s global strategy evolved from the synergy of historical institutional opportunities and relationships, and SCS’s entrepreneurial, market-driven, and research-based approach to program and business development. Our strategy is to assess and understand the relationship between education and evolving and emerging trends in regional economies. Through environmental scans and various forms of research, SCS applies its model of aligning educational expertise to local needs to build workforces and increase knowledge and skills across disciplines and fields. The School then assesses whether these needs are best met by adapting current programs within its portfolio or creating custom training opportunities.  SCS’s global strategy has built upon existing resources and networks to develop a framework to assess needs in a region or economy and to design educational programs that serve adults. The SCS entry into the global arena was a natural extension of our mission and mandate to reach across boundaries—in this case actual borders— to serve new populations.


Coordinating Global Engagement

The global strategies of each school at Georgetown are as unique as their individual missions but align in their support of the global priorities of the institution. The University’s Office of the Vice President for Global Engagement communicates and coordinates across the institution, connecting relationships and networks from the President’s Office to those of the various schools, the three campuses (Main Campus, the Medical Center and the Law Center), and Georgetown’s institutes and centers. Coordination is critical to achieving global presence and to effectively capitalize on and leverage relationships of partners and alumni abroad. Without it, the University would risk overtaxing specific contacts and relations, needless duplication, conflicting messages, and miscommunication of the University’s ethos and mission. Perhaps most importantly, the University might miss opportunities to discover cross-disciplinary projects and to wield the breadth of the institution’s teaching and research resources in service of workforce development objectives.


SCS’s Global Activities

The School’s global program offerings proceeded from our successes in professional education. In 2007, the first Master of Professional Studies (MPS) degrees were launched in Journalism and in Public Relations & Corporate Communications. At that time, classes were available only to be taken in person at SCS’s downtown location. Previously, SCS had only offered only degrees in Liberal Studies at the baccalaureate, master’s, and doctorate levels, continuing education enrichment courses, and summer and high school programming. There was no authorization to admit international students, no study abroad experiences, and none of our courses or programs had an online or global options. Additionally, our marketing was focused exclusively on the Washington, D.C., area and distributed through print advertising in local newspapers. SCS faculty were exclusively part-time and from the area.

As enrollments in the new MPS programs reached a steady state, and as market research revealed demand in other global regions, our outreach strategies became focused on the recruitment of international students. At the same time, students began requesting short–term study abroad opportunities that allowed them to gain global experiences and perspectives to grow both personally and professionally. New master’s programs in fields such Emergency & Disaster Management, Project Management, and Urban & Regional Planning were designed with principles and strategies that could be applied in both domestic and global spheres.

All professional master’s degree programs were encouraged to create short–term, credit–bearing study abroad experiences that working professionals could participate in during their studies. Programs have incorporated travel and case studies in Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Great Britain, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Qatar, Singapore, and South Africa.

SCS began to develop an infrastructure to support international students and study abroad designed for the working professional, creating a model of education program delivery that takes advantage of University resources. The School petitioned and received approval to admit international students on University-sponsored visas to our programs and hired an assistant dean to focus solely on international students. Further, it developed capacity to manage the state and international authorization processes, collaborating closely with University Counsel and the Office of the University Registrar.

The Georgetown Global Education Institute (GGEI) was established at SCS in 2009, providing non–credit custom education programs first to industry and government leaders from China and Japan, then expanding to other regions. Colleagues from within the University connected SCS with alumni and clients interested in a custom education program drawn from the entire institution and Washington, D.C.’s diplomatic and business communities. To date, 51 executive programs have been delivered in Washington for leaders from China, Japan, and Qatar; nine global custom programs for executives from Brazil, China, Qatar, Indonesia and South Korea, as well as other projects for executive international students from Bangladesh, Canada, Columbia, Honduras, Netherlands, Nigeria, Somalia, Thailand. GGEI currently has numerous projects in development.

In the 2017–18 academic year, SCS has enrolled 370 international students from 85 different countries, representing 13 percent of our total degree-seeking student body. Additionally, 490 students have studied abroad and 43 classes have featured international study opportunities. These numbers represent tremendous growth over the last decade. In 2007, there were 32 international students and no study abroad experiences offered. SCS is also approaching global engagement in a more strategic manner by integrating knowledge of global issues across the organization. Instead of creating a single position and a separate infrastructure to oversee global outreach, a cross-functional Global Task Force was established in SCS to manage current global activities and to research and plan for future engagements.


