The SIO and International Student Career Development: Bridging Campus Silos by John D. Heyl, PhD Editor, IELeaders.net Posted January 8, 2019
It is not exactly news that, in recent years, international student enrollment at US universities has been viewed as both the tail that wags the dog of the broader international education agenda and – with a national financial impact of almost $40 billion - even fiscal survival for some institutions. (K. Fischer, "From College Town to Chinatown," Chronicle of Higher Education, December 5, 2018) The rise in the visibility of international student recruitment and enrollment, has, however, also focused attention on declining new international student enrollment - down 6.6% in fall 2017; down about 1.5% in fall 2018. (See E. Redden, November 13, 2018. “New International Enrollments Decline Again,” Chronicle of Higher Education.)
Although a “mixed picture” (IIE’s Rajika Bhandari) going forward, campuses have certainly begun to focus on new ways to serve – and thus recruit and retain – international students. This process, while serving the institution's self-interest, has also had the result of breaking down some long-standing silos in institutions nationwide.
For example, a 2015 NAFSA report indicated that institutions are beginning to take aggressive steps to build bridges between international offices and career centers. The demand is clearly real. The University of Washington recently reported that 25% of those meeting with career counselors last year were international students. (See A. T. Field, ”How Colleges Are Helping International Students Land Jobs After Graduation,” Chronicle of Higher Education, November 12, 2018. Retrieved at https://www.chronicle.com/ article/How-Colleges-Are Helping/245066.) It is no accident that there is more activity in this area since international student revenue represented 26% of the institution’s net operating fee revenue at UW in 2017. (See Model Practices for Partnerships and Collaboration between Career Services and International Student and Scholar Services. Retrieved at www.nafsa.org.)
The package of services offered to international students by career centers tend to be basically equivalent to chose offered Cont'd at top right
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US students, but with some interesting adaptations. At the University of Illinois, there is additional emphasis on “soft skills” such as interviewing that can have an impact with a US company – e.g., the importance of eye contact, self-promotion and networking.
The syllabus for the Career Certificate – International Students (CC-I) program offered by Un Yeong Park in the Career Center at U of I starts out with the importance of the elevator pitch, developing a LinkedIn presence and, of course, resume writing. The final session features an elevator pitch competition and ceremony recognizing those earning certificates. Indiana University, Johnson & Wales University and Worcester Polytechnic University also integrate business etiquette and the importance of small talk into their workshops for international students. (See Model Practices . . ., pp. 3-4.) The benefits of breaking down the silo walls between the career center and the international office go both ways. The international student staff need to be confident that career counselors aren’t making commitments to international students and scholars that cannot be met. For this reason, immigration workshops for career center staff are crucial. Likewise, career counselors often learn about needs of international students that immigration-focused ISSS staff may not have considered. Meanwhile, professional online resources in this area continue to grow and can provide rich insights and program ideas for both offices – and for interested academic units, such as in health sciences, business and engineering.
The SIO’s stake in these developments is obvious. These emerging services to international students make the case Cont'd at top right
for international student recruitment and retention, one of the most urgent topics in higher education today – as well as for international alumni relations and diverse academic engagement. These bridging innovations – coalition building - put a spotlight on the critical role that traditional immigration services play while also recognizing that new pathways for international students need to be explored in a rapidly changing context.
In this way, the broader, institution-wide international agenda becomes realized by engaging ever-wider circles both inside and outside the institution. The SIO is seen practicing something Jack Van de Water recommended some years ago: “By creating an environment where good ideas are surfaced, brokered, encouraged, leveraged and implemented within a partnership framework, the central office is providing leadership, gaining influence, and serving as an effective change agent.” (See J. Van de Water, "The International Office: Taking a Closer Look," International Educator, 2000, 9(2), pp. 37. Cited in J. D. Heyl and F. J. H. Hunter, The Senior International Officer as Change Agent (2nd Edition) (Stylus/AIEA: Sterling, VA, forthcoming 2019), p. 44.)
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