September 13, 2021

Our Commitment to International Students is an Empathetic Approach to Humanity

GAISA has launched its year-long research study of Reimagining International Education in a Post-Covid World, we need to go back to the basics of what brought us together as an association.

For anyone who has ever worked in higher ed, we all know that there are never enough resources. There are never enough resources that directly talk about your institution or your students.
The fact is this is impossible to produce. The nuances of how colleges and universities operate with the 6000 institutions across the country, sometimes make each school indistinguishable from others. For international students, both current and potential, there is an added layer of confusion from language barriers to brand recognition that might not be truly addressed properly.

GAISA focuses on creating the tools needed by faculty and administrators for international student success.

Quite frankly it’s intersectionality.

Far too many institutions simply lump all of their international students into the same on box. But that demographic is without a doubt the most diverse group of students on any campus.
Professionals in international education know this quite well, however, it sometimes gets lost on all of the other offices that are attempting to provide services.

For GAISA we define intersectionality in two ways:

First is the sheer diversity of the international student population, from different faiths and faith traditions, to folks that hail from mono-ethnic countries, and all of the other unique aspects of these students.
Indeed, institutions should delight in their attendance for the value add of experience that they bring to the campus community.

Second is a pitfall of higher education, which is assigning the responsibility of success for a certain population on a single unit or department.
Our research focuses on the unique relationship between international education, student affairs and services, as well as diversity, inclusion, and equity professionals to find the overlap of what institutions need to accomplish for international students to be successful.

These two definitions are often overshadowed - or more truthfully, replaced - with monetary return. We cannot simply define such a diverse group of students by their bottom line contributions.
These are students with passions and fears, who come to our institutions without so much as knowing a trustworthy guide. We must embrace their humanity as both an aspect of strength for our school, but also as the most in-need students on campus.

GAISA advocates for a support model that clearly represents a relationship that is nurturing and helpful to these students on a foreign land. Empathetic approaches to those students, alongside financially and operationally viable processes, need to be created and reassessed for each generation that walks through our doors.
Our faculty needs to be trained on how to learn and listen from these students, and not assume the standard when it comes to perhaps, problems back home or mental stressors that come from a wide variety of issues that we do not have here on US soil.

Our research is most of all about the students. It's time we listen to them.

About the Author

Richard DeCapua, Ed is the founding President of GAISA and a 20 year veteran of the Higher Education system. He has worked at Boston College, as Dean of Student Affairs and most recently as Vice President of Academic Affairs at OneClass, an eduTech company.