The following is the first of a six-part weekly series highlighting model practices of international student offices.
Many of my friends in higher education who work with international students can relate to the following scenario:
University leadership decides to increase international enrollment by implementing a “new” international initiative. Meetings are set with multiple departments to communicate this “new” idea: “We are going to increase the number of campus international festivals and celebrations.” People politely applaud, but from the back of the room, the international office staff stands with expressions of disbelief.
Your scenario may be slightly different, but I’m sure you get the point. The lack of understanding for what is needed to orchestrate and maintain a quality international program is laid bare in a single moment, good intentions notwithstanding. Yes, there are numerous benefits to increasing international events on campus, but without a coordinated plan that has buy-in from multiple levels, the attempt at increased internationalization will fall short of expectations.
The Positive Impact of Internationalization
Higher education leaders and academic staff both agree internationalization has a positive impact on higher education. There is little debate that:
- Cultural diversity stimulates critical thinking skills and insight.
- Cross-cultural skills better prepare students in professional relationships.
- Internationalization equips students with a level of education and knowledge that employers will value when they return home and contribute to their economy.
5 Model Practices for Internationalization
In light of these benefits, I’ve decided to delve into my 17 years of experience and create a list of model practices effective international programs possess and pass along the spark of an idea to you.
1. The international program has a clear and concise vision and mission statements inclusive of global learning goals and cross-cultural competencies.
2. There exists a designated Senior International Officer (SIO) in the school’s administration who is a passionate advocate for internationalization.
3. There exists a strong international infrastructure that encourages study abroad, learning languages, and international content within the general education curriculum.
4. The international program has levels of student care focused on the needs of international students, including:
a. An onboarding process that includes a dedicated orientation process, which thoughtfully helps integrates international students.
b. Meaningful support structures tailored specifically to the needs of international students like multicultural dining options, holiday programming, specialized transportation, etc.
c. Specialized international health insurance plans that protect students from the typical up-front health costs of the American health care system.
d. Removal of punitive administrative processes (i.e. early move in or holiday housing fees, reduced campus facility hours during non-peak times, etc.)
5. Lastly, the program has a vibrant support network for international faculty and allows them to provide guidance and input to students at multiple levels.
In the following weeks, I will highlight various programs and initiatives around the country that demonstrate a commitment to these points with the intent of providing various benchmark approaches that you may find applicable to your campus situation.
What’s your experience at your institution? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you believe are the most important things you’ve done for internationalization efforts at your school, or examples you know about.
Author: Jeff Foot
Jeff Foot is the Executive Director at LewerMark and is responsible for developing new client relationships. He joined LewerMark after spending 17 years at Northwest Missouri State University where he served as Director of Admissions and International Affairs. While at the university he also served as International Affairs Director and Data Specialist for the Intercultural International Center. He has a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of Missouri, a Master of Science degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from NMSU and a Bachelor of Arts Sociology from the University of New Brunswick in Canada. Foot also led the English as a Second Language Program at Byuk Sung College in South Korea from 1998 to 2000.