Ebola, Justice, and Liberia’s New Fight

Originally posted on accountabilitylab:

West Point CJTBy: Brooks Marmon, Accountability Lab. This post was originally published by Huffington Post.

In May, I moved to Liberia — a country with which I have close personal ties and with which I became deeply acquainted while researching its history for my Master’s thesis — for a job with the Accountability Lab. I was highly excited. I never imagined the devastating extent to which I would witness firsthand how Liberia’s difficult past shapes the numerous challenges it continues to confront in the present.

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On the Mission of the University

When I attended grad school in the late 60s, the student protest movement against the Vietnam War largely pushed those of us interested in working in higher education administration to [re]examine the mission or purpose of the university.  The draft meant that you HAD to think about why you were in college since it was literally a lottery as to whether or not you could graduate and start a career or see what was out there in the workforce -or go fight and perhaps die in Southeast Asia.  Some choice to think about every night and day in your senior year…

Which leads me to the choices students face now which are not deeply existential (am I or am I not a conscientious objector to this particular war or all wars), but rather focused down on practical and pragmatic economic consequences (how am I to repay my $30-50-or more thousand dollars in debt if I am only able to find work at minimum wage?).

So is college a place to learn or to earn? Everyone is writing and speaking on some aspect of this issue.  The titles reflect the debate in the public square: “Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life”; “Aspiring Adults Adrift” are two newly released books.  The former focuses on how our elite Ivy League institutions go about the business of educating their students while the latter concerns itself with a survey of how 1,000 recent grads fare in the workplace.  Other essays appear regularly in the Chronicle of Higher Education or University World News – and in the NY Times this past Sunday.

Frank Bruni, wrote a column, “Demanding More From College,” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/07/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-demanding-more-from-college.html?_r=0, which was excellent in examining the debate. His focus was not about issues of the curriculum, preparation for a career, advising, internationalization, or binge drinking; rather, he talked about the larger purpose which we, as a society, ought to be embracing when we send kids to college.  He said:

“We live in a country of sharpening divisions, pronounced tribalism, corrosive polarization.  And I wish we would nudge kids – no, I wish we would push them- to use college as an exception and a retort to that, as a a pre-emptive strike against it, as a staging ground for behaving and living in a different, broader, healthier way…”  Beautiful statement that is.

Bruni says a lot more that I agree with about the “narrowing” of student horizons; of how they are not associating themselves with those who think differently, and so on.  And how this is in fact, a result of how our society is moving – thanks to the way that what we read and watch and listen to only mirrors our side of an issue thanks to the internet. This is not, I think, just old school thinking – it’s a fact.  And so despite my own writing and speaking about the linkage between international education and employability and how students need to make sense of their off-campus experiences to strengthen their career portfolios, I want to be clear that I fully subscribe to what Frank Bruni says.

We need graduates in the workplace who know how to get along and be part of the larger world – who are unafraid of difference, who show empathy and are tolerant of those with differing views.  We can still aim for our colleges and universities to deliver on this promise.



News Flash: New Economy Will Not Embrace Entitlement

Global Career Compass:

Going to college is not, in and of itself, “enough” of a credential for employers. Students have to translate their experience in and out of the classroom and prove their value to an employer. Tough love for grads.

Originally posted on Global Career Compass:

The title of this post is a paraphrase of a quote by Phil Gardner, director of the Michigan State Collegiate Employment Research Institute, in a piece in the Nov. 20 Chronicle of Higher Education by Justin Doubleday (only viewable by subscribers).

All of us know the national job market is better than it was a few years ago and that the rate of unemployment has come down (although we still have too many people unemployed).  And we also know that the most highly educated in American society are least unemployed (although they may believe they are underemployed which is another story). What got my attention was Gardner’s quote and his use of the word, entitlement. He uses it in the context of what employers tell him –that they are searching for talent among college graduates who can “prove that their education will translate into real-world skills.”

Is this a shocking…

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How Studying Abroad Boosts Employability of Students with Disabilities

Global Career Compass:

How wrong assumptions lead to bad hiring decisions for disabled students

Originally posted on Global Career Compass:

MIUSA,  http://www.miusa.org,  has played an important and singular role in widening awareness of and supporting opportunity for those with disabilities to participate in education abroad programs.

Guest Post by Michele Scheib

Mobility International USA

One of the disability community’s top priorities is how to improve employment outcomes.

People with disabilities complete college at a statistically significant lower rate than people without disabilities, and those who do complete college have a persistently lower rate of employment irrespective of the level of degree attainment (associate’s, bachelor’s, and higher).1 University researchers, government agencies, and non-profit programs have used all types of approaches to reduce these inequalities. One strategy that holds promise is to tap into the power of study abroad.

