Monday, October 31, 2016

What does student affairs offer?

As professions emerge over time there are a variety of criteria that they seek to fulfill, among them a theory base, standards of practice, ethics statements, and preparation programs. One of the challenges that international educators face in trying to understand student affairs as practiced in North America is that the field has not been conscientious in documenting the founding and core philosophy of the field. This post is offered to at least partially respond to the question of what student affairs has to offer from a historical and philosophical perspective.

My 40+ year career has involved serving as a programmer, educator, and administrator in student affairs - in the U.S.A. and for 7 years in Qatar. Having been mentored by several individuals who were scholar-practitioners during my early career, I came into student affairs believing that it was the responsibility of all programmers/administrators to contribute research, writing, and theorizing to the field that I value so deeply.

If there is any area in which I hope I've made a difference, it is in attempting to be a generative scholar - giving credit to the early pioneers in student affairs and keeping their legacy alive. While serving as Past-President of the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) in 1986-87, one of my responsibilities was to convene the Past-Presidents' breakfast at the 1987 annual meeting. I set out to appeal to as many of the Past-Presidents' I could find and with one particular Past-President a primary target - Dr. Esther Lloyd-Jones. I was able to convince her to attend the 1987 ACPA Convention which was the joint convention with the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators commemorating the 50th anniversary of the "Student Personnel Point of View."

The 1987 encounter with Esther started a period of intense correspondence, conversation, and visits that lasted until her death in 1991. I was privileged to be invited to a wonderful celebration of her 90th birthday and the family subsequently requested that I provide the professional eulogy at the memorial service after her death in 1991. The memorial was small and intimate, odd for someone whose legacy has touched so many.

Several articles and my 2007 book, Deeper Learning in Leadership (Jossey-Bass) reference or honor Esther. In addition, I interviewed Esther and distributed a copy of excerpts from our conversation in 1987, "Esther Lloyd-Jones, Perspectives on the Student Personnel Point of View, 1937-1987." I can say without question that completing this videotape and documenting her views in her own words is the contribution to student affairs in which I take the greatest satisfaction.

The history, philosophy, and evolution of student affairs is not studied in detail in most graduate programs in the U.S.A. This troubles me a great deal. The result is that there are a considerable number of other published pieces on the presumed history of student affairs which are inconsistent with what Esther shared. This post provides the first-hand voice of one of, if not the most significant of, our founders.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

U.S.A. students' experience in Canada

A report conducted by Universities Canada (the full report can be downloaded from this link) looked at why students from the U.S.A. choose to study in Canada. Chief among the reasons is the cost of enrollment and beyond that is the opportunity to experience another culture. When it comes to cultural exposure, Canada is a more comfortable stretch for some U.S.A. students because Canadian and U.S.A. cultures are more alike than many other places where students could study. In general, U.S.A. students gave positive reports about their experience. The only exception is that they sometimes need assistance but have difficulty getting it because they are not perceived to be true international students.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Abu Dhabi leverages partnerships to advance research

In a move to achieve greater impact in research, Abu Dhabi is merging three higher education entities - Khalifa University, Masdar Institute, and the Petroleum Institute. There are great examples of these academic and research partnerships with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh being one of the most productive.

IIE seeks to expand U.S.A. study abroad

Generation "Study Abroad" and the "Passport Caravan" are two initiatives launched by the Council for International Educational Exchange. To expand study abroad beyond a core of more privileged students, IIE has now proposed to include more students from diverse cultural backgrounds in addition to those from lower socio-economic brackets. If higher education embraces internationalization as an institutional goal and value-added component of learning, then access must be addressed and IIE's efforts should help.

University of Cincinnati defers international student fee

Amid resistance on campus, the University of Cincinnati has determined that it will defer a proposed $150 extra international student fee - at least for this year. Criticism of the fee was based on tight budgets that international students already face as a result of higher overall fees. From this blogger's perspective, couple this critique with the fact that international students generally receive little or no financial assistance and they are, themselves, an educational resource to the institution, to conclude that an additional fee of any kind is probably unjustified.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Cultivating civic engagement

Civic engagement is a primary goal for many countries around the world. And one of the places where the greatest impact can be made is during the university years. The question is how to achieve this goal with maximum impact.

With the erosion of civility in the political discourse of the U.S.A., encouraging students to look at their role in civil society has become increasingly important. Julie Woleman, writing for Inside Higher Education, provides five conditions that have the potential to deepen the impact of universities' civic engagement initiatives: 1) identify the fundamental issues, 2) understand the issue in its broader context, 3) support faculty wok across disciplines, 4) develop leaders, and 5) strive for lifetime impact.

