Internationalization of the College Campus


Internationalization of the College Campus: The Expanding Role of Student Affairs

Nadir Sharif Bucknell University

Internationalization of the College Campus


Abstract Record numbers of international students are enrolling in colleges and universities in the United States. Internationalization of the college campus has gone from being a phenomenon driven by the desire of foreigners to study, work, and eventually settle in the United States to being driven by a conscious effort by college administrators to increase diversity on campuses in order to produce students who are better prepared to excel in today’s connected world. (Ping, 1999) This has introduced new challenges to the field of student affairs. Student affairs professionals are not only busy finding ways to attract and retain more international students, but to make the learning experience most rewarding for them, as well as making the most of their presence on campus to enhance the learning experiences of their hosts.

Internationalization of the College Campus


Introduction A record high of 623,805 international students were enrolled in colleges and universities in the United States during the academic year 2007/08. The number of new international students enrolling in the same year was 173,122 – a 31.2% increase of the new international student enrolled in 2004/05. (Open Doors 2008/International Students in the US, 2008) Over the past two decades there has been a strong push, originating from within the United States, for an increase in the number of international students that attend US colleges and universities. The reason for this has been the widening gap between what colleges and universities see as a complete education, and what is deemed necessary for success by employers in the real world. This in turn has led to a revision in the educational expectations of colleges. An increased presence of international students is seen as one way of creating opportunities for domestic students interact with others from different backgrounds and to learn to work effectively with them. However, the matter is quite complex, perhaps more so than was initially anticipated. With increasing importance being attached to the internationalization of campuses, researchers are busy finding answers to crucial questions that surround the issue. This literature review examines some of these scholarly discussions, and attempts to summarize and critically analyze the answers that are provided by scholars to the following questions: 1. Why has internationalization become an issue of such great importance? 2. What role do student service professionals play in facilitating the process of internationalization? 3. Should colleges and universities strive to achieve and maintain a critical mass of international students? 4. What do student service professionals need to do in order to ensure that domestic students reap maximum benefits from the internationalizing of campuses? Why has internationalization become an issue of such great importance? Globalization is shaping most societies today. It is speeding up the interaction between and integration of various cultural, political, business and intellectual elements worldwide. Several views exist on the value of globalization, some in favor of it, others not so much. It is believed that the ability to utilize globalization for achievement of desirable goals, and avoiding its negative effects, lies in the cultivation of knowledge. (Wood, 2008) In today’s world, possession of knowledge and the ability to apply it in a global context is crucial for advancement of the individual as well as society as a whole. It is essential for employers to attract and retain competent, globally resourceful individuals in order to remain abreast with domestic and international competition. (Wood, 2008) Although the existence of internationalization was a political and economic fact long before it was recognized as an essential component of college education. But the emergence of a global economy, in addition to other international factors, brought an urgency to the educational ask of internationalizing the campus. (Ping, 1999)

Internationalization of the College Campus


Another very important reason for campuses to promote diversity and to encourage interaction between students from different backgrounds is the increased diversity of American population. Students no longer have to travel far from home to encounter diverse populations. In a unique study, set apart from others by the size of the population surveyed, Zhao, Kuh, and Carini note that the American society is more diverse now than ever before. It is not surprising then that observers, inside and outside the academic circles, believe that it is an important goal of higher education to prepare culturally competent individuals, able to work effectively with people from different backgrounds. This is also an important goal from a student development point-of-view. By intentionally creating environments that expose students to different and sometimes competing perspective, assumptions that were previously unchallenged can be challenged. (Zhao, Kuh, & Carini, 2008) Thus, the importance attached to internationalization of the college campus is largely driven by the need to provide better workers for an increasingly globalized economy, and better citizens for an increasingly integrated global society. What role do student service professionals play in facilitating the process of internationalization? In order to achieve any of the educational and learning outcomes that result from the internationalization of a campus, it is necessary that not only the number of international students being admitted be increased, but that the college should appeal to a greater variety of foreign students. It is also crucial that these students’ special needs are met in the best possible manner, so that the increased level of internationalization may be maintained. To this effect, counseling services play a very crucial role in enabling student affairs practitioners to achieve goals of internationalization. In order to achieve their goals, students must make successful transitions to their new educational and social environment. Kimberly Gillette lays out several ways for student affairs practitioners to better facilitate foreign students’ transitions to their new environment. Areas within student affairs to which specific attention is called include faculty development, language support, and faculty-student engagement in the classroom. (Gillette, 2008) While Gillette does a fair job of recognizing these areas, she makes few practical suggestions on how the said goals could be achieved in these areas. One issue that has received a lot of attention is that of international students’ transition to the United States. Several studies have focused exclusively on this issue as it is seen as a crucial part of the internationalization process. Another reason that this issue has received more attention is that it is very tangible. Pranata, Foo-Kune, and Rodolfa highlight the major problems faced by international students in their transition to the United States; they do so from the perspective of health and mental health practitioners. Pranata et al look at more than just the effects of culture shock and go a step further by describing the differences in providing health and mental health services to international students as compared to domestic students. Several tactics and strategies are presented by the team as possible ways to enhance practitioners’ ability to cater to the needs of international students. Professional training to increase cross-cultural competency and educational programs for international students to modify their attitudes toward psychological problems are among the strategies proposed. (Pranata, Foo-Kune, & Rodolfa, 2006)

