Thursday, March 28, 2019

NAFSA - Internationalization in a time of global disruption

NAFSA's March 2019 Trends and Insights compilation has several articles on what international educators can do to protect and advance international education in a difficult climate. The essays include important acknowledgement that institutions should be urged to move beyond revenue production as their focus. Beyond revenue enhancement, rankings are often the reason universities embrace internationalization. Ellen Hazelkorn's essay advocates that "Universities should resist using rankings to promote their institutions or provide faulty information with the intention of improving their ranked position. Instead, they should focus on improving the quality of the learning environment and the student experience for all students."

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Ambivalence on China

Asian studies scholars recently discussed the challenges of working with Chinese students who live with conflicting views of their history and culture. On one hand, Chinese students are repeatedly taught throughout early education that China was once a great civilization but was robbed of its place in the world in the 19th century, only to now be rising again. On the other hand, Chinese students seek to understand Western (and specifically U.S.A.) culture and are encouraged to break out of previous rote and passive learning styles so that they can contribute creativity and innovation to China's 21st century renaissance.

The conflicting narratives are difficult for Chinese students to reconcile. While studying abroad some Chinese students are ardent advocates for China but others question and challenge a narrative of cultural and intellectual superiority. For professors and administrators who serve as hosts and teachers for the 300,000+ Chinese students attending their institutions, learning that Chinese students have different views and that their views could heavily impact them on return to China is critical.

Then there is the U.S.A. narrative, one largely but not completely shaped by the Trump administration - Chinese spies and interlopers stealing the genius of America's best. The U.S.A. narrative is equally debilitating and should be carefully considered among those who seeks to educate rather than indoctrinate. Parag Khanna's The Future is Asiawould be on the top of my recommended reading list for those who want to know the history of all Asia, with a particular focus on China, as well as be introduced to how Asia and the rest of the world is changing.

This is the responsibility of educators - teach the reality of the world in which students live and help them welcome, rather than fear, their future. And teaching all students, domestic and international, in ways that help them embrace the international connections that will be central to their lives is most important.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

On-line learning

On-line learning has been growing, often an attempt by institutions to expand their revenue base. However, the altruistic purpose of on-line learning can be to increase access to higher education opportunity for adult students, students from diverse domestic or international environments, and students for whom the cost of residential education is prohibitive. Particularly in relation to international students, on-line programs can be a less expensive entry point that can lead to eventual shorter term residential learning.

A number of institutions, particularly state universities, are looking at expansion. For some state universities the issue is regaining some of their own in-state prospects who are presently studying on-line with some of the larger providers such as Arizona State, Southern New Hampshire, and Western Governors Universities. These three institutions have captured a large share of the not for profit on-line market and those who wish to compete are expressing urgency. Arizona State's for profit intent adds another dimension to the on-line program competition. Marty Meehan, president of the University of Massachusetts indicated, "It's predicted that over the next several years four to five major national players with strong regional footholds will be established. We intend to be one of them."

Doug Lederman and Mark Lieberman describe the challenges and opportunities of entering the on-line space. What populations are being served is one of the first questions that has to be answered. Is it students being captured by other institutions or expanding access for other new population groups? The second question is whether institutions should build their own on-line programs, purchase another, or borrow practices by acquiring talent from dominant providers? These questions have to be explored within the context of institutional and student culture and the politics of institutions' views of themselves and their purposes in advancing student learning.

A complementary article derived from a survey of on-line learning administrators raises important questions about how these programs are governed and managed. Relating the survey findings to the challenges and opportunities identified by Lederman and Lieberman, the quality of student engagement in learning was found to vary a great deal with faculty-led course design being more passive and educational specialist courses being more active and engaging. Unfortunately, the learning outcomes for students in some programs was found to be relatively superficial with a narrow focus on student retention and achievement of program objectives. The outcomes that are less commonly addressed are post graduation employment, student debt, and graduate earnings, each of these likely being the most important in students' minds.

Interestingly enough, none of the articles cited above mention the broader student experience addressed by student affairs educators. Eric Stoller offered the critique that out of class learning in the on-line world is largely ignored. He singles out graduate preparation programs that seldom address on-line learning engagement that should be the focus of student affairs. In a follow-up article, Stoller recommended that student affairs educators utilize existing campus-based resources but also indicated that approaches tailored to on-line learners may be necessary.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Australia encourages study outside of major cities

In an effort to balance enrollments, Australia has established new incentives to encourage students to study at regional universities outside the typical major cities. Up to 4,720 domestic and international students could receive scholarships of over $10,000 Australian dollars per year to move out of favored urban settings. International students will also earn and additional year after graduation for work training.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Expressive/performance arts and Study Abroad

Study abroad can result in spectacular outcomes when it begins with careful preparation, involves deep engagement when abroad, and integrates reflection before, during, and after the experience. Expressive or performance arts is another way to enhance study abroad, tapping into high impact learning practices of active and service learning. "Drumming, song, dance, and movement highlight individual and group talents" which can demonstrate powerful lessons about group involvement and leadership.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Study abroad controversies for Israel

Sorting out the logistics, educational merit, safety, and politics of study abroad can present naughty challenges. In the particular case of supporting study, research, and other forms of academic engagement with Israel, the political aspects can overwhelm all other considerations.