The above conditions are very important as higher education seeks to move from one-off exotic experiences to systemic change. Driving for deeper outcomes is important both in the U.S.A. as well as in international settings. One tool to help is the "Social Change Model of Leadership Development" which is being celebrated in numerous conferences this fall. On the occasion of its 20th anniversary, the "Social Change Model..." is recognized as one of the most widely used and best documented models among U.S.A. institutions and it is increasingly used around the world as well.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Aurora - new cross-border European cooperation

As institutions around the world continue to strive for excellence and prominence, partnerships are becoming ever more important. The Aurora Network is a new multinational network of eight European universities designed with "the conviction that there is no trade-off between research excellence by global standards, broad access for students and an inclusive academic environment and societal impact in research, teaching and outreach." This vision avoids the either/or dichotomies that can sometimes be part of academic conversations, a welcome support for mutual and synergistic work.

Academic support for cocurricular student experiences

Student affairs and services staff always need friends. A recent essay by Steven Mintz and Partick Rutter advocates that faculty and student affairs should work cooperatively to align curriculum efforts with those in the cocurriculum - deliberately designed non-class experiences that relate to goals set out in the curriculum.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Challenging students to become "Reasonable Adventurers"

I read an article by Michael J. Stebleton titled, "Challenging Students to Become Reasonable Adventurers" in the September 2016 ABOUT CAMPUS magazine. The article dredged up one of early student development's most delightful theorizers - Roy Heath. I was first exposed to Heath's ideas when he spoke at a conference in 1976 at the University of Minnesota, a conference that pulled together some of the most promising theorists and educators of the day. Heath's model was validated on only a small sample of privileged white men attending Princeton, yet the ideas that came from the model were very useful in conceptualizing the goal of developmental programs both in 1976 and, as Stebleton demonstrates, today.

Stebleton described a 3-week trip to Sweden and Norway that served as a catalyst for his students to see the world in a different way. What he hoped would occur, and was documented by some of his students' reflections, was that they would exhibit six core traits: intellectuality, close friendships, independence in value judgements, tolerance of ambiguity, breadth of interests, and a sense of humor. These traits defined "reasonable adventurers" who Heath believed would be more effective in the world of the late 20th century.

This article advocates a variety of methods through which "reasonable adventurers" can be nurtured. One of the most important methods found in most rich learning/developmental experiences is introducing students to a challenging environment, one that causes them to fundamentally question truths they have held dear. Stebleton also encourages faculty and student affairs educators to work together to achieve the right balance between support and challenge through a variety of collegiate experiences.

Stebleton's article was a good reminder of a simple yet cogent student development theory that many have found useful in the past. He advocates for updated research with broader numbers of diverse students to modify the model for contemporary use. I would also add that, although Stebleton does not reference anything related to international students, the "reasonable adventurer" idea may actually be a description that most captures who the international students of today are. These gems in our midst would likely be able to stimulate deeper learning among their domestic peers if they were invited to do so.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Branch campuses continue to grow in number

With a more detailed report to come from the Observatory on Borderless Education, early release confirms a continued rise in the number of branch campuses to approximately 250. China hosts the largest number and U.S.A. universities are the primary providers.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Australian universities seek to reduce proportion of international students from China

In an effort to protect themselves from over-dependence on students from any particularly country as well as a desire to diversify the campus, some of Australia's top-rankied universities have been strategically reducing the number of Chinese students they admit. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Two new higher education internationalization publications support student affairs/services

Interest in student affairs and services has been expanding throughout the world and this has been complemented by a growing commitment to providing students a more informed entry into the global world in which we live.  The challenges and opportunities that higher education staff and advocates are expected to address are more effectively addressed when ideas are shared, models are developed and modified, and when educators cooperate across borders to support the improvement of each other’s practice.

Two new publications are now available to help shape the future of international higher education. These two books are unique in their complementarity; they share several key authors and their content reinforces a shared message about enhancing student learning and development. These books are also distinct from each other, making them useful for different audiences and for different purposes.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development inCross-Border Higher Education (Roberts & Komives, Eds., 2016) is available through the New Directions for Higher Education series.

This book is relatively short (115 pages) and offers an overview of why and how institutions might look more deeply into the prospect of enhancing students’ learning and development both in and out of class. Comparative analysis of educational practices and modifying approaches across environments is advocated including examples from authors in four international settings. The book concludes with the two research and theory bases that are important to enhancing students’ experiences – student development and campus culture – as well as provides guidance on research, evaluation, and assessment, building staff capacity, and mutual partnerships. This book will be of interest to all those who value quality higher education no matter what their role. The intent is to convince broader constituencies of the merit of enhancing the student experience so that students worldwide will benefit from intentional learning and development opportunities.

Supporting Students Globally in HigherEducation (Osfield, Perozzi, Bardill Moscaritolo, & Shea, 2016) is available through the NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education) website.

Written for both new and seasoned student affairs professionals around the world, Supporting Students Globally in Higher Education, co-led by leaders from IASAS (International Association of Student Affairs and Services) and NASPA lays the groundwork for improving the lives of students. As globalization continues to flatten our world and internationalization efforts press forward, student affairs and services practitioners are uniquely positioned to assist students with attaining high-quality, holistic higher education, which in turn leads to the improvement of global society overall.

