What is an SIO? 

AIEA utilizes the term Senior International Officer (SIO) to describe individuals within an institution of higher education who are charged with leading and facilitating its comprehensive internationalization efforts. 

Depending on the institution, an SIO might be: 

  • The director or executive director of an office with full-time international responsibilities
  • The vice or assistant vice provost focused on international themes 
  • On smaller campuses, this may be a professor, dean, provost, or even the president

Some institutions may have multiple SIOs, including within schools, and the primary distinction between the SIO and other international education leaders is that SIOs have multiple areas of responsibility at their institutions. Examples of these areas of responsibility may include:

  • Education abroad and faculty/student exchanges
  • International student and/or scholar services
  • International student recruitment and enrollment
  • International contracting and technical assistance
  • Area, international and/or foreign language studies
  • Intensive English study
  • Internationally oriented faculty and curriculum development
  • International institutional linkages
  • Internationally oriented community and outreach activities
  • International education research

SIOs, then, are not the head of a singular functional area, but are those leading comprehensive internationalization at their institution. ACE defines comprehensive internationalization as “a strategic and integrated approach to internationalization in which institutions articulate internationalization as an institutional goal (if not priority), develop an internationalization plan driven by sound analysis, and seek to bring together the usually disparate and often marginalized aspects of internationalization” (Olson, Green, & Hill, 2006). AIEA focuses on the strategic-level issues for those leading comprehensive internationalization, and professional development opportunities are targeted for leaders with these multiple responsibilities.

AIEA recognizes that many other terms may be used to reference these leaders, depending on the context and country. 

In Europe, for example, the International Relations Manager (IRM) is the equivalent to the SIO position. EAIE (the European Association of International Education) defines this role as "leaders involved in strategic planning related to campus internationalization, international development and the management of all international education activities at their institutions." 

In Canada, a title often used "International Liaison Officer" (ILO); in other parts of the world, it may be a "Vice-Rector, International," "Director of Internationalization," "Senior Internationalization Officer," or "Deputy Vice-Chancellor, International."