Matching Student Expectations to Global Workforce

See my new blog posted to the global dialogue page for the European Association of International Education at:

As higher education has become a globalized industry, it should be easier to embrace more creative partnerships with businesses that must compete in a global economy. Finding the right points of intersection for students requires institutions to do a better job of assisting students to interpret and articulate the value of their international experiences to employers….

Show Me The Money –What You Gain If You Can Afford It

I could not help but smile when reading this story about the “add-on” career & personal travel experiences which are – for some- de rigeur in MBA programs:  Just as I’m writing more about issues of equal access to college and the inequality of access to international education, this story comes along…Working in the career office at the elite Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, I conducted annual “career treks” to NYC to bring students in contact with alumni and introduce them to those working at selected NGOs and international organizations.  Great for those who had the extra cash as no trips were subsidized in any way.

As the reporter states: “The trips usually aren’t free, often adding a shadow budget to an already expensive M.B.A. “I would say that $5,000 total for two years is a low to moderate budget, but is one that would still allow a student to experience significant social and academic travel opportunities,” says Mr. Shinewald [founder of mbaMission], whose firm works with M.B.A. applicants. At the high end, $20,000 to $30,000 for two years is not uncommon, he says.”

And the reporter goes on to say that companies are sometimes footing the bill for these extra-curricular networking opportunities (so much for any questions about the influence of the private sector in support of graduate business education).

Macroeconomics, Inequality & Study Abroad

How do these come together?  I’ve been thinking about this due to the surprising popularity of a new book by Thomas Pinketty called “Capital in the Twenty-first Century.”  While I have not read it, I’ve heard him speak about it and read reviews —bottom line, we are a nation of growing economic inequality and it’s not going away. It’s a structural problem.  We also know about the increasing concern about massive student debt – upwards of 1 trillion dollars; and the struggles of institutions to stem the upward turn of tuition (you gotta pay for fancy dorms and new eating spaces somehow…).

What’s this got to do with study abroad and the cyclical effort to increase numbers of students (e.g.: the new IIE Generation Abroad initiative).  I fear that the economic realities we face will exacerbate the “employability gap” between those who go to college and have the opportunity to participate in an international experience (which as I’ve written, provides a strategic advantage to students who know how to optimize its value in their job searches), and students who are neither in college nor able to benefit from any form of international educational experience.  It’s already a huge gap when you consider that only 300,000 students, of an annual population of over 20 million undergrads, study abroad (the numbers do go up if you do count international work/service-learning and internships).

So we have growing economic inequality — a widening gap in educational opportunity — an increasing gap in access to international educational experiences — an inevitable gap in skills and competencies between those with and without international experience –and finally, the resulting inequality in employability for students who do not have the benefits of either a college education or international educational experience.

Quite a puzzle for us to sort out.  Do you agree?

Campus Advising Practices Impact How Students Make Sense of Studying Abroad

AIFS (American Institute for Foreign Study) has just published my volume titled, Campus Best Practices Supporting Study Abroad & Student Career Development.  You can download it at

I spent six months in 2013 researching, contacting and reviewing dozens of U.S. campus advising practices for students before, during and upon their return home from studying abroad. The outcome is not a completely satisfying portrait of how campuses – of all sizes, public and private, in every region – have organized their study abroad and career service offices to offer students an integrated set of advising options at the time they decide to go abroad through their time in-country and then upon their return to campus.

Only a handful of campuses provide resources and advise students in each of these three phases of their international education experience.  Why?  Mostly, it has to do with time and money — and yet the higher ed community bemoans the small numbers of students who study abroad (and is now gearing up to double this number in a national advocacy effort -see the IIE Generation Study Abroad at…

Perhaps more students would consider going abroad if they were advised to view their time abroad as a significant moment in their career development.  Yes, it is often tied to specific curricular offerings, and sometimes, it is just a chance to get out of the country for the first time, but it needs to be viewed as a time when students have a chance to develop skills which have the potential to be of great advantage in their job searches and their overall career advancement in future years.