In Supporting Students Globally in Higher Education leaders from all parts of the globe contribute their expertise, presenting a variety of concepts in detail and with specificity, capturing nuance and country-specific flair, while also providing paradigm-changing examples. Overarching issues include:
  • Rapidly growing numbers of international students
  • An increasingly diverse and mobile student population
  •  Expanding diversity of the campus at home
  • Intensified cross-border cooperation in research and teaching
  • More and different staff exchange programs
  • Closer and more intensified cooperation of state actors

Funding challenges for European universities

Elizabeth Redden referenced the European University Association's (EUA) Public Funding Observatory report documenting decline in higher education funding in most EU countries. The only countries where funding increased at a rate beyond that required to serve growing numbers of students are Norway and Sweden. Potential areas of impact include funding cuts for staff and capital/infrastructure investment, higher fees for non-EU students, pursuit of alternative funding, and increased efficiency.

Student affairs/services programs can be vulnerable when institutions are pushed to reduce costs or increase efficiency. The claim is often that, in difficult budget times, funding should be preserved for the core function of teaching. What is not recognized when student affairs/services are targeted is that retention and persistence to graduation is often influenced as much by what happens outside of class as what occurs in class. Reduction in student affairs/services my erode student success and thereby further reduce revenues coming from student fees.

NYU Singapore sued by former students

Whether or not branch university programs are comparable to the home campus is often raised by critics. Students are the greatest stakeholders in this question and, if they are not satisfied, they can discredit the institutions that offer them. Three students who graduated from NYU Singapore's arts master's degree (begun in 2007 and subsequently determined to be closed in 2012) asserted that the "Tisch Asia was a subpar program in practically every aspect, from the quality of faculty, facilities and equipment to exclusion of Tisch Asia students from grants, competitions and networking opportunities available to student at Tisch New York." NYU spokesperson, John Beckman, said that "This suit is wholly without merit, and we expect to prevail in court."

Regardless of the outcome of the suit, the idea of comparability in branch degree programs needs to be carefully dissected. In reality, how could any U.S.A., European, or other university fully replicate the experience of its home campus? Especially when one considers that much of a student's experience occurs outside of class and that peers heavily influence each other's learning, pretending that a program transported from NYC to Singapore would be the same is a stretch. Perhaps institutions would be better off focusing on what can be the same (i.e. curriculum structure) and then what will be different and potentially superior (i.e. fellow students, student to faculty ratio, and opportunities for student engagement) to the home campus.

Higher education in English

One of the more difficult issues to negotiate as higher education internationalization unfolds is the language of instruction. English has been the most typical language adopted in programs, especially where branch campuses of primarily English speaking countries are involved. A new program offered in partnership between Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and Ghent University in Belgium is offering an interdisciplinary bachelor's degree in English to appeal to the international market. Initially expected to attract about 60 students, 117 had signed up within the first three days of opening applications. Dieter Vandebroeck, professor of sociology and director of the program, indicated that the mix of students from 30 different countries will "enrich the learning experience of students from across the globe bring a variety of perspectives to contentious international issues."

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

"Purposeful connectedness" a critical goal in higher education leadership

Mirroring what has been found as the emerging model for 21st century leadership in business and governmental sectors, Richard Sharpe advocates that higher education leaders need to help their institutions abandon the individualistic academic model and move toward a more connected model that embraces a shared vision that brings disparate sub-groups together. While not referencing Ron Heifetz "adaptive leadership" perspective, Sharpe's view reflects similar ideas - that leadership is about identifying questions that are important to the academic community and then engaging all stakeholders in the challenging work of identifying plausible strategies to deal with their changing circumstances. The "divided university" that privileges autonomy to the detriment of the institution could undermine viability in the future, a dilemma that calls for moving away from bureaucratic to connective and adaptive leadership.

Employment advantage of study abroad unrecognized

With globalization and internationalization gaining momentum, study abroad is increasingly seen as a critical element of preparing graduates for the world of work. Unfortunately, many current students do not understand that international study is an investment that will give them an advantage when they seek employment post graduation.

Branch campuses offer added value

One of the greatest advantages of branch campuses is that those programs linked to internationally recognized high quality institutions can be made available closer to home. The diversity of students and faculty at branch campuses, the support of local/regional cultural standards, and potential to reduce costs of attendance are other benefits. When the curriculum and standards are the same between home and branch sites, students can more easily spend a portion of their study time at the home campus, allowing for the international exposure so many students seek.

UK higher education makes headlines again

In an announcement reflective of the protective mood among some UK politicians, Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced a crackdown on international students and immigrant workers. Rudd's remarks focused on preventing foreign workers from taking jobs that should be held by Brits and discouraging international students from enrolling in low quality programs. Paul Blomfield, co-chair of an all-party parliamentary group on international students, labeled Rudd's remarks about universities as "spectacularly uninformed." Brexit secretary, David Davis, said that British companies may be required to seek British nationals to fill positions before they turn to internationals. Davis added, "But the other side of this is we have to make sure that our own population are ready and equipped to work, whether it is low-skilled work - and that is about motivation and about commitment to work."