Global Engagement through the University’s Qatar Campus

The Georgetown-Qatar (GU-Q) campus was founded in 2005 as an additional location of the University’s School of Foreign Service (SFS). The campus was established in Education City, which features six campuses of primarily American institutions dedicated to helping Qatar achieve their 2030 Vision as educational partners. The campus provides rich learning about the region through intercultural and interreligious dialogue in the classroom. It also provides forums and networks that increases the University’s knowledge and appreciation of the history, culture, and challenges in the government and business communities in Qatar and throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

In the ensuing years, the campus evolved into GU-Q, which expanded educational offerings to a broader array of learning populations, including professionals and executives. The campus also built an infrastructure to address workforce and economic development needs through the Office of Professional and Executive Education. By looking through the lens of external engagement, economic and workforce development, the University expanded its mission in the region to incorporate graduate professional and workforce education programs, as illustrated by the following examples:

  • Qatar won the contract to host the 2022 World Cup, and SCS collaborated with the Josoor Institute in Doha to deliver sports–related professional education.
  • The SCS Emergency & Disaster Management program brought students to Qatar to study the gas facilities and water desalination plant as part of a case study.
  • SCS conducted a needs-assessment and finalized an MOU with the Supreme Committee for Qatar 2022 to provide academic services through the Centre for Excellence.
  • SCS designed and delivered a non-credit program in Higher Education Administration to staff and faculty at GU-Q.
  • SCS delivered executive education workshops from its Hospitality Management program for the Qatar Tourism Authority.
  • In fall 2017 SCS launched a Middle East-focused EMPS in Emergency & Disaster Management in a hybrid format (online and required residencies). This program was made possible through the collaboration of the Qatar Ministry of the Interior, the Gulf Cooperation Council Emergency Management Center in Kuwait, and the International College of Engineering and Management in Muscat, Oman. This program offers three different credentials, each available to domestic and international students.


The SCS Global Engagement Strategy

The SCS Global Engagement strategy seeks to achieve four main objectives:

  1. Develop global workforces through academic program collaboration.
  2. Support and increase participation of international students in programs at the SCS campus.
  3. Expand global access through online courses and programs.
  4. Provide study abroad opportunities for U.S. students and faculty.

As SCS built upon existing University resources abroad, it incorporated the knowledge and experience gained from these initiatives with its standard approach to strategic program development, which is guided by a set of principles that SCS has embraced over the past few years:

  • Focus on what matters. In the words of Michael Porter (1996), “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” We started by developing a focused and written set of goals and objectives, and we use those continuously to maintain a clear vision of what we want to achieve.
  • Accept that there will be trade-offs. Resources are always limited, and committing to a course of action in one direction means we need to forego action in another direction. This is not always as easy as it sounds. Returning to the clear vision and focus identified above can help with choosing between trade-offs. For example, in assessing the potential impact of various projects, we have found that certain markets possess a mix of local resources, demand, delivery infrastructure, and economic conditions that increase our likelihood of success in achieving our desired impact and financial sustainability.
  • Think long term. Initiatives charged with financial viability must create competitive advantage in the long term, as well as the short term. Purely short-term projects may be tactically effective, but high impact initiatives will come from advantages that can be sustained over longer periods of time and align with the mission of the School.
  • Look at the data. Quantitative data on internal and external factors—revenues, expenses, margins, competitors, pricing, industry dynamics—put through a variety of objective analyses are fundamental to making good strategic decisions and are the antidote to hearsay, instinct, and other subjective decision-making techniques prone to failure. We use a variety of external and internal resources to acquire and analyze data. Internally, our Data Intelligence Group—housed within our Digital Strategy team—provides new product and market research, country risk assessment, and a variety of strategic quantitative and qualitative analyses (competitor reviews, pricing studies, growth/share studies, etc.). This group has expanded its purview to support our global activities. Externally, we use industry research resources such as Education Advisory Board and the UPCEA Center for Research and Strategy, as well as global market sources such as The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the CIA World Factbook, the World Bank, the OECD, and the IMF.
  • Keep it doable. A given strategy should not be deemed acceptable if it requires an extraordinary level of competence and capabilities for its implementation. Risk can be mitigated if the strategy is designed to be implementable for the reality of the institution and the situation. For example, while good opportunities exist in India, we have had to defer our involvement there due to other University initiatives already in place, which, together with our own would have increased our presence in the region to a point that would have triggered significant tax implications.
  • Let the strategy drive the structure. Different strategies, if they are truly strategic, will be structurally different. Structural choices (such as organizational hierarchy, technology investments, position descriptions, etc.) should be designed to support the strategy, and existing structures that don’t support the strategy should be changed.
  • Leverage unique strengths. What resources and capabilities do we have, or can we develop, that our competitors do not have or cannot acquire? How can our strengths reinforce each other, and make our weaknesses irrelevant? How can we leverage those for success in new markets and regions, and serve new populations? For example, we’ve built upon existing resources and capacity in Doha, and we have also taken our existing capabilities in market research and program planning and applied them to assessing global opportunities. As we describe in the Panama Case Study below, we used our local resources and capabilities—well-honed in the U.S. market—to conduct a quantitative and qualitative needs assessment for Panama.

