Vice provost has global vision for campus

Neil McCrillis

Neal McCrillis, vice provost for international affairs. Photo: Jenny Fontaine

In 1984, Neal McCrillis arrived at UIC in a yellow Ford Pinto, ready to begin his master’s studies in history.

He stayed until 1995, after receiving his master’s degree and Ph.D. in history and serving as an assistant professor for two years.

“A lot of things were very different back then,” he said. “I came to UIC with a pretty narrow vision, being trained to become an expert in my particular field. When you start teaching, you learn that you need to teach more broadly. And being an administrator for nearly 20 years, you learn how to work not just in your subject, but within other disciplines, too.”

McCrillis returned to campus March 1 to begin a new role: serving as UIC’s first vice provost for international affairs. He also holds an appointment as an associate professor in the history department.

His vision is to “empower the university, faculty and students to be globally prepared and globally engaged.”

“To me, that starts with what kind of students we want to graduate,” he said. “How do we develop processes to enable those students to become globally prepared students?”

His first two weeks back on campus have been productive, McCrillis said. In the short term, he’s developing an international travel policy for the campus, which would include, for example, information on traveling to high-risk locations.

He’s also exploring UIC’s current international partnerships.

“Whether it’s a research collaboration on the faculty level or students doing exchanges or study abroad, we want to make sure we’re looking at the potential and impact of any partnership,” he said. “Any institution that wants to be a globally engaged campus really needs a strategy.”

The Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs includes the Office of International Services, Office of International Affairs, US/Asia Executive Development Program, Tutorium in Intensive English and the Study Abroad Office. McCrillis will also assist with the Shorelight Education/UIC Global partnership, which supports the recruitment and success of international students.

“UIC is now well positioned to enhance its international programs at home and abroad, further establish its international presence, and grow its research collaborations around the world,” said Susan Poser, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.

McCrillis most recently was the Mildred Miller Fort Foundation Eminent Scholar Chair of International Education, executive director of the Center for International Education, and associate professor of history at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. There, he led internationalization efforts, which received a Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization from the NAFSA Association of International Educators.

McCrillis plans to spend the next year or so focused on working with UIC colleagues to create a globalization strategy before traveling to meet UIC’s international partners.

“It’s absolutely essential that you meet with people,” he said. “It’s important that you see where people work and how they work.”

When McCrillis was a student at UIC, he was a Cubs fan. He’s excited to move back to the city and root for the World Series champions.

He also enjoys playing racquetball, fly fishing and reading in his spare time. His wife, Michele McCrillis, is an associate professor of art history at Columbus State, and his daughter, Margot, studies English literature at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.

McCrillis is a scholar of British and 20th-century European history. His most recent research focused on the British response to the U.S. during World War I.

“History is still a passion of mine,” McCrillis said. “I enjoy reading history or biographies — especially something outside my field.”

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