Thursday, July 2, 2015

When Internationalization goes wrong

Today’s post looks at the dark side of student mobility.  In her piece from the summer 2013 edition of International Higher Education, The False Halo of Internationalization, Jenny J. Lee looks at how internationalization efforts that bring foreign students to the US can be lacking in quality or even exploitative.  Lee investigates the experiences of international postdoctoral research scientists and student athletes, and finds that while their presence at US universities is often touted as successful internationalization, often times the student does not benefit from the arrangement.  To start, Lee claims that for International postdocs, many faculty supervisors hold stereotypes that scientists from the US and Europe are more skilled at theoretical science, whereas Asian scientists are more skilled at technical science.  Thus, international postdocs from Asia are often forced into a path of being lab supervisors on temporary contracts, becoming, in effect, “postdocs for life.”  She argues that despite the fact that international researchers are being included in US labs, calling this exploitative pattern “internationalization” is counter-effective to successful internationalization. 

Lee then goes on to discuss the exploitative relationship that universities often have with international student athletes.  International students are often recruited to US college sports programs as a way of bringing top-notch athletic prestige to the university.  Additionally, these students can be and often are shown off as a display of the university’s commitment to internationalization.  In reality, while these students do present an opportunity for internationalization by sharing their experiences with the university’s domestic students, the typical result is often the opposite: social isolation or harassment.  In addition, the universities often put international athletes into less academically demanding (and beneficial) majors, so that they can focus on their athletics.

The author concludes that “it is na├»ve and irresponsible to perceive internationalization as being inherently good.  Internationalization is not merely a set of observable activities but also involves social and education responsibility.”  She argues in cases like these, internationalization can’t solely represent the interests of the host institutions, but must represent the interests of the international students as well.  Furthermore, it is not the international students’ responsibility to fix these issues, but that of the institution.  University administrators must impress on their faculty and students the benefits and importance of internationalization.  In this conclusion, Lee reminds me very much of Jane Knight.  In Knight’s 2012 piece Five Truths about Internationalization, she posits that “Internationalization is a means to an end, not an end unto itself.”  In Lee’s scenarios, university administrators are claiming that incorporating international student athletes and postdocs constitutes internationalization.  This is a mindset of internationalization being and end goal, not a means to achieving a goal.  Furthermore, Knight claims that internationalization should “should not overshadow or erode the importance of local context.”  Lee would seem to be arguing a similar, but converse point: if you are going to incorporate foreign students into your university as a form of internationalization, you can’t totally ignore their global context, as is done her scenarios.  As she notes, it is the job of administrators to educate faculty and students on internationalization and its benefits.  Much like Knight, the bottom line of Lee’s piece is that university administrators can’t get so tied up in applying the term “internationalization” to programs that they lose sight of what the programs are supposed to be achieving, and that all parties are benefiting from them.

Knight, Jane. "Five myths about internationalization." International Higher Education 62.1 (2011): 14-15.

Lee, J. (2015). The false halo of internationalization. International Higher Education, (72), 5-7.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Study Abroad for Business School

In last September’s Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, Peter J. Gordon, Tori Patterson, and John Cherry discussed the importance of improving study abroad enrollment for business students in their piece Increasing International Study Abroad Rates for Business Students.  Their concern is that while “much has been written about the benefits of overseas study to returning students, little has been published which discusses how to use this outcome information and other strategies to motivate future students to go abroad.”  The students, in this case, are business students, for whom they claim international competence is more important than any other academic discipline thanks to our increasingly globalized world.  The central question in this piece is, “how do we increase the number of US business students studying abroad?”

The authors identify several barriers to business students studying abroad: financial and fear, cultural, and administrative and academic.  These issues that they present align very closely with the barriers to study abroad laid out in IIE’s 2014 green paper, What Will it Take to Double Study Abroad?; cost, culture and curriculum.  The barriers they present resulted from a recent survey conducted by member universities of the Magellan Exchange.  The most common barrier, according to the survey, was a financial one.  Many students can’t, or believe they can’t, afford to participate in study abroad programs.  However, as the authors point out, there are currently ways to get around this issue of cost, including scholarships, loans, or student travel savings plans.  They then discuss the cultural barriers formed by the influence of family, friends, and professors.  According to the survey, 90% of US students saw family as somewhat of a barrier or a large barrier.  This is especially true for first-generation college students.  The authors suggest an information campaign on study abroad directed at parents, to show them that these programs are safe and beneficial for their children.  Likewise, unsupportive friends can create a barrier to studying abroad.  The authors suggest pairing prospective study abroad students with past participants to share their great experiences.  Another step that needs to be taken is to convince faculty (who may be advising prospective study-abroad students) of the worth of international experience- the authors suggest incorporating this in the criteria for achieving tenure.  I like the idea… but I don’t quite see that one flying anytime soon.  The authors present a similarly unrealistic solution to curricular barriers:

There is no business major which covers every piece of knowledge in the discipline. So departments should recognize that the student who learns something different than what might have been identified in the major coursework at home had at least an equally rich academic experience as one who stayed at home and followed the precise curriculum. Prerequisite requirements may need to be waived – for example, does it really matter which comes first – micro or macroeconomics? Basically, every effort needs to be made to ensure a semester of overseas study moves the student a semester closer to graduation.

