Saturday, May 31, 2014

International students' comfort on U.S.A. campuses

Research at Ohio State, Purdue, and Old Dominion informed discussions of how to make international students more comfortable at U.S.A. campuses at the 2014 NAFSA conference.  The research confirmed other reports that international students, especially the large numbers of Chinese, do not feel part of the campuses where they are studying.  The article covers assessment of international students satisfaction, how they perceive the campus environment, and what faculty can do make international students more comfortable.  The part left out of the report - the attitude, perspective, and willingness of American students to take responsibility for improving the campus ethos.  I can only hope that someone in the audience raised this question.

The report from Purdue mentioned the extra services they offer to international students - a result of the $2,000 USD surcharge for attending the university.  As I've noted in previous posts, since when have we charged cultural minorities, students with disabilities, or any other sub-group an extra fee for the services they need to be successful?  If the rationale is that international students' families don't pay U.S. taxes, that still doesn't make it in my book.  International students, by contrast to most other groups at U.S. institutions, are most often full pay.  Why isn't full pay enough to justify services required to be successful.  And, if the admissions staff doesn't believe an international student is not well enough prepared to attend, why would they offer admission in the first place?  And who is offering payment or incentives to international students to serve as cultural informants to American students who have little knowledge of what's happening in the rest of the world?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

International students in U.S.A concerned about financial aid and jobs

Inside Higher Education indicated that attendees of the National Association of Foreign Student Affairs received a report of new research on retention of international students indicating that a key issue in satisfaction and retention is financial aid and then job opportunities.  One attendee commented that an area that need early attention was, "how universities can help students better undersand the academic expectations and the financial burdens in the recruitment phase, prior to enrollment, so that when they get here, they're really set for success."  Since numerous international students come to the U.S.A. not understanding the role of private and public entities, some may even need to acquire an understanding that all public universities, and privates in other ways, receive funding ultimately derived from taxation to citizens of the U.S.A., something to which their families have not contributed.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Engagement needs to be defined

This Times Higher Education article raises question about student engagement, what it means and the various ways institutions can foster it.  It asks if the term has become a new buzzword and properly traces its origin to Alexander Astin's earlier research and publications advocating for more student involvement.  The idea of student engagement actually could be traced even further back to the very origins of student personnel work in the early 20th century.  The democratic education ideas of John Dewey influenced early student affairs visionaries and these were central to the ways that the early deans of men and women interacted with their students.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

"Going Global" conference revs up higher education

A recent article on "Going Global" summarized the outcomes of the British Council's conference on the state of higher education around the world.  Shifting enrollments, growing needs, and the importance of preparing graduates for the workplace are just a few of the issues that emerged.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Tools to improve dexterity in cross-cultural work

Finding tools and/or models to shed light on cultural diversity is challenging.  The reason - there are so many variations across cultures that it is hard to find a lens by which several different cultures can be viewed.  I think I might have found one that is simple enough, easy to remember, and brings some life to the differences across culture in a positive ways.

Although intended as a resource for expatriate workers, Molinsky’s Global Dexterity (2013) proposes a model that can be used for a variety of purposes – understanding the cultural differences among international students, affirming colleagues whose way of interacting is shaped by their family culture, or navigating cross-border educational initiatives.  Molinsky’s approach is based on his own fascination with the expatriate worker experience as well as research, consulting and coaching he has done to help workers in foreign settings acquire the adaptive responses to allow them to be effective.  The “global dexterity” model is not a developmental sequence of growing understanding, as some other cultural development models propose; instead it is a very intuitively understandable model that allows the “foreigner” to diagnose an environment, discern what is different about the new environment, and find an adaptive approach that maintains the guest’s authenticity and values while increasing the potential of being effective in a “different” place.  As an expatriate worker with a short experience in Europe and a longer period in Qatar, I found the model very useful in reflecting on the various cultures I have encountered.

The “global dexterity” model has a six-dimensional framework that includes; directness, enthusiasm, formality, assertiveness, self-promotion, and personal disclosure.  While there are certainly other clues one might use to understand another culture, including low/high context, physical space and power/SES consciousness, the six dimensions are very revealing.  The diagnosis stage using the model involves determining if the culture one is visiting is high or low on each of the six dimensions.  As just one example from the Arab world using the first dimension of directness, Westerners (particularly Americans) tend to be very direct in their communication, making statements or making requests in very specific and direct ways.  So, if someone had something you liked, an American would say, “I really like that – I wish I could have one like it.” The statement was direct but, in America, the other person would not likely offer it as a gift.  By contrast in the Arab world, indirectness is valued, most often as a way of avoiding embarrassing or putting the other in a difficult place.  So instead of being so direct in offering a compliment, the world “mish’Allah,” which means “God has blessed you with this,” always follows the compliment.  The reason - if one doesn’t say mish’Allah, the other person is culturally obligated to give it to you.  This is a form of indirectness that is highly valued.  Indeed, gifts are part of the culture of hospitality and visitors are often overwhelmed by these gestures.  However, the gifts are to be given freely and generously without any expectation of return.

The dilemma that Molinsky explains is that there are three core psychological challenges as foreigners attempt to adapt to a different cultural environment.  The first is authenticity, the second, competence, and the third resentment.  When trying to modify one’s behavior, even when we know we might be more effective if we adapted, the new behaviors don’t initially feel authentic, sometime they are delivered in clumsy ways, and some people just plain resent having to adapt.  These psychological obstacles have to be overcome in order to adapt in ways that will allow one to have dexterity in adapting to other cultures.

Whether working with students from another national culture on an American campus, preparing students and faculty for a study abroad experience, or working toward a partnership with an international campus, Molinsky's framework of global dexterity could be very useful.  Global Dexterity is a heuristic model with tools to use for analysis, many examples, and recommendations for how to walk the path of becoming a person of global dexterity.  His last piece of advice - “customizing your perceptions around cultural adaptation is quite simple: embrace the new culture’s logic.  Don’t just change how you behave: change how you think.”  From my experience, truer words have seldom been uttered when seeking to be a more effective global citizen.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Using agents to recruit international students

An article on agent recruitment of international students indicates that many countries are increasingly counting on this method to entice the ever-growing number of students seeking to study outside their home countries.  The U.S.A., the place where the largest proportion of international students study, uses agents less than its competitors.  Is the use of agents a quest to expand access or a practice that is turning higher education into more of a trade commodity?  And, does it matter?