The idea of “mutually-reinforcing capabilities” (expressed in Principle 7 above) holds particular importance for us: we believe that everything we do should somehow support everything else we do. For example, in our Digital Strategy team—which encompasses online education, business intelligence, and strategic technology systems—we have organized our resources and capabilities to be mutually-reinforcing in the following ways:

  • The Online Education team not only supports online education efforts, but also helps drive academic quality (via instructional design) and global engagement (via online delivery strategies).
  • The Business Intelligence team supports instructional design quality with learning analytics projects and supports global engagement with international market analysis.
  • The Strategic Technology team supports the Business Intelligence team by developing dashboards, data integrations, and reporting tools; the Online Team through learning technology innovation projects; and our global engagement efforts by leveraging our recruitment technology platform into global markets.

From a strategic perspective, global engagement brings a unique set of risks. When assessing our strategic options, we consider six categories of risk, many of which align with issues noted in the UPCEA Hallmarks of Excellence for International Education. These include: business risk (e.g., risks from foreign partnerships or supply chains); compliance risk (regulations and accrediting matters often require institution-level engagement with ministries and international schools); economic risk (such as financial stability of foreign market, foreign exchange issues, and ability to transfer capital and labor); logistical risk (local delivery infrastructure, time zones, calendar differences, online and face-to-face delivery challenges, and technology differences); cultural risk (e.g., cultural norms, expectations, and learning styles of the target market compared to those built into our programs, promotional activities, and delivery approach); and political risk (political climate and stability, openness to educational “trade” and investment, and corruption).

Once a strategy has been developed, we begin to develop the tactics. These include academic, financial, and operational considerations. Academic issues to consider might include what credentials are relevant to a region or country, how credit transfer policies might play a role, and how we might tailor existing curricula and programming to the target market. For example, SCS scaled its existing Executive Master’s in Emergency & Disaster Management into the MENA region by tailoring portions of the program to issues relevant to the region. Financial considerations must determine the financial model of the program. Will students self-pay, or will the program be funded through corporate donations, private funders, in-country alumni, or through a corporate engagement wherein the client pays for employee? Because launching a new degree program at an institution can be time-consuming and expensive, we need to determine whether our operational infrastructure and expertise to launch a program abroad is enough to ensure success on our own, or whether partnering with local institutions to share curricula, faculty, infrastructure, and research can benefit all involved.


Strategic Case Study: Panama

Early and numerous conversations with other schools at Georgetown had foundered on the “traditional” approach of repackaging existing degrees. In contrast, SCS took a broad approach to research and assessment and let the needs of the region dictate the format and modality of the engagement. We assessed that the region is resource-constrained, with high educational and workforce development needs.

We began with data from various external sources (e.g., Economist Intelligence Unit, CIA World Factbook, OECD, WorldBank, ICEF Monitor), conducted our own review of existing educational institutions in the region, and summarized the current state of Panama as follows.

  • The Panamanian Government is highly motivated to improve educational outcomes and bilingualism rates.
  • There is a need for high quality job skills and technical training that is affordably priced, but the market size (approximately 40,000) is relatively low.
  • There is a need for low–priced English language instruction.
  • There is potential for partnerships with existing institutions and collaboration with government (subsidies, favorable terms, etc.).

In this context, we developed a set of questions to help guide our qualitative assessment of the region. For example, we studied the educational and workforce needs in Panama, as well as the educational system and pipeline, to discover what strengths exist and how they can be leveraged. We asked, what are the gaps to be filled? What is the English language proficiency? What is the employment pipeline for those who achieve more education? What is the cost of education and the price point can students afford? Should we consider a globally differentiated pricing structure? What logistics are needed? Finally, we compared feasible models of delivery: space rental, or online, Georgetown faculty or local faculty.