Merely focusing on administrative remedies to increase numbers ignores the deeper problem for campuses — they do not provide adequate student services to assist students make meaning of their international education experiences.




An Ethical Perspective on Study Abroad

I’m pleased to share this Guest Post by my colleague,  Scott G. Blair, Ph.D. Transnational Learning Consulting, LLC

If I were asked to write a message to undergraduate students recently returned home from a study abroad program on the topic of how they might think—in ethical terms—about their time spent overseas, I would write this:

 As you return from study abroad, and whatever the type of program, I encourage you to think about what you experienced overseas not as an event but as part of a process- one that needs to extend across your entire life. If you think of study abroad only as an event, its utility is largely limited to what you got out of it yourself: personal learning and development; knowledge and skills valuable to career empowerment; deeper awareness of personal identity; new friends and contacts; travel and cultural discovery; lots of fun and exhilaration; and probably grades and credits. These are worthy outcomes I would not question, however, what I would question—and ask you to reflect upon—is whether these outcomes are sufficient in today’s troubled world?

Because if you were sensitive and perceptive while pursuing your personal and professional goals while abroad, you probably noticed the striking examples of injustice that plague both the societies you encountered and our larger global order: poverty, illiteracy, racism, gender discrimination, caste systems, unequal power distributions, trampled-upon human rights, environmental degradation, violence and human desperation, to mention but a few.

Alternatively, if you think of education abroad as part of a larger process of continually and intentionally discovering and experiencing our imperfect world—i.e., learning to ask what is really going on here; as a process of thinking about what human attitudes and values created such injustices—i.e., learning to ask why things are the way they are; as a process of seeking to identify and understand structures of power and privilege—i.e., learning to ask who benefits most from the status quo; and as a process of finding personal and collective ways to start challenging and changing the global “order” encountered—i.e., learning to ask what it would take to change the status quo—then your experience abroad begins to serve a purpose higher than your own personal development and empowerment.[i]

This purpose—the key outcome for education abroad in my opinion—is the development of an informed and critical method for identifying and effecting necessary social and political change. The path to this outcome is a process-driven approach to situating, contextualizing and actualizing your time studying abroad, one that combines your recent concrete experience, your ongoing reflective observations, your efforts in abstract conceptualization, and your civic-minded experimentation with the reality of power.[ii] When successfully applied, this approach results in a cycle of learning and awareness critical to effecting positive change, both within you and then, through you, to the world around you.[iii]

In short, and in the words of Jeremy Geller, study abroad as event largely equals, at best, commodification; at worst, extraction.[iv] But study abroad as process holds out a promise of social, political, ethical and environmental transformation. The former outlook—a case of not being part of the solution— contributes to the many injustices our species blithely creates and tolerates. The latter outlook offers hope that we actually care about redressing them.


[i] Garry Hesser. Teaching & Learning Experientially. Half-day workshop delivered at the Experiential Education Academy (EEA) during the 42nd Annual Conference of the National Society for Experiential Education, St. Pete Beach, FL, September 30, 2013. Drawing from the work of Linda Finlay (retired) of Ithaca College, Hesser refers to this four-stage interrogative process as the “DIE Model” of learning in which students Decipher, Interpret, and Evaluate.

[ii] David A. Kolb. Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, 1983.

[iii] Richard Slimbach. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning, Stylus, 2010, passim.

[iv] Jeremy R. Geller. The Participant Observer in Study Abroad: Training the Eye. 2013. Geller has articulated the consumerist and instrumental impulse behind much of education abroad in previous writings. See Jeremy R. Geller, “New Paradigms in Study Abroad”, in The Illinois International Review, May 2007. Online access to both articles is located here.

Accountability Innovations We Love- No. 7 to 17

Global Career Compass:

Accountability is essential in the way that U.S. universities apply their resources to support innovation in education –as illustrated in this collaboration between Stanford and University of Mumbai.