Internationalization of the College Campus


An important part of the transition is the ability of international students to integrate into the host community. Integrating with the host community allows international students to develop a social support system that is not entirely dependent on other students from similar backgrounds or on the international community in general. Hanami (2007), an Australian international education consultant, outlines five broad strategies to help student affairs practitioners develop programs to integrate international students into their host communities. These ‘five steps’ are summarized in the table below: Step 1 Respect the student’s culture Step 2 Quantify your institution expectations of international students? Step 3 Analyze your culture and consider the best way to share it. Step 4 Make available all relevant study information in the students native language Step 5 Increase student opportunities for participation. Table 1: Hanami’s 5 Steps to Student Integration While most of the suggestions made by Hanami in his article ‘5 Steps to Student Integration’ (2007) would make it easier for international students to successfully transition to a new environment, the suggestion made in ‘Step 4’ could take away from a students’ ability to integrate in the host community. Reducing a student’s dependence on English for academic work may also prevent acquisition of important language skills in the context of learning. This could also affect international students’ interaction with domestic students if the former do not have a strong background in English. (Hanami, 2007) The particular suggestion discussed above is also in disagreement with what other scholars believe to be a crucial component of succeeding in the host nation’s educational system. Mastering English is one of the major academic issues faced by international students in the United States. (Lipson, 2008) As Lipson emphasizes time and again in his work, academics rein supreme on international students’ list of priorities. Thus, overcoming academic challenges is a crucial part of the transition to college life in the US. Since Lipson’s intended audience is the international student, and not the intermediate student affairs practitioner, the latter can use his work as a guideline for what they should be telling international students who are having difficulties adjusting to the academic expectations of their institution. Similarly, language is identified as one of three main areas for students to choose from when deciding what is holding them from blending in with the new culture; the other areas are behavior and identity. (Mathew, 2008) Mathew’s article also provides a ‘Cultural Skills Worksheet for International Students’ that can be used by counselors to help student recognize areas where they may need assistance. The article also makes brief suggestions for programming that could help student affairs practitioners provide the necessary assistance. Yet another author that provides suggestions for international students to help with their transitions is Senel Poyrazli (2005). Poyrazli brings together a wealth of knowledge from several sources into a brief article and presents an overview of the international students’ experiences in the United States. She does so by breaking down the students’ experiences into academic, social, and psychological experiences. She then goes on to provide tips for student to deal with various issues that they face in each of these categories. (Poyrazli, 2005) Many of the suggestions made by scholars have already been implemented, and some of these have been studied closely by student affairs practitioners to find the most suitable practices for

Internationalization of the College Campus


various scenarios. Burr (2007) presents a compilation of promising practices for the successful and sustainable internationalization of a college campus. She approaches the issue in a very systematic manner, beginning with the place of student learning and faculty development goals in the mission statement of an institution, to categories of activities that may be initiated to internationalize a campus, to specific examples of successful programs and activities currently being employed to accomplish these goals at various colleges and universities across the country. Should colleges and universities strive to achieve and maintain a critical mass of international students? The relative density (percentage of total student population) of international students may determine the effectiveness of student affairs in achieving the learning objectives that drive internationalization efforts. Zhao et al (2008) present one of a few studies that focus on this issue specifically. They point out that while students with a strong social support system tend to more quickly and effectively adjust to college life, the ease with which they can find this support may adversely affect their level of engagement in college life, and interaction with students from the host country. In the same study, Zhao et al observe that both international and domestic students at institutions with a high relative density of international students saw the campus as being less supportive. While the authors offer speculation on why this may be the case, they emphasize the need for further research in the area so that a better understanding of the issue may be achieved. However, Ping (1999) offers further insight on the issue. He explains that while the emergence of student groups and organizations built around similarities is understandable and desirable as a base of support, and may even help students strengthen their personal sense of identity – it can have adverse effects. When similarities become the sole reason for contact with others, the emergence of such groups and organizations can limit personal growth. Organizations that separate students on the basis of religious or national identities can diminish the value of international students to the campus and limit the educational experience of all students on campus. The educational aim of student affairs personnel, says Ping, is to bring develop strategies to bring together different groups and encourage interactions between them through campus-wide initiatives. The question of whether a high density of international students can be maintained without hurting the development of any group of students is not answered satisfactorily by currently available literature. However, strategies offered by scholars on how to better integrate the two populations (international and domestic) to achieve developmental goals that are higher than those which are possible when either one of these populations is absent, suggest that it may be possible to have a high density of international students and achieve these higher goals at the same time. The exact answer to this question, however, remains to be found. What do student service professionals need to do in order to ensure that domestic students reap maximum benefits from the internationalizing of campuses? The responsibility of catering to the special and diverse needs of the expanding international population was handed to student affairs staff. In addition to the basic charge of integrating foreign students into educational programs and campus life, a second charge was also delegated to student affairs practitioners. This was the less-defined and understood responsibility of using