Recent studies among study abroad alumni, though not specific to disability, have shown that study abroad increases retention and reduces time to graduation of postsecondary students (see: http://globaledresearch.com/study-abroad-impact.asp). …

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Building a Foundation for Peace One Friendship at a Time

Now that the Israeli government and the Palestinians have reached a deal to cease hostility, I thought it would be timely to share this op ed from the NY Times on “Peace Through Friendship,” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/opinion/sunday/peace-through-friendship.html?_r=0.  

A simple title, a very complex political conflict. And yet, the research reported (by two profs at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business) affirms what we would want and hope to believe –that “forming a relationship with even just one person from the other side of a conflict” creates a new frame of mind and positive attitudes  which are sustainable.This research was conducted with participants in the longstanding program of Seeds of Peace (a 3-week summer camp bringing together hundreds of youths from diverse conflict areas).

All of us who call ourselves international educators care deeply about the formation of positive bonds of friendship which can occur through experiences of living & learning in other cultures. So this ray of sunshine from examining the outcomes of a “soft” process of intimate interpersonal relationship-building deserves our attention. The research disabuses those who view such programs as naive or sentimental and without lasting outcomes.

So for those on campus (anywhere on the planet) who work every day with international students, perhaps this research also affirms efforts to increase and strengthen programs of intercultural interaction between host country and international students.  One student at a time — “better to light one candle than curse the darkness.”  Is there any alternative?

Welcoming the Rain in Ireland

This reflective and poignant essay is by a student who did not let her disability get “in the way” during her time abroad in Ireland…it’s a very beautiful piece of writing.  And it’s a courageous statement.

Enjoy it and perhaps pass it on…http://www.miusa.org/resource/story/linea

Students Do Not Connect Study Abroad Experience to Employability & Employers Expect Higher Education Institutions to Help Make the Connection

Global Career Compass:

Academic institutions with articulated internationalization policies need to do more to bridge the gap between student needs and employer expectations in the design and structure of their study abroad programs.

Originally posted on Global Career Compass:

Two  recent surveys help explain the quandry employers have found themselves in for several years when it comes to the mismatch between their need for talent and the recent graduates they interview, who may have international experience on their resumes, but who cannot make a solid connection between being abroad and the competencies which the employer values in a new hire.  This is precisely what I’ve been saying and writing about in recent years.  And it is a dis-connect which impacts not only the U.S. workforce, but resonates around the world for employers based both in the North and South.  On the other hand, it appears that not all employers – or at least their HR managers- place the same weight on whether or not study abroad is valued as an experience to develop necessary intercultural skills [a finding that contradicts the fact that overwhelming majorities of employers state this…

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Campus Advising Practices Impact How Students Make Sense of Studying Abroad


With students returning to campus this month, I thought I’d re-publish this post; I hope it might be useful for study abroad advisors and career service staff as they prepare to send off new groups of students to study abroad:

AIFS (American Institute for Foreign Study) has published my new monograph titled, Campus Best Practices Supporting Study Abroad & Student Career Development.  You can download it at http://www.aifsabroad.com/advisors/publications.asp.

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 http://www.iie.org/Programs/Generation-Study-Abroad)…

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.




Life Lessons From Studying Abroad…

The Washington Post magazine recently published, http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/studying-abroad-life-is-the-key-lesson/2014/07/31/c5cdbc3c-06af-11e4-bbf1-cc51275e7f8f_story.html, a wonderful reflective and insightful essay by a Georgetown University student.  It’s about her experience in Seville, Spain and I think it would make a terrific handout for a workshop either before or upon return for any student discussion group.

Here’s an example of the students’ insight:

“There’s a poem by Gail Mazur called “Why You Travel” that encapsulates why you should study abroad if you have the opportunity. The photographs of you traveling, wherever you are in the world, show you “having the time of your life, blistered and smiling. The acid of your fear could eat the world.”

That’s exactly it. To confront that fear. To face the newness and difference of everything and everyone. To feel yourself changing while still holding on to who you are.”

Learning how to cope with difference and the challenges of staying in touch with “who you are” are exactly what a student will confront while abroad in any country. It’s what I learned in India and what students I’ve traveled with have had to deal with.  And it is what a faculty member or program director must help a student muddle through during their time in-country…


Why Study Abroad?

It’s not often that the general public gets an opportunity to read a story and hear the voice of an intelligent and articulate student about the meaning of their study abroad experience –but here is an essay that appeared in the Washington Post magazine:


The writer writes about the meaning of her experience on many levels and she acknowledges that although she was in Spain – and not the developing world – this did not detract from the lessons she learned and the experiences which deeply affected her…

It might be worth sharing this essay on campus study abroad websites so other students can listen to how a self-described introverted student grew through her immersion in a highly outgoing and social cultural environment.



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