SCS began its qualitative needs assessment in the region with an introduction to and study of the work at Ciudad del Saber (City of Knowledge), a government-sponsored cluster of academic institutions, technology companies, and non-governmental organizations where several American and Latin American academic institutions have established outposts. At time of this writing, the SCS exploration in Panama and Latin America is under development. Our approach is to establish relations with key partners by delivering several programs, building relationships and our reputation as an education provider. If we achieve sustained partnerships or long-term projects within the government and business communities, and produce a steady flow of new sources of revenue, we can then evaluate the cost effectiveness of establishing a local physical presence. If we choose to implement direct to consumer educational programs, the issue of differential pricing in various global regions will be increasingly salient.

Also, we have met with academic leaders at the two largest and most prestigious public universities and one private Catholic university in Panama. While there may be some partnership opportunities with these schools, the primary reason to establish relationships with them is to invite collaboration and to avert any sense of competition. We have introduced ourselves and how we evaluate the ways Georgetown can serve Panama in all sectors of the economy as an educational partner, demonstrating that we understand their mission and challenges. The goal is to communicate that we are not entering their territories to compete, but rather to introduce complementary educational opportunities that will leverage our respective strengths.

Working from our strategic principles, we evaluated a number of different generic approaches (low-cost, differentiation, etc.) to entering the Panamanian market. We considered how we might use digital technology to deliver high quality education at a reasonable price relative to Panamanian incomes and at scale and possible models that would enhance local educational infrastructure and quality. We recognized that entry into Panama may require an “unrelated diversification” strategy, which has the highest risk (to use the language of the Ansoff Matrix, a trusted tool for assessing marketing risks), finding that the Panamanian educational market is different than our existing markets and may require new business and programming models.

Through two in-person visits and 43 different meetings with alumni, industry, academic, and government leaders, we systematically organized the opportunities presented and evaluated them based on our institutional strengths. We looked for opportunities that would provide maximum value to our Panamanian partners while simultaneously requiring the smallest fixed cost investment. Ultimately, we identified an opportunity to work with a ministry of the government and will be piloting a program in the spring of 2018.


Lessons Learned Through Global Engagement

The perspectives we have gained from these experiences allow us to conclude that global activities require a commitment to adapting organizational culture, practices, and infrastructure to support students and partners at the home campus and across the globe. Research, market, workforce and economic development data that we use routinely in the United States are not necessarily available for other regions, and networks and relationships abroad that serve as catalysts for new opportunities are often idiosyncratic. A sound strategy requires the thoughtful interplay between quantitative and empirical research.

There are many benefits for faculty to participate in global programming. In the process of adapting programs for different regions, they can also modify domestic-focused programs, providing students at the home campus with global perspectives. For example, our Emergency & Disaster Management program curriculum, primarily built on Western/American research and practices, evolved into an integrative curriculum with global and cultural perspectives.

At SCS, we embrace the Jesuit values of meeting people where they are and promoting education at the margins regardless of students’ circumstances or location. Embedded in the responsibility of being a global institution in the 21st century is the commitment to identify and meet the needs of people and regions on a global scale. By developing programs in Panama, and in the Middle East or Asia, we align our core values and mission with our global strategy. Our guiding principles lead us to identify how to work toward social justice and the common good, to seek unity through diversity and difference, and to provide access and opportunity to people for whom it would otherwise be out of reach.



Porter, Michael E. “What is Strategy?” Harvard Business Review, November-December 1996: 70.


Kelly J. Otter, PhD, is dean of Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies and oversees the School’s broad portfolio of degree, certificate, and summer programs, English language education, and custom and corporate education. A leader in higher education for almost two decades, Dr. Otter’s expertise includes academic program and curriculum development, technology-mediated education, organizational development, and strategic enrollment management. She currently serves on the UPCEA Board of Directors, and also serves on the New York University Alumni Association Board.  


Jeremy Stanton has led the digital and technology strategy at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies since 2011, most recently as the School’s Chief Digital Officer. In this role, Stanton is responsible for leveraging digital technology across each of the School’s functional units to create value and enhance the ability of the School to deliver on its mission. Prior to joining Georgetown, Stanton worked as a technology consultant to leading Higher Education institutions, Fortune 500 companies, and other non-profit organizations.