With increased connections and complexities in today’s globalized world, new understandings and skill sets are needed to understand issues and address problems. The students of today will be the problem solvers of tomorrow, and they will need to rely on broad views of the world and abilities to collaborate with diverse teams and specialties. Our changing global world requires parallel changes in our educational institutions, especially tertiary ones. In the two previous articles in this series, we discussed changes needed in today’s universities and outlined two experiential approaches for educating students to become global citizens. In this concluding article of the series, we examine best practices and associated recommendations for developing similar programs. Through internationalizing the curriculum, developing and enhancing cross-unit collaborations, and implementing meaningful global programs, students will advance their classroom knowledge and widen the lens with which they see the world.
In our previous two articles in this series, we explained the need for changes in higher education. In particular, in the first article of the series, we called for expanding educational opportunities that enhance students’ global understandings and build associated skills. Toward this goal, in the second article, we described two experiential education examples, international service learning and study abroad, and how such experiences provide ‘real world,’ tangible outcomes for students. In this final article of the series, we discuss best practices for creating and improving such programming for university students.
Many colleges and universities seek to be more supportive of international education, study abroad, and international service learning with the intention of improving students’ global perspectives (Musil, 2006). A number of higher education institutions have been underprepared to effectively implement international initiatives, in part because of cost and institutional mission. Campuses typically rely upon past history and institutional knowledge when forging new initiatives, such as international programming. Because service learning has a positive effect on student learning and development (Chesbrough, 2011) and international programs appear to be increasing, the desire to address international education has become an attractive consideration for some student services administrators and departmental faculty. In the remainder of this article, we discuss several best practice recommendations when developing and implementing international programming. These recommendations are divided into the following areas: examining the campus mission, fiscal considerations, securing resources and staffing, using the strengths of the campus, collaboration, developing trust as a team, being true to the academy, respecting different cultures, and respecting faculty contributions.
Examining the Campus Mission
Institutional leaders and senior administrators often make decisions about international programs. In general, these groups may be ambivalent toward the establishment of and support for international programs because of mission and costs. We argue that international programs support educational ideals and allow students to be more prepared to engage a global community. Certainly, institutional leaders and administrators have an obligation to adhere to the campus mission and serve the greater community (Lyons, 1993). Further, these leaders also have an obligation to advance the college and to educate students. Thus, the decision to develop international programs on a college or university campus seems a relatively easy one as well as one the institutional leadership must approach deliberately, ensuring a mesh with the overall mission. Next, we examine fiscal considerations in moving toward or enhancing such programming.
Often the question of international programs is seen through the lens of whether campuses can afford to support the programs financially and whether faculty are available to develop the international initiatives. The more strategic lens to approach these questions is not whether the campuses could support the programs, but whether they want to have a stronger international culture to inspire students toward an international agenda. If students are given more opportunities to interact with people from different countries and cultures then they will have a better chance of having a global perspective once they graduate. In this section, we examine both single- and multi-university endeavors as well as partnerships between academic units and student services.
Many campuses have some international focus, but not all are suited for in-depth programs and financial support. It simply may not be cost effective within current budgets. One solution is to take a more collaborative approach among geographically close institutions. One domestic example of a successful partnership is the Regional Academic Collaborative in California (RAC). The
RAC initiatives promote a college-going culture and increase eligibility and enrollment at post-secondary institutions for students. RAC’s two comprehensive efforts–the College Going Initiative (CGI) and the Summer Algebra Academies (SAA)–focus on high schools within rural and remote regions of California (UC Regents, 2008).
Institutions in Texas are entering partnerships and collaborative relationships as well. Their programs allow “institutions to leverage existing resources to achieve greater efficiencies. Programmatic partnerships are especially important, as they increase student access to degree programs” (Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, 2008, p. 1).
Taking these examples and looking creatively at ways to enhance international programs across more campuses, one idea would be to have one institution in the partnership provide programs in a specific location, perhaps with students and faculty from across several institutions participating, whereas another institution might offer support or courses in another location. This approach would satisfy the needs of the students and maintain the integrity of each institution while eliminating or greatly reducing the overhead for each school to cover these services on each campus. This type of collaborative effort is already in place in the Claremont Colleges Consortium (Pomona College, 2011).
