Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Ideological control in China

After government inspectors identified ideological weakness among faculty, seven Chinese universities have established departments to review and oversee how to reinforce the ideological focus that has been a part of education in China.

To pretend that Western universities don't have an ideological center trivializes what faculty and staff seek to accomplish. Western views related to freedom of thought, critical inquiry, challenging authority, and progressivism are some of the most prominent ideological perspectives that conservatives in Western countries fear. The reality that these ideas are present and advocated is clear and the question that has to be raised is what do these ideologies have to do with the life of the mind? Research and theorizing on the impact of university education indicates that progressive values are absorbed to varying degrees by students who attend Western institutions. Some researchers even bemoan the fact that the impact is not greater which is a clear statement of intent. A large proportion of faculty and staff in Western institutions would embrace freedom of thought and critical inquiry as essential to higher education outcomes and this is exactly what is being targeted in China.

Four years ago Chinese universities were told to avoid topics such as universal values, press freedom, and civil rights. Now there are mechanisms to evaluate whether or not these topics have been eradicated and if the values of Marxism are being supported. The question looming in the background is if the ideological press of Marxism in China can be construed and cultivated in ways that are consistent with the values that most Western universities have found central to the qualities of advanced learning.

The most frightening aspect of commitment to ideologically control academic messages is that some Chinese students have turned to 'snitching' on professors who dare to counter the orthodoxy of the Party.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Learning outcomes open window to purposeful learning

Cathy N. Davidson, a CUNY faculty member and author of soon to be released book on revolutionizing the university in order to prepare students for a global future, advises in her essay that the "key to successful learning is for the learner to be aware of what the given knowledge will add to their goals and their life." She goes on to say, "We do a poor job helping students translate the specific content or knowledge gained in our classrooms into a tool (informational, conceptual, methodological, epistemological or affective) that will help them thrive in life. If higher education doesn't do that -- if it isn't geared to helping students succeed beyond the final exam and after graduation -- they why bother?"

Professor Davidson's realizations were sparked by a workshop on designing learning outcomes and her own commitment to involving students in determining what they want to learn based on the assertions of education philosophers such as John Dewey, Paulo Friere, bell hooks, and Carol Dweck.

The realizations that Davidson recounts can and should be exploited by those who value holistic learning and particularly by those who work in student affairs. Since its official founding through the "Student Personnel Point of View" in 1937, student development educators have always sought to teach through experience-based learning and they have connected this learning to the reality of what students need to learn in order to be effective in their workplaces and communities. Student affairs educators have also been at the head of the "learning outcomes" movement. It's time to connect with faculty who are now beginning to value these perspectives as well.

Friday, August 25, 2017

International student ambassador - a chance to learn and help

Those who have traveled or studied abroad (including faculty, staff, and students) can be a huge resource to international students studying on your campus. "Study International" offers some helpful advice on how being an ambassador to international students can serve students well. It shouldn't only be about how serving as a gracious host to international students can benefit students.

Having an international ambassador cohort can do many things: 1) it can make the transition and ultimate experience of international students much more positive, impacting retention, satisfaction, and the richness of the experience for internationals; 2) it establishes an advocacy group on campus to support the broader comprehensive internationalization schemes some institutions are now launching; 3) it can help ambassadors maintain language proficiency when they speak in the first language of internationals; and 4) it renews the experience of traveling, studying, or working abroad.

Having taught abroad for Miami University and then working for Qatar Foundation for 7 years, I still relish the incredible experiences I had engaging with people from other countries and cultures and every time I encounter someone different from me, I renew the excitement of traveling and living abroad.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The "diversity" question facing higher education graduates

Inside Higher Education's "Career Advice" offered advice to graduate students when they face questions in interviews about diversity experience and advocacy. The other question that might be asked is what are graduate programs doing to introduce their students to domestic and international diversity experiences during their study?

