Dear BI Career Consultants:March 4, 1999 |
Dear BI Career Consultants:
I have received an M.A. degree in history and have done service projects in West Africa. My ultimate goal is to be a director of international student affairs. In order to get there, I need a doctorate degree, and in order to get into a doctoral program, I need experience in higher education.
What strategies would you suggest I use to get an entry-level position in higher education with my current education/experience?
Grace Ansah Director, Office of International Student Services, Howard University
Work experience and academic preparation in a wide cross-section of disciplines are important for a career in the field of international student affairs. Such disciplines may include international relations or education, cross-cultural communication, cross-cultural education or counseling, guidance and counseling, counseling psychology, student development, or combinations of these disciplines. Work experience in any of these disciplines weighs heavily.
In addition, the following are essential qualifications:
h an understanding of the cross-cultural adjustment cycle;
h experience living and working in a
different culture for a period of time;
h counseling skills;
h program development, implementation and evaluation skills;
h skills in training design and evaluation of training programs, workshops and seminar;
h knowledge of orientation program- design, implementation and budgetary management;
h knowledge of and work experience with immigration and labor policies and regulations;
h collaborative skills-working with diverse populations and as a team member; and
h the ability to manage a diverse staff, pay attention to details, and write clearly.
A doctorate is usually not a requirement for entry into this field, although it can be an asset to you professionally. In some cases, a doctorate is necessary for the directorate of a multicultural affairs unit — although this varies with institutions of higher education. Since you plan to pursue a doctorate degree, you may want to major in one of the disciplines mentioned above. Seek out opportunities to volunteer or acquire a graduate assistantship or fellowship in an international service oriented office, where you will gain exposure to the field.
Ideally, you will enter the field at an international student advisor level, which usually requires a bachelor’s degree in any of the disciplines already mentioned with two or three years of relevant work experience. A master’s degree may sometimes be substituted for work experience. At the directorate level, a master’s degree in any of the disciplines mentioned and two to three years of professional work experience are the usual requirements.
Usually, doctoral programs do not require experience in higher education as a prerequisite for admission.
Karen McMichael, Esq.
School of Law
There are a number of entry-level options for college graduates seeking positions in higher education administration. Many universities and colleges actively recruit recent bachelor degree graduates for their entry-level positions in admissions, financial aid, and international student services departments. Employment in these departments is an excellent training ground.
Most admissions and financial aid offices serve a varied student population that usually includes foreign students. Admission departments often seek individuals who possess excellent public speaking skills and who are comfortable traveling to recruit prospective students. Financial aid departments usually hire entry-level candidates who are familiar with computerized data entry and demonstrate good communication and mathematical skills.
International student services departments often hire recent college graduates who have foreign language skills and international travel or living experience. Again, superior communication skills are a must and counselors must demonstrate the flexibility to interact with students from diverse international backgrounds.
These entry-level university positions are often advertised in local newspapers and higher education journals. An applicant with an M.A. and international experience should certainly highlight these credentials. I would also encourage individuals interested in international student affairs to read as much as possible about international education trends. I think it also is a good idea to learn about immigration regulations and policies that are pertinent to international students. You might expand your experience with foreign students through volunteer work with an English as a Second Language (ESL) program or social service organizations that serve immigrant populations.
Individuals who are new to international student affairs positions should investigate organizations that support administrators in this field. The National Association of Foreign Student Advisor (NAFSA) organizes regional and national training workshops for both new and experienced university administrators engaged in foreign study exchange
or foreign student advising. Another helpful
source of information is the Institute of International Education (IIE) which is located in New York City. You can access information from their Web site, <http://www.iie.org>. IIE also publishes international education reports and maintains an excellent international education resource library in their New York location.
for Developing Excellence
University of San Francisco
I would like to respond to your questions by offering many possible factors you may want to consider, as well as issues you may need to think about and examine while looking for a specific entry-level position in higher education.
When seeking a position in higher education, the usual path we take would be to search the Internet career bulletin boards, Black Issues In Higher Education, other higher education journals, and various professional organizations. No matter where and how diligently and thoroughly you seek position-opening information in these resources, there is one thing that you need not forget — your original intention and passion for what you want to do. Between where you are now to where you would like to be, the director of international student affairs, there are many exciting possibilities for you to consider.
However, first you need to ask yourself why you want to be in the fields of student affairs and international education? How do you see your learning and personal experiences contributing to these fields?
It is vital here for you to be clear about these questions so that you will be in the “driver’s seat” when making important decisions. What is it that you would like to do as a director of international student affairs? Having clarity in your own intention will help you determine what position, avenue, or program you will take when the opportunities arise.
In this process, some practical and realistic factors also will need to be examined. For example, “international education” can be defined in various ways depending on the institution. It can be positioned within academic affairs — focusing on courses relevant to intercultural, international as well as multicultural aspects — or it can be placed under the student affairs — focusing on providing services and support mechanisms relevant to the international students who are studying in the United States. Some institutions may define international education as study abroad experiences; thus, it may be situated within a particular academic department. International education also is sometimes positioned within the service-learning context.
Learning about an institution’s priorities and positions on “international” and/or “multicultural” issues should be one of the important criteria for your job search as well as your future academic pursuit.
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