If the decision is to develop in-depth international programs solely on one’s own campus, institutional leaders should approach the policy decision strategically and with an eye toward the mission of the college and best practices (Lyons, 1993). Commonly, institutional leaders and administrators may look toward academic departments to first address these programs because such work often involves faculty. Although this approach may be successful, an alternative one is having student services address international program initiatives. Student services professionals can work collaboratively with academic leaders and faculty to help with details beyond the curriculum. This approach allows faculty to concentrate on the academic rigor of the international programs as well as creates a fruitful inter-unit collaboration.
Securing Resources and Staffing
Developing international programs does not necessarily require additional resources and staff. In this section, we examine ways of realigning monetary resources and staff, faculty, and administrator time. When such initiatives become an institutional priority, campus leaders can shift resources to strategically align with priorities. For example, an initial instinct of institutions may be to create a separate department to promote international programs or support international students and study. If the need is to create a department to primarily develop international programs, then institutions may find resources throughout several areas, including: redirecting resources, a student fee, legislative funding, course fees, department reallocation, campus/metropolitan government partnerships, business partnerships, campus giving, or international partnerships.
Redirecting resources is simply shifting resources and personnel from one department or unit to another or evolving/shifting the emphasis of the personnel or department to provide this type of service for international programs. Many campuses are familiar with the attributes of raising tuition when state or other funding is reduced. If such programming is a priority, implementing a small fee charged to all students is one additional method for obtaining additional resources for a new department or program. Certainly this option could draw criticism. However, with the current wave of support for international education, primarily by students, these concerns may be few. But institutional leaders should at least be cognizant of this potential problem. Legislative funding and student tuition are commonly used to finance public colleges and universities in the United States. Of course, obtaining additional funding from one’s state would require this programming become a significant institutional priority. Many legislators may view support for international education less favorably because the primary purpose of local or area colleges or universities is to support the educational needs of the citizens of that community or state.
Course fees are simply a student fee applied to specific courses in a particular unit or department. This approach could be implemented by charging a small fee for each course in all departments to help fund programs. Department reallocation is similar to redirecting resources. Colleges or universities could encourage a specific department(s) to provide programs or phase out segments of unit offerings to create funding to establish international education. Lastly, creating partnerships with international governments and businesses may be options that enable campuses to obtain grants, gifts, or other funding-in-kind to support these new initiatives.
A pitfall to avoid is the belief that whomever advances the institution’s international agenda must be a foreign national. Although many foreign nationals may be skilled at advancing such programs, it is important not to overlook other campus resources. For example, student affairs personnel as well as many academics are often trained to work with a wide array of students and understand the processes throughout a campus. It is inefficient to believe that only someone from another country will most effectively advance international programs. What is most important is that the work can be performed and the professional have expertise in maneuvering through campus systems.
Using the Strengths of the Campus
International programs should utilize the strengths of the entire campus, including faculty and academic departments as well as student services and other support areas. This approach ensures all aspects of the program are addressed beyond the curriculum. Transportation, out-of-classroom opportunities, cultural activities, governmental relations, and intergroup dynamics are often elements addressed after some of the academic components are in place. However, these areas are ones often first discussed, as well as logistics and program planning, by units such as student services. Utilizing these common strengths within a campus enables international programs to potentially develop with a stronger foundation and broader institutional support. This support may also influence available resources and access to a wider range of faculty and students for international initiatives.
There are also strengths found beyond campus departments. Each individual member of a campus department (academic and nonacademic) brings skill sets that should be considered. Naturally, some individuals are stronger writers, some are better orators, and some are better planners. Some individuals are outstanding at relating to multiple individuals. These individuals may be the ones best capable of engaging governments in a more deliberate and intentional manner. Some individuals are outstanding at anticipating logistical challenges, developing cultural or student engagement activities that complement a curriculum, and forming professional relationships. Finding individuals with strengths that complement an academically rigorous program enriches the international program emphasis and adds greater value to the learning outcomes and experiences of the student participants.
Like shared governance, collaboration does indeed work. Faculty are often collaborators, as are student services practitioners. When designing and developing international programs each group can and should be utilized in a collaborative fashion to shape the total student experience. Each entity approaches program development differently, but both have the students’ learning outcomes as an end objective. Both want students to have a quality learning experience, and this common goal positively shapes a student’s perspectives of culture, countries, and people. Students are great storytellers, and, when listened to, provide insights into what they are learning or want to learn from specific opportunities throughout a campus and in international sites. Utilizing students, faculty, and student services practitioners to provide a well-rounded international program draws on the skill sets and knowledge of all those vested in the success of such programming.