Pitzer University's College Council (composed of faculty, students, and staff) recently voted to suspend it's study abroad program in Israel. Pitzer's President, Melvin Oliver, refused to implement the recommended action saying, "If implemented, the recommendation would unnecessarily alienate a large cross section of the college's constituencies. The reputational harm to the college would be irreparable and as president of this institution, I cannot permit that to happen."

In response to Oliver, Daniel A. Segal, a professor who advocated the action endorsed by a 67 to 28 vote by the College Council, said that Oliver's unresponsiveness "shows a failure to appreciate that Palestinians are our fellow human beings, and a contempt for the college's democratic process."

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Internationale of Knowledge for All

As a U.S. citizen, I usually look at the European Bologna process with envy - perceiving from a distance that it brings higher education across national borders together in ways that better serve students and the European community. While some aspects of the unification and cooperation that Bologna advocated may be having their intended impact, other aspects may require modification.

"Science for the Many and Not for Money" is an initiative that calls for a "European network of emancipated universities in Europe and all over the world - internationalist European universities that defend free access for all; cooperation between academics, researchers and citizens; and participative research. IKA (Internationale of Knowledge for All) welcomes others to help create alternatives to the marketization of higher education and research.

The question here is if resource allocation on research will serve the people or the markets of Europe - perhaps this is a question that could be raised in the U.S.A. as well.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

ACPA - Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization - relevant to internationalization?

The American College Personnel Association (ACPA) officially opens its 2019 Convention in Boston on Sunday, March 3. The distribution of its Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization will likely be a major point of discussion throughout the Convention, as it should be. The Imperative appears to be lined up to claim a place within the continuing series of statements ACPA has made over the years (i.e. Tomorrow's Higher Education and the Student Learning Imperative). The authors present compelling evidence for why the imperative is needed and how it will shape both ACPA's and higher education's future.

As someone who places high value on the history of higher education and student affairs, I was disappointed with the lack of historical contextualization reflected in the statement. Earlier documents in which student affairs thought leaders have been involved were absent in the text and scholarly resources that were listed.

In addition, I and others attempted to influence the drafting of the imperative to embrace the emergence of students affairs around the world - an international perspective. I was disappointed that no reference to internationalization was made. However, a very important statement referenced "student affairs educators who are often tasked with preparing college students for leadership and civic participation." This paragraph continued with, "Educators must not only come into awareness of their role in reproducing racism and colonization but also take concrete steps to identify and take action to shift how institutions create and exacerbate racism and colonization."

The statement above provides an extraordinarily important bridge between internationalization and leadership learning. Not only should educators examine their role in reproducing racism and colonization within North America but we must also examine how our views and actions perpetuate racism and colonization around the world. As leadership and student development educators we can help our institutions avoid a new era of colonization where Western practices overwhelm higher education everywhere. Where the harm has already been done, leadership and student development educators must be part of calling attention to the fallacy of inappropriate transfer of educational perspectives and practices across national and cultural borders. More than correcting the harm, leadership and student development educators must be a source of liberating learning in general, and leadership learning more specifically, around the world.

Having attended the recent ACPA 2019 Convention in Boston, I observed broad evidence that the Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization is a catalyst for great conversation about student learning, development, and leadership learning. I entered into conversation through the International Caucus and various programs and informal discussions. It was extremely gratifying that international representatives and internationalists within ACAP see the imperative as highly relevant to their work. My hope is that numerous people and entities will engage further in this important conversation going forward.

Friday, March 1, 2019

The future of higher education

I've noted in many previous posts and in my published works that, while U.S. and European universities may be experiencing stagnation or decline in student enrollment, enrollments in Asia, Africa, South America, and elsewhere are and will continue to explode. Joshua Kim makes this point in his essay for Inside Higher Education.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development in Cross-Border Higher Education (Roberts & Komives, Eds, 2016) proposes that internationalization of higher education is inevitable. It also urges thought leaders to discern what qualities will most contribute to enhanced student learning and development throughout the world. Student affairs and student development are unrecognized in many western settings as an important element that enhances the student experience. International settings vary even more in their awareness and dedication to the wholistic learning that has made such a difference in U.S. settings.

Joshua poses important questions:

  • How should U.S. institutions change to take advantage of growing global demand for higher education?
  • Should those of us who work in academia be thinking more about building international career experience?
  • Should graduate programs prioritize international experience and global training?
  • Does you institution have a global higher ed strategy?
My view is yes, yes, yes, and mostly no to the above. Those who seek interesting, transformative, and thriving careers in higher education should not be complacent about the shift in opportunity toward countries and settings outside of the U.S. and Europe. Engaging in one's current setting to urge all institutions to get serious about internationalization would be a great first step.