Archive for the ‘Careers’ Category

By Brad Sekulich

A career in study abroad was not on my radar when I was an undergraduate student, or even for some time after that. The path that has brought me to the field of education abroad–my chosen field for almost 20 years now–has been very interesting and one I never would have anticipated.

The financial need for a job while working on a PhD led me to take my first job in international education at Texas Tech University. I was their first full-time study abroad advisor and left after a year to become the first full-time study abroad coordinator at University of Texas-Arlington. It’s important to note that I was the first full-timer at these institutions, serving in positions that are now very common. It says a lot about the field’s development in the past two decades. It really is impressive to see the growth of opportunities in education abroad, mostly because it means there is more need for our services. The American mindset is globalizing, albeit more slowly than for most of our liking.

As the field has evolved in the past two decades, so too have the ways we enter it, work in it, and promote it. Now many, if not most, folks working in or wanting to work in education abroad do so intentionally and with quite a bit of forethought.


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By Tiffany Harrison and Kayla Patterson

With the NAFSA annual conference just around the corner, we’d like to talk about the importance of getting social. More specifically, we’re referring to the use of social media to enhance your career and professional development. As we’ve stated previously, merging your offline and online networking together is integral to how you market yourself. To give you a better sense as to why your online profile has become increasingly valuable, we’re covering some of the key questions we’ve received as social media advocates, and discussing what it means for you as an international educator.

Why is social media so important for career development?

Social media is important for career development because it’s such a powerful form of networking. As is inherent in the term “social networks,” channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Instagram have become the places to build a network of friends, fans, followers, connections, or whatever else you’d like to call them! Networking is key to career and professional development. The connections you make on social media could help you get a new job, find a mentor, learn more about your industry, support a career change, and more.


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By Patricia Jones

When I got my first business card, I was so excited. Here at last was proof that I was a recognized professional in a position of authority in international education. I could exchange it with my peers, provide it to my students, and present it to individuals from around the world. This was validation of who I was.

For years, I carried it proudly in my card case. It was a part of my personal identification. But then came the day that it no longer defined me. I was retiring.

Many of us look forward to the day when we don’t have to get up early in the morning, dress for work, and do our jobs all day. However, as we close in on that rite of passage known as “retirement,” we often have concerns about how we will adjust. What will we do with our time? How will we replace the interactions with our colleagues? Will we still grow intellectually? Our lives are so filled with individuals we serve, people we nurture, and cross-cultural experiences we share that we are not sure about the whole process of moving into this new world of unknowns.


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By Katherine Punteney

The Forum on Education Abroad reports that 87 percent of its members hold a master’s degree or higher, and the Association for International Education Administrators found that 81 percent of senior international officers hold doctoral degrees. It seems like everyone you have met has told you that you need a graduate degree to move up in the field. So you decide to take the plunge and apply for a graduate degree program in international education. The dilemma now is choosing the right program. How can you tell what the program will be like and what it can offer you?

The first key decision to make is whether you want a more theoretical, research-based curriculum or a more applied curriculum. At the doctoral level, this is typified by the choice between the PhD and EdD. In the United States, the doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree typically takes six years to complete, and, as the name suggests, is often theoretical in focus. Following approximately two years of full-time course work, including courses on research methodology, the PhD student will embark on three to five years of research to carry out and complete a dissertation. The emphasis is on creating new understandings of phenomena in international education through research, with recommendations for practice.


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By Mandy Hansen

I asked my colleagues and session attendees the following question: “What is one challenge that you’ve had, as a woman, in navigating your professional life?”

A few of the replies include:

  • Confined to one role, locked in and not supported;
  • Balancing being assertive and being perceived as “bossy”;
  • Trouble being heard and taken seriously;
  • Being a woman of color and not having someone to look up to and be a mentor; and
  • Lack of understanding of the work done: it’s viewed as “fun” and anyone can do it.

Renditions of these replies are repeated even though the audience shifts from state to state. I’ve done three different sessions on the topic of women and leadership in three different states over the past eight months, and certain themes emerge that turn a solitary experience into one that is shared among others in the room. The goal of these sessions is to open up the dialogue and validate the experiences of women.


