A multitude of students sit in a lecture hall
In response to a year filled with catastrophic events, we are excited to be launching a movement of positive and proactive transformation in higher education. The Global Alliance for International Student Advancement, or GAISA, is an organization of like-minded individuals and institutions dedicated to building a new model of international student success in higher education. Unabashed in our willingness to question — and yes, to disrupt, if need be — the status quo, we are setting new and higher expectations for the experiences and outcomes of students from around the world.
We, the founding members of GAISA, also hail from around the world and from diverse backgrounds and disciplines. Our advisory council is composed of 15 higher education faculty, administrators and students committed to advancing international student success across institutions. Together, we seek to unite students (domestic and international), parents (domestic and international), faculty, higher education administrators, and experts in education, retail and market behavior to help institutions create and sustain environments where international students thrive academically, culturally and socially.
These learners have historically been met with benign neglect and more recently, with downright hostility by some public figures. One unspoken reality is that the students who come to the United States to study in our universities and colleges have too often been seen through the lens of their financial contributions to our institutions. Sadly, this perspective, though rarely discussed, is not surprising, given the severe budget constraints that so many schools are facing.
But here’s the thing: looking to international students for what they can add to the bottom line is not only a terribly transactional way to respond to members of our academic communities. It also overlooks the wealth of undeniable benefits that they — and they alone — can provide. These learners should be welcomed for their ability to add unparalleled depth to the educational experience for all of us, from educators and institutions to domestic students and the wider community. So when it comes to amplifying and elevating the international student experience, GAISA will be unafraid to speak frankly, to listen directly, and to advocate fiercely.
In the coming months, we will be examining in detail how we can better integrate international students into the learning and lives of our institutions. We will be spearheading in-depth research into how these students and their families experience their time on and off campus. In the midst of a pandemic and in an exceptionally volatile political climate, we will be asking whether and where they see the need for more support. And we will be examining long-term issues in how colleges and universities treat international students.
As this past year has amply demonstrated, we cannot isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. Instead, we need to open up new pathways for creative innovation across borders and disciplines to find answers to the issues that challenge us all. All of us at GAISA are united in our belief that learning only happens when you begin to practice empathy with people from different cultures. And this empathy, in turn, deepens the learning upon which our futures depend.
Partnerships are key to GAISA’s work and we welcome you to join us.
Want to learn more?