Developing Trust as a Team
Research about group dynamics clearly emphasizes the importance of teamwork. More practically, the intimacy and time intensity of international travel and remote learning likely require greater team development than some other projects. As institutions develop intentional programs that involve international travel, faculty, staff, and students will be exposed to elements not experienced on campus including different cultural expectations, differing foods, and shared space. Also, international travel may bring an awareness of extreme poverty and balancing perspectives on one’s relative level of privilege. The role of the team and the trust developed within that team are very important in helping individuals add meaning to what they experience.
Being True to the Academy
As institutions develop international programs, there must remain a strong commitment to academic excellence through incredible teaching, student learning, scholarship, service, and research. Certainly each campus may view this tenet differently, however, with each program effort, curriculum content depth must remain and be balanced by service and research. To simply teach the course without the out-of-classroom experience or clear objectives to the service requirements undermines the academic integrity of the program. International programs do not have to be built around the research agendas of specific faculty. Certainly research agendas may be complementary to program objectives, but emphasis should be on the desired learning outcomes that are identified through collaborative efforts with other faculty and community members in the participating locations.
Respecting Different Cultures
USA-based programs where students, faculty, and staff travel to another country should be cognizant of the environment the group may visit. As international programs are developed, effort should be devoted to being culturally sensitive in the country visited and with the people with whom students and faculty will be interacting. International programs are a conduit for faculty, staff, and students to serve as ambassadors of their college or university to a different region or country. The opportunity for students to learn from the community they are visiting is most critical in the development of the experience. Care should be taken not to impose USA-based symbols and cultures upon another community, but rather to embrace the community visited and learn from how it is enhancing the student experience.
Respecting Faculty Contributions
Campuses are rich in tradition and often state the value of faculty. However, not all campuses are outstanding at recognizing faculty. International programs are relatively new to many campuses in the United States, and faculty who have devoted efforts to develop and design international opportunities for students may not have been recognized for these efforts. Establishing an acknowledgment process or reward system for faculty contributions to an international agenda is a worthy cause.
In summary, we believe specific strategies enacted by colleges and universities ensure desired learning outcomes for students in international settings. Across this series of articles, we have asserted our belief that integrating and internationalizing the curriculum, creating new and enhancing cross-unit partnerships, and designing and implementing meaningful global experiences for students are necessary for a quality education. These experiences provide students opportunities to better understand and operationalize concepts about the world around them. We posit that experiential education, specifically international service learning and study abroad, offer students a more thorough education and help prepare them for life in a global community. We conclude that college and university campuses must begin conversations about how they can best incorporate international programs and that best practices for increasing and implementing international programs should be taken into consideration.
1. What opportunities exist on your campus for cross-unit collaboration on international programming? What obstacles might inhibit such partnerships?
2. Which of the best practices above seem especially important to consider at your institution?
3. Imagine that you enter the elevator with someone in upper administration who you have been hoping to talk with about creating international opportunities for students. What is your 30-60 second “elevator speech” to get this issue on the person’s agenda?
Chesbrough, R. D. (2011). College students and service: A mixed methods exploration of motivations, choices, and learning outcomes. Journal of College Student Development, 52, 687-705.
Lyons, J. W. (1993). The importance of institutional mission. In M. Barr, M. Desler, & Associates (Eds.), The handbook of student affairs administration (2nd ed., pp. 3-15). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Musil, C. M. (2006). Assessing global learning: Matching good intentions with good practice. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Pomona College. (2011). The benefits of the Claremont College Consortium. Retrieved from http://www.pomona.edu/academics/curriculum/consortium.aspx
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. (2008). Joint partnerships among Texas institutions of higher education. Retrieved from http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/reports/PDF/1644.PDF?CFID=12204509&CFTOKEN=5659525
UC Regents. (2008). Regional academic collaboratives. Retrieved from http://www.ucop.edu/rac/
About the Authors
Kandi L. Walker is Professor of Communication at the University of Louisville. Tom Jackson, Jr., is President of Black Hills State University. Gregory Roberts is former Executive Director of ACPA – College Student Educators International. Joy L. Hart is Professor of Communication at the University of Louisville. Roger B. Ludeman is Executive Director of the International Association of Student Affairs and Services (IASAS). A previous version of this work was presented at the 14th General Conference of the International Association of Universities in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Please email inquiries to Kandi L. Walker.
The ideas expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members or the ACPA Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.