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By Samantha Martin

Is international education experiencing a creativity crisis?

My team and I have been on a “listening tour” of sorts with international educators and students for the past 2 years as we build new human-centered software for education abroad. In that time, I’ve been quite struck by the overwhelming sentiment from international educators at all levels that there’s very little room for creativity in higher education today.

This is a problem. We need our highly educated, well-traveled, multilingual international education workforce to unleash their creative minds on very real and complex problems.

Where are we missing the mark?

For starters, I think many of us imagine that creativity is a special experience reserved for artists and designers. We forget that creativity is solving problems in a new way within the confines of meaningful limitations. The more complex the problem or set of problems, the greater the need for creativity. Viewed this way, international education is a field that requires a lot of creativity to solve problems for stakeholders operating within different linguistic and cultural constructs across multiple timezones.


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Edited by Ellen Badger

This month’s Advice From the Field column from Gary Althen, former NAFSA president (1997-98) and retired from the University of Iowa, offers strategies for managing the never-ending amount of information we need to know to do our job as international educators.

Q. There’s so much information about my field both on line and in print. What are some strategies for staying informed?

A. Gary Althen
Early in my career I heard David Berlo, the author of The Process of Communication, say that people’s main problem in relation to communications was avoiding information for which they had no need.

That was more than a quarter century ago. In the meantime the problem has compounded many times over. The problem is too much information. Way too much.


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By Sora H. Friedman

As one whose international education (IE) career is usually focused on helping rising professionals plan their future professional development, I recently had the opportunity to consider the opposite side of the coin. I got to see firsthand how NAFSA’s International Education Professional Competencies can be used as a guide for hiring new colleagues. Using the Competencies for this purpose gave me a chance to consider the breadth of the field of international education from my own vantage point, as well as what it might look like for my team and my potential new colleague.

In 2015, NAFSA published its Competencies as a tool to help IE professionals plan their career development, and to assist supervisors and hiring managers as they evaluate their staff and assess their staffing needs. According to NAFSA, “the tool is organized into four key professional practice areas—Comprehensive Internationalization, Education Abroad, International Education Enrollment, and International Student and Scholar Services—as well as cross-cutting competencies . . . the shared skills and knowledge needed across all international education domains.” More specifically, the cross-cutting competencies include: advocacy, communication with stakeholders across campus and community, financial stewardship, human resources, information technology, intercultural communications, leadership, and strategic planning. The tool was also developed to be applied at various levels of planning and practice, including the individual, team, institution, and field levels.


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By Mitch Gordon and Steve Moraco

The rise of high-tech startups and other transformative entities have dramatically changed how we do business and live our daily lives over the past decade. Uber changed the way we think about mobility. Airbnb changed the way we travel. Netflix changed how we watch TV. We’ve all seen firsthand how these important startups have fostered innovation and forward thinking.

Leading-edge innovation is affecting the world of international education as well. Take for example the emerging world of online education. Coursera, 2U, General Assembly, and others will impact the world of international education in ways that can’t be clearly seen at the moment.


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By Marty Tillman

An American expat running a study abroad program in the Gulf region recently commented on LinkedIn that when students were asked: “What were your expectations before the trip?,” their responses generally were: “I thought it was going to be a vacation,” or “I thought there was going to be more down time.” The perception that study abroad falls solely within the tourism or leisure travel sector is present in some experiences. And all too often, students’ cognizance of the relationship between study abroad and employability takes place well after the experience, if at all.

Can we expect students to connect the dots? I don’t fault students for making the decision to study (or work, serve, or intern) abroad without giving extensive consideration as to how their experience will strengthen their employability post-graduation. That’s pretty abstract and removed from the immediate concerns of a sophomore or junior (although critically important for low-income and first-generation students). Students decide to participate in all manner of cocurricular programs for varied and valid reasons. But I think it would dispel some of the students’ misperceptions and would make study abroad more meaningful if institutions make it explicitly clear that international experience is viewed as an integral asset to students’ academic and career goals. That such an experience “extends the knowledge gained in the classroom and prepares students to be global professionals upon graduation” (Murrell).


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