Originally posted on accountabilitylab:

MUMF Work By Blair Glencorse . In mid-January, the Lab was lucky enough to be in Mumbai for a conference hosted by various programs at Stanford University and the University of Mumbai . The discussions brought together over 100 social activists, change-makers, donors, thinkers and ICT-experts for two days of discussions about the ideas and tools that can improve governance through the use of technology.

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Sharing Impacts of Internationalization on a More Level Global Playing Field

For many years, the higher ed community has been discussing, both online and at its conferences, “internationalizing” campuses as a means to deepen the engagement and involvement of students -in the classroom and and via experiential learning – in global learning activities.  That’s a bit of an overly simplistic introduction to an important meeting that has just taken place in South Africa.

Fanta Aw, NAFSAs ( current President, has just written a blog about the Nelson Mandela Bay Global Dialogue (  on the Future of Internationalization of Higher Education, which just took place in South Africa (

The world’s major international education organizations were at this meeting. That in itself is a significant event as it was an inclusive gathering of leaders from North and South nations/regions.

What I liked about Fanta’s blog was that it focused on the importance of global educators addressing the inequities of globalization and its direct impact on our work as international educators.  As I’ve written here many times, the benefits of increased student mobility, as just one example, have not been spread democratically across world regions.  She writes that one of the meeting’s “principal” objectives was to engage in “in-depth discussion about the power relationships that currently drive the world of higher education internationalization.”

One hopes this was not merely a declaration of good intentions and elegant prose.

Participants went on to agree on three pieces to a future agenda for the international education organizations:

  1. Enhancing aspects of quality and diversity in programs involving the mobility of students and academic and administrative staff.
  2. Increasing focus on the internationalization of the curriculum and of related learning outcomes.
  3. Gaining commitment on a global basis for the creation of equal and ethical higher education partnerships.

Let’s see what happens.

Resources for Campus Internationalization

While I have found no causal connection  between campuses with strong internationalization policies and robust practices when it comes to linking study abroad & career service offices to advise students on their study abroad decision-making, this portal provides an important compendium of resource links for review:

On the other hand, it is more likely that campuses with strong leadership advocating for internationalization of their campus will, of necessity, support active engagement by faculty and administrators in making the case to students that international experience matters and is an integral component of their undergraduate education.

But this is not enough. The advising process, per se, needs – more often than not- to be harmonized between the two offices most often visited by students when it comes to sorting out their options for off-campus learning:  career services & study abroad.




Helping Academic Dreams Come True in Vietnam: A Little Goes a Long Way

Originally posted on An International Educator in Vietnam:

Fact #1:  In Vietnam, about one million students finish secondary school (i.e., junior high school) every year but public high schools can only accommodate 80% of that number.

Fact #2:  An estimated 200,000 students who failed one single high school entry exam have no other choice but to enroll in private schools. For students with economic difficulties, the high cost of tuition fees is a challenge.

Fact #3:  Poor students are likely to drop out of school due to high tuition fees at private schools.

In a country with a per capita income of just under $2,000 (2013) there are many opportunities to improve the lives of significant numbers of people with relatively small amounts of money – by international standards.  An education project funded by the World Bank and implemented by the East Meets West Foundation is a perfect example of this.  From 2010 to 2013, The Global Partnership…

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Of Emigration, Brain Drain & Brain Gain: Some Reflections

Global Career Compass:

Excellent thoughts on Vietnamese “brain circulation” from Mark Ashwill in Hanoi.

Originally posted on An International Educator in Vietnam:

Over the years, I’ve known and helped many young Vietnamese who have studied overseas.  Some I knew in passing; others became friends.  Quite a few made the decision to remain overseas either in the country in which they studied or a third country.  By doing so, they slowly but surely began the transformation from Vietnamese national to Việt kiều (overseas Vietnamese).



I think of the implications of this more now that I am living in their (home) country, some in mine and others elsewhere.  I have the gnawing feeling that another country’s (brain) gain is Vietnam’s loss and on glass is half empty days I can’t help feeling that Vietnam would be a better place in some ways, if some had remained.

On the other hand (and perhaps from a more rational perspective), I know that many would not be where they are now, academically, personally and professionally, were…

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