Moving Towards a Globalized Educational Paradigm in Higher Education and Student Affairs Programs | Dadzie, Kharitonova

written by: Benjamin Michael Dadzie, Irina Kharitonova

Introduction: The Imperative of Globalization in Higher Education Programs

In an era characterized by unprecedented connectivity and globalization, higher education stands at the forefront of fostering a diverse and inclusive learning environment. The imperative of globalization in higher education programs has become increasingly apparent, driven by a surge in international student enrollments. Globalization is reshaping the landscape of higher education, with profound effects on its systems, policies, and institutions. Described as the broadening, deepening, and hastening of global interconnectedness (Held et al., 1999, p. 2), this phenomenon has long been intertwined with higher education due to its inherent openness to international exchange and knowledge dissemination, which transcends geographical boundaries. In today’s global knowledge economies, higher education institutions serve as crucial hubs facilitating a wide array of cross-border interactions and the constant flow of people, information, knowledge, technologies, products, and financial resources. While not all universities may prioritize internationalization, they are all impacted by globalization—both as subjects, driving global integration, and as objects, sometimes vulnerable to its effects (Scott, 1998, p. x). Consequently, higher education institutions and the policies guiding them are undergoing a process of reinvention to adapt to the evolving global context.

As revealed in the Open Doors Report (2023), international student enrollment in the U.S. has witnessed an upswing across all majors. Notably, graduate programs have experienced a remarkable 21% increase in international student enrollment, underscoring the growing global interest in advanced education. Education programs, including K-12 Leadership, Higher Education Administration, and Student Affairs, have also seen a 4% increase in international student population (Open Doors, 2023). This shift brings the increasing relevance of global perspectives within education-focused disciplines.

To better understand the importance of global perspectives in higher education programs’ curriculums, we reviewed relevant literature on the increase in international students in student affairs and higher education programs in the U.S. To make this less abstract and more personal, we also examined the challenges and successes international students are experiencing. Finally, we provide recommendations for faculty and practitioners based on our exploration. We have three main recommendations to aid Higher Education programs with their globalization efforts: incorporating global perspectives, increasing transferability of skills, and encouraging collaborative approaches.

Positionality: Who We Are in this Work

Benjamin Michael Dadzie commenced his undergraduate studies in economics education at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. Upon graduation, Benjamin worked as an Administrative Assistant for the University of Cape Coast in Ghana, observing a gap in academic advising at his home university and the higher education industry been mostly administrative in nature. His observations propelled him towards a mission of positive change in student services in Ghana. Benjamin is now pursuing a Master of Education in Student Affairs at Clemson University, where he currently works with Clemson Housing and Dining as a Graduate Community Director for the Shoeboxes. As graduate community director at Clemson Housing and Dining, he has assumed leadership roles in nurturing a supportive, inclusive residential community. Guided by integrity and ethical conduct principles, he has led by example, mentoring Residential Community Mentors to uphold high standards and foster a culture of respect and inclusivity. 

As a second author of this article, Irina Kharitonova, is currently enrolled as a PhD student in Higher Ed Leadership Program at Clemson University where she also works as a Graduate Student Services Coordinator for the Department of Mechanical Engineering. In her role, she consults many international students, facilitating their support and engagement. Being originally from Kazakhstan and having experienced immigration first-hand, Irina finds it possible to easily relate to international students’ challenges. In addition, prior to moving to the U.S., Irina worked as an undergraduate student advisor at the North American-style university in Kazakhstan, where she was able to observe cultural differences between U.S. faculty and domestic students. Being grateful for her experiences that uniquely position her to understand the students’ and staff perspectives, as well as different worldviews based on cultural values, Irina is hoping to create shift towards global thinking in her work with students.