Internationalization of the College Campus


the international students on campus to educate American students to the new reality. (Ping, 1999) While much of what is expected of student affairs professionals to help the American students gain the most from the presence on campus of their international counterparts has been highlighted in the discussion of the three questions above, specific attention needs to be paid to the issue while placing American students first. Ping (1999) and Zhao et al (2008) discuss campus-wide engagement strategies for common learning goals. These strategies require the definition of goals and objective of internationalization in observable quantities. Carefully designed arrangements for campus life and housing can enhance understanding of differences as well as commonalities. While campus interaction between people holding contradictory views offers many opportunities, it also presents many possibilities for conflict, and hence all such programming needs to be carefully supervised by student affairs personnel. If successful, such interaction of conflicting views can reduce the tendency among students to judge each other on the basis of differences, hence enabling them to work effectively in diverse and global environments later in their lives. Another aspect of the situation that Ping highlights is that of providing better preparation to the student affairs professionals who are to implement the strategies to achieve the goals of internationalization of campuses. It is emphasized that the redefined and expanded role of student affairs requires study, reflection, and above all, direct experience with other cultures. A similar view is expressed by Wood (2008) when he observes that the success or failure of international programs and initiatives depends primarily on the ‘dedication and capability of their faculty champions, their creative entrepreneurs’. The faculty-driven approach talked about in Wood’s work is crucial in ensuring that domestic students benefit from the presence of diverse perspectives in their classrooms. It would not be very helpful if the only people aware of the opportunities provided by international students’ presence on campus were those sitting in administrative offices. Faculty should be encouraged to integrate an international dimension into all they do. Implications for Student Affairs Practitioners The internationalization of college campuses has far-reaching effects on the role played by student affairs practitioners. It requires gaining intercultural experience to have the insight required to work effectively to create student programming to achieve specific goals of internationalization. Practitioners in various fields within student affairs need to receive training that enables them to provide culturally sensitive services; this is particularly true for health and mental health practitioners that are not always included in the explicit support structure for international students. Since many of the strategies being introduced to internationalize US college campuses are relatively new, practitioners need to be ready to handle unexpected outcomes and to continually look for ways to improve the learning experiences of all students.

Internationalization of the College Campus


Limitations A significant amount of information is available regarding the facilitation of international students’ transition to the US. However, this is not true for information regarding the experiences of upper class international students. While Zhao et al (2008) have tried to present quantitative data on student engagement among international students, based on the National Survey for Student Engagement (NSSE), no qualitative data is available for the same population. No attention has been paid by these scholars to the importance of the mix of international students that colleges recruit. Information on the effects of various mixes of nationalities on the learning and development outcomes of students is currently unavailable. A related issue that has been ignored is that of the role played by immigration officials, both on the state level as well as at the college level. With many new rules and regulations in place for international students, especially regarding career choices, there is a growing need for immigration specialists who can advise international students on restrictions that may apply to them. Policies introduced after the attacks of September 11 have also affected the ability of colleges to recruit students from certain countries in the world. The issue of internationalization in the context of global terrorism is studied by Soko Starobin (2006) who points out the fall in student numbers from certain countries post 9/11. Starobin seeks to answer questions about how colleges can work to rid international students of negative perceptions of immigration policies. The role of student service programs in creating global understanding needs to be highlighted further. While some of the implications of these unstated restrictions are discussed by Starobin (2006) further research is required on the subject.

Burr, P. L. (2007). Promising Practices for Internationalizing the Campus. Retrieved November 23, 2008, from Institute of International Education: Gillette, K. (2008). As the World Goes to College: Integration and Adjustment of International Students on Campus. Institute of International Education . Hanami, P. (2007). 5 Steps to Student Integration. Institute of International Education . Lipson, C. (2008). The Biggest Academic Challenges for International Students. In C. Lipson, Succeeding as an International Student in the United States and Canada (pp. 21-41). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Mathew, R. (2008). Counselling: Forging a Cultural Bridge. International Educator , 80-83. Open Doors 2008/International Students in the US. (2008, November 17). Retrieved November 20, 2008, from IIE Network: Ping, C. J. (1999). An Expanded Role for Student Affairs. New Directions for Student Services , 13-21.

Internationalization of the College Campus Poyrazli, S. (2005). International Students at US Universities. Eye on Psi Chi , 18-19. Pranata, H., Foo-Kune, N., & Rodolfa, E. (2006). International Students: Supporting Their Transitions to the United States. Student Health Spectrum , 28-33.


Starobin, S. S. (2006). International Students in Transition: Changes in Access to U.S. Higher Education. In F. S. Laanan, New Directions for Student Services (pp. 63-71). Wiley InterScience. Wood, V. R. (2008, November). Globalization and Higher Education: Eight Common Perceptionf From University Leaders. Retrieved November 2008, from Institute of International Education: Zhao, C.-M., Kuh, G. D., & Carini, R. M. (2008). A Comparison of International Student and American Student Engagement In Effective Educational Practices. Bloomington: Indiana University.

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