International alumni relations

Some U.S.A. campuses are beginning to court international alumni. This is one of those very interesting U.S.A. practices that may need to be modified in order to be successful among the growing number of alumni distributed around the world. The traditional model may not work, especially if the leading message is solicitation for donations.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Funding for U.S.A. students to study or research beyond borders

Two institutions, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Colby College, are now providing funding so that financial ability does not restrict students' opportunity to have an international experience. The experience at WPI includes the possibility of working on a global project with other students at over 40 centers around the world. In this case, the focus on inquiry learning related to topics deemed critical to the local environment has great potential to take students deeper into the locations where they study.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Patriotic internationalism

In an Inside Higher Education essay Patti McGill Peterson who guided ACE's Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement from 2011-16 offers sobering advice to those who advocate for internationalization in higher education. She links internationalization to the opportunity of redefining patriotism in the 21st century by saying, "Rather than national pride and loyalty leading to xenophobia, we have an opportunity and an obligation to widen the discussion and to present patriotism in a very different light as part of our advocacy for internationalization. We will need to show that patriots of the best stripe see global connection and cooperation as essential to our national welfare."

Monday, August 14, 2017

AIEA standards for Senior International Officers

The Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA) now provides standards of practice for those who serve in Senior International Officer positions throughout higher education. Providing standards is one of the most important signs that a work area has "professionalized" with a body of knowledge and expected best practices for it to be effective.

It is gratifying that the first two of the twenty-one standards are; 1) comprehensive internationalization that impacts the three principal aims of the academy (teaching, research, and service) and 2) recognizes the centrality of the curriculum and co-corriculum in preparing students for participation in an increasingly interconnected, divers, and rapidly changing world.

Congratulations to AIEA for moving forward to advocate for approaches and practices that will help higher education be more effective in preparing their graduates for the world of the future.

International enrollments in the U.S.A. - Is the sky falling?

An update from the American Council on Education's Higher Education Today ends with, "working to ensure that international students feel safe, welcome and supported on our campuses is most certainly good policy and practice." It's so good to see ACE putting the emphasis where it needs to be - making sure that international students have an exceptional experience studying in the U.S.A.

The update questions if the current political and policy environment under the Trump administration is deterring students from considering U.S.A. institutions, which has been raised in numerous other articles such as the Chronicle of Higher Education. The report indicates that it's still too early to tell but hopes are that the decline in international students will only be small and in line with the fact that students around the world now have many more choices available to them, mostly in their home countries.

In the face of the possibilities of decline in international numbers, the "You are welcome here" campaigns continue to launch to counter the negative perceptions that may be emerging among international applicants.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Educational diplomacy - winning in Saudi-led blockade of Qatar

The role of educational capacity building, specifically through higher education, can have implications beyond just better educated citizens prepared for work and community development. Amid the ongoing updates about the Saudi Arabia-led blockade of Qatar, the power of educational diplomacy has emerged as a key factor.

For now, two months into the blockade, Qatar is doing pretty well. Specifically, the higher education sector is pursuing matters in a calm ‘business as usual’ way. Additional reports indicate that food shortages that initially occurred due to panic have been addressed by other countries providing all that Qatar needs. Qatar has also moved to greater self-sufficiency by doing things like creating a dairy industry out of nowhere in a matter of weeks.

How does educational diplomacy work? In two examples Qatar’s investment in its university partnerships are paying off very well. The first is in relation to developing a free media industry that cannot be easily questioned (which Saudi, UAE, and others questioned in relation to Al Jazeera). Northwestern University’s new building in Qatar’s Education City just opened and is an amazing example of Qatar’s dedication to fostering robust and free media and in ways that are really unmatched elsewhere in the world.

While I’ve not seen official statements from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, a Professor of International Relations & Gulf Studies, Gerd Nonneman (@GerdDoha) offers regular comment about the situation in Qatar. His Twitter account indicates that his Tweets do no represent views of employers which is what one might expect. However, his academic freedom at GSFS-Q and in Qatar itself, allows him to comment and he has offered numerous points that discredit the Saudi coalition blockade and reiterate the balanced role Qatar plays, and has been playing, in the Arabian Gulf region.

Regardless of the initial statements made by U.S.A. President Trump when he was being manipulated by Saudi Arabia, he equivocated on his original statements and Secretary of State Tillerson has made it clear throughout the blockade that Qatar was a good partner to the U.S. StateDepartment and that it was in the best interest of the U.S. to continue to work toward resolution and rebalancing the relationships among the warring GCC countries.

Educational diplomacy is very powerful. It develops trustable relationships and ones where transparency and authentic problem solving can take place. Those who believe that military armament and intervention is more effective need only look at the long game. In the case of Qatar, smaller and less visible than Saudi Arabia on the world stage just two months ago, seems to be winning through its alternative educational diplomacy, begun over twenty years ago and now paying off in very significant ways.