Scholarly Insights: Navigating the Intercultural Landscape

As globalization becomes a central theme, both domestic and international students find themselves at the crossroads of an educational paradigm that demands enhanced intercultural competencies. Multiple recent studies of higher education professionals focus on intercultural competencies, internationalization of higher education, and global mindset. The study by Shelton and Yao (2019) on early career professionals’ perceptions of Higher Education and Student Affairs programs shed light on the challenges graduates face in working with international students and colleagues. According to their findings, the limited exposure to relevant coursework and the emphasis on self-directed global competency development highlighted the need for a more structured and inclusive approach in higher education curricula. Furthermore, Clarke and Kirby (2022) explored strategies and approaches to infuse global perspectives into higher education curricula. Their research provided a roadmap for educators and institutions seeking to create inclusive and globally oriented academic programs. (Clarke & Kirby, 2022).  Kjellgren and Richter’s (2021) work reinforced that fostering intercultural skills is not merely a choice but an imperative for students in an increasingly interconnected world. The systematic review conducted by Guillén-Yparrea and Ramírez-Montoya (2023) comprehensively examined intercultural competencies in higher education, scrutinizing existing approaches to intercultural education and emphasizing the importance of ongoing conversation about integrating global perspectives into educational curricula. 

These publications, to name a few, offer profound insights into the strategies, approaches, and challenges inherent in navigating the intercultural dimensions of global education.

Student Perspectives

As we navigate the imperatives of internationalization in higher education, it becomes clear that the evolving dynamics demand a comprehensive exploration of student experiences. To dive deeper into the nuances of globalization of Student Affairs and Higher Education Administration degrees in the United States., we draw on not only our own experiences, but the personal narratives of other graduate international students in Higher Education programs, as well. We spoke with graduate students from Ghana, Kazakhstan, Iran, and Russia to gauge their preparedness for post-graduate endeavors after studying in the States We inquired about their readiness to work in their home countries upon their return, their ability to navigate academic requirements in the U.S, and their openness to international opportunities beyond their home countries. Additionally, we sought their opinions on the U.S.-centric nature of their program curriculum and how it impacted their educational experience and preparedness for their future careers.”

Given that we as the authors are also part of this population, we did not interview others as outsiders, but we joined with them in reflecting on our experiences. As a result, we worked to create a community of dialogue about our experiences. In addition to our perspectives, we invited. Alina Nigmatullina, a PhD student from Russia majoring in Higher Education Leadership at the Mississippi State University, and Venus Khodadadi, a Clemson University PhD student in Education Leadership program from Iran, who also completed master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from the Western Michigan University. You will read about our insights as well as those of other international students in the section that follows. 

As a staff member supporting many international students, in her interview Irina shared the importance of addressing cultural differences within higher education. While acknowledging the program’s efforts in addressing diversity issues, she advocates for more comprehensive approaches. “A dedicated elective course on international student support or global perspectives in student affairs, coupled with opportunities for internships abroad, could further enhance students’ perspective on the diverse cultural challenges,” Irina suggested. Her current program offers a commendable focus on diversity issues and global perspectives. Given that the U.S. educational system provides specialized degrees for Higher Education professionals attracting students from all around the world, Irina envisions a curriculum beyond borders, fostering a global mindset.

Though fueled by passion, Benjamin encountered challenges in adapting to the curriculum on his journey. Some topics have seemed more tailored specifically (and sometimes only) to the American context. This approach to teaching has posed a hurdle for him in connecting his experiences with specific discussions. For Benjamin, the heart of student affairs lies in inclusivity. His vision extends beyond personal growth; he sees the potential for student affairs professionals to contribute to transformative global change. While the U.S. boasts specialized degrees and diverse focuses in higher education administration, Benjamin recognizes the importance of a curriculum that emphasizes international justice and prepares students with a global perspective in Student Affairs. Thinking ahead, Benjamin plans to return to Ghana with a wealth of experience. “While my heart is set on contributing to positive changes in the Ghanaian educational system, I recognize the importance of gaining more experience in the U.S. before embarking on this transformative journey,” Ben concluded.

One of the interesting trends we observed was the difference in approaches to delivering global prospective in different institutions. Our interview participant, PhD student from Iran, Venus, shared:” My Master of Arts in Educational Leadership program from the Western Michigan University had multiple international students from all over the world- Europe, Phillips, Vietnam, Iran and more, and we all had an opportunity to write papers on policies and procedures in our home countries. For example, if we take a course on academic advising, at the end of the course, as a final project, I will present on advising procedures in Higher Education in Iran, and I would hear from other students presenting on advising procedures in their own countries. It was a great way to learn about higher education around the world! I felt we had a very inclusive environment. “