I applaud the authors’ enthusiasm, but I can’t imagine departments giving up control of their academic requirements that easily.

While I don’t think that they present the most realistic solutions, I do agree with the authors’ conclusions: “Increasing student participation in study abroad programs should be a key goal of all business schools,” “Institutional support for study abroad must be a priority,” and that there must be a holistic approach to reducing the barriers to study abroad.  The Committee for Economic Development’s 2006 report Education for Global Leadership claims that “To compete successfully in the global marketplace, U.S.-based multinationals as well as small businesses must market products to customers around the globe and work effectively with foreign employees and business partners.”  Clearly, the authors of Increasing International Study Abroad Rates for Business Students would agree, and would argue that to achieve this, we must do more to encourage business school students to study abroad. 

Gordon, P. J., Patterson, T., & Cherry, J. (2014). Increasing International Study Abroad Rates for Business Students. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 18(3), 77.

Heintz, S., & Isaacson, W. (2006). Education for global leadership: The importance of international studies and foreign language education for US economic and national security.  

Institute of International Education. (2014). What Will it Take to Double Study Abroad?. Retrieved from:

Trends in Graduate Student Study Abroad

In their piece Graduate Student Learning Abroad: Emerging Trend? from the fall 2014 volume of International Higher Education, John M. Dirkx, Kristin Janka Millar, Brett Berquist, and Gina Vizvary survey the current landscape of study abroad at the graduate level.  They begin by pointing out that study abroad at the graduate level should be, and is, fundamentally different than at the undergraduate level.  They then go on to discuss the work of a new project at Michigan State University, the Graduate Learning Experiences and Outcomes study, which was formed to investigate “the landscape of international learning opportunities offered at the graduate level.”  From a recent survey of 15 US research universities that the study ran, it was discovered that most of the graduate-level study abroad programs were short-term (four weeks or less), faculty-led, and made up of 6-20 students.  Program costs are almost always covered by the students.  The universities surveyed offered programs to 59 different countries, with China being the most frequent destination.  The programs do not typically feature homestays; the students usually stay in tourist accommodations.  The programs themselves usually consist of a mix of lectures and experiential activities, such as field trips, research, and volunteer service.  The faculty leaders who were surveyed expressed their goals for the program to include international collaboration, preparing students for international careers, creating a global presence for their university, and challenging students’ perceptions of the world.  They use these trends to frame a call to action for greater research into how to administer graduate-level study abroad.  They conclude that “Graduate study-abroad experiences should complement and deepen the learning that occurs within a student’s graduate program,” but go on to pose several questions that must be explored further by the international education community.  Most importantly, what are the indicators of a successful study abroad experience at the graduate level, and how can we know that these programs are achieving the outcomes that we desire?

This piece poses some important and thought-provoking questions.  The Committee for Economic Development’s 2006 report, Education for Global Leadership, claims that “It is becoming increasingly important for U.S. companies of all sizes to succeed in overseas markets,” and as a result, warns that US students will need improved cross-cultural skills and foreign language competencies to compete in the global marketplace.  As the Michigan State survey showed, one of the main reasons that faculty lead graduate-level study abroad courses is to help students prepare for international careers.  This outcome plays right into the CED report’s call for global competence education.  In order to ensure that we effectively instill these competencies, we must heed the call of the Dirkx et. al piece and continue to question whether these programs are truly achieving our desired outcomes, and how these programs can be used to address future challenges and priorities.  Furthermore, we must continue to monitor the programs to make sure they are most beneficial to graduate students, and not just undergraduate programs that happen to be attended by graduate students.  If properly researched and monitored, graduate-level study abroad programs can lead to a new generation of advancements in global competence education, and therefore continued US economic security.

Dirkx, J. M., Millar, K. J., Berquist, B., & Vizvary, G. (2014). Graduate Student Learning Abroad: Emerging Trend?. International Higher Education, (77), 14-15.

Heintz, S., & Isaacson, W. (2006). Education for global leadership: The importance of international studies and foreign language education for US economic and national security.