While in some program’s students may have discussions about global Student Affairs practices in certain classes, other programs allow international students to draw the lines of transferability on their own. Alina, a Fullbright Scholar from Russia, in her academic career completed multiple Student Affairs courses. Her knowledge was obtained through learning about US Student Affairs practices, but she felt prepared to work back home and improve the realities of the post-soviet education system. “Some of the courses that I have taken talk a lot about American Higher education, but most of my professors did a great job drawing comparisons with European higher education system and they were paying attention to me, since we did not have a lot of international students, – Alina shared with a big smile – I was always asked about the procedures back in my home country. The only reason I am not 100% sure this degree translates very well to the work we are doing back home is just because Student Affairs look very different there. However, – Alina continued- The core value of work is still supporting the students. In my faculty role back home, I can still support students in the classroom. It does not matter if your country practices Student Affairs in the way the Unites States do, students everywhere need support.”

Challenges and Recommendations: Towards a Globalized Educational Paradigm

As we reflect on the insightful journeys of several international students within the landscape of higher education, it becomes evident that their  experiences encapsulate both the triumphs and tribulations inherent in the pursuit of a truly global education. The highlighted challenges underscore the imperative for higher education institutions to evolve continually, adapting their curricula to foster inclusivity, diversity, and a genuine understanding of our interconnected world.

Acknowledging the challenges within current higher education curricula, we recognize that the road to a truly globalized educational paradigm is full of obstacles. However, higher education programs can take substantial strides towards inclusivity by incorporating discussions on international justice issues, standardizing global perspectives courses, promoting international internship programs, and fostering collaborative efforts with universities abroad. Three main recommendations emerged in our study: 

Further Exposure to Global Perspectives in Student Affairs and Higher Education Programs: A recurring theme in the narratives is the interest in exposure to global perspectives within existing curricula and the need for more substantial discussions on international justice issues.

Collaborative Approaches: Students should be encouraged to participate in internships and collaboration projects abroad to help build their intercultural competencies as well as global prospective on the state of Student Affairs field and Higher Education administration internationally. 

Transferability of Skills: Interviewees acknowledge the challenge of translating their U.S. education to their home contexts. Despite recognizing programs’ global perspectives and universal skills, we need to encourage discussion of applicability of certain aspects of student affairs in the international students’ home country. 

This transformative journey for U.S. Higher Education programs envisions a future where curricula transcend geographical boundaries and students and educators are equipped with the skills to thrive in an interconnected world. The imperative of internationalization in higher education is not merely a call for change; it is an invitation to pave the way for an inclusive global education that empowers individuals to navigate, understand, and contribute meaningfully to our diverse and interconnected global society.


Clarke, L., & Kirby, D. (2022). Internationalizing Higher Education Curricula: Strategies and Approaches. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 10(6), 408-417. DOI: 10.13189/ujer.2022.100605.

Guillén-Yparrea, N., & Ramírez-Montoya, M. S. (2023). A review of collaboration through intercultural competencies in higher Education. Cogent Education, 10(2), 2281845. DOI: 10.1080/2331186X.2023.2281845.

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Scott, P. (1998) Massification, internationalization and globalization, in Peter Scott (ed.) The Globalization of Higher Education. The Society for Research into Higher Education/ Open University Press, Buckingham, pp. 108-129.

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Yao, C. W., Briscoe, K. L., Shelton, L. J., & Thompson, C. J. (2022). Beyond U.S. borders: A curricular exploration of higher education and student affairs international professional preparation. College Student Affairs Journal, Volume 40(1), pp. 1-16. Copyright 2022 Southern Association for College Student Affairs.

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About the Authors

Benjamin Michael Dadzie (He/Him/His) is a graduate student at Clemson University, where he is pursuing a Master of Education in Student Affairs. He serves as the Graduate Community Director for the Shoeboxes, where he plays a vital role in enhancing student life.

Irina Kharitonova (she/her) is the Graduate Student Services Coordinator at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Clemson University. She received her BA in Psychology from Kazakh National University in Almaty, Kazakhstan, her MBA with emphasize on Management and Administration from UIB in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and is currently a doctoral student in Educational Leadership program at Clemson. Prior to joining Clemson, Irina worked as a Student Success Coach at Blackboard in the United States, and as an Advising Coordinator and Program Manager at KIMEP, an English-speaking North American-style university, in Kazakhstan.