How Tulane University Changed the Student Experience After Hurricane Katrina – A Model Now?

I thought to search for documents about what happened to see if there might be a useful template for campuses who will likely need to re-imagine parts of their curricula offerings in the next few years. I recalled there was a complete re-focus on the university’s role in the re-building of New Orleans.

I remembered there was a renewed effort to re-design all kinds of service-learning options for students –and here is one analysis of how the university’s curriculum changed:

Tulane’s Center for Public Service (CPS)–transformed from a Center for Service-Learning in 2006–has been working aggressively over the last three years to ensure that all constituents- community partner, student and faculty – are favorably matched and successful. CPS’s work and the implementation of the two tiered service-learning requirement has created a constant, renewable and free work-force for almost 100 community organizations throughout the city.

There will be a host of emerging critical needs in campus communities as the country begins what I believe will be a period of years for full recovery from the pandemic. The mission of every college and university will need to embrace the critical needs of the communities in which they reside.

Webinar: Charting New Waters: Lay Offs in the Field of International Education

Here is the link to the Vimeo from the webinar which took place on April 17. I was speaking along with #Tom Millington and #Missy Gluckman:

Our goal was to open a dialogue on the immediate staffing changes being made by academic institutions and “providers” of education abroad programs. Either there have been immediate staff firings or furloughs; most often, pay freezes, if not reductions in salary.

Here are the ideas which framed my remarks:

  • Reassess your personal needs & professional expectations in this extremely fluid and unprecedented time
  • The pandemic has radically halted the momentum built up over the past decade in our field –the expansion of education abroad has been stalled everywhere as has the globalization of student mobility
  • Predictions are difficult: As with other sectors, campuses and providers in the EA community have differing strengths and weaknesses. Last year, IIE (over 100 years old) in NY went through financial difficulty, CIEE (75 yrs old) just laid off 600 staff and had to cancel all of their intl programs.  
  • It’s hard to predict or “play” the job market now. We are left with more questions than answers: Will campuses re-hire all program staff? Will campuses re-open programs to the same destinations later this year and into 2021?  Will we see a more splintered map for education abroad? Less mobility to developing nations whose infrastructure and health systems are now devastated? 
  • Will the coming generation of students measurably turn away from international experience outside the U.S. and instead look to domestic programs with a focus on internationalization-at-home? For example, service-learning
  • Will all the chaos facing the field now result in setting back efforts to diversify the IE field?

What are the implications for you as a job seeker in the field?

  • Likely that new hiring will be on hold for many months (perhaps Sept or even Jan 2021); at least until we know more about when the economy can “re-open.” When airlines will again fly their usual routes…When it’s clear how campuses and providers are able to re-schedule the programs they can still afford to offer.
  • When campuses and providers more clearly see what their short and medium term financial situation looks like.

What you can do?

  • Reflect on your transferable skills
  • Review and re-assess your strengths – identify skill deficits which could be a bridge to new employment (e.g. language, public speaking, tech)
  • Research organizations which align with both your skills and values
  • Revive & renew networking; grow new contacts. Lean-in to your trusted friends and colleagues.

On changing the learning paradigm in higher education

“Our whole model of education and all of its power comes from close human interaction.”

President, Colby College in Maine

What kind of collegiate educational experience will there be if most classes are virtual and there is no safe way for students to learn experientially – either at home or abroad?

I have no answer to this question. But I think everyone is thinking about it.

It feels like we’re left, for now, to keep turning the blocks on a Rubik cube…

U.S.Colleges Reporting “Huge” Financial Blows Due to Pandemic

Who would doubt this? The lead in a story reported by CBS News (April 7) in University World News is that the hit could “total” as much as $100 million at some campuses.

“Dozens of colleges have instituted hiring freezes, and many are halting construction projects so they have enough money to pay employees. But university presidents say the savings will only stretch so far, and many are asking the federal government for a second stimulus package to avoid deeper cuts.”

Let’s put this amount in some perspective: in the Sunday, April 12 Washington Post, there is a story in the Sports section, “No football would mean trouble for colleges.” Trouble…Not a huge financial blow…Here is a look at the trouble campuses face if their football programs collapse next year: Iowa State’s annual athletic budget is $90 million; 75% of this sum comes from football. At the University of Central Florida, a “roughly” $172 fee assessed to EVERY full-time undergrad provides more than $23 million of the athletic department’s $68 million in revenue. But, let’s look at the big boys –the University of Georgia’s athletic department has a $100 million “reserve fund!” At the University of Alabama, football generated $95 million of the athletic department’s $164 million of revenue in 2019!

While the vast sums spent on collegiate football programs, especially within the SEC conference, is not new, I was more affected about the “troubles” anticipated in this coming year given the more real blows campuses are going to experience with regard to their overall academic and administrative expenses. I loved playing high school football. But, I’ve never truly enjoyed the spectacle of the sport at big-time programs — and now, when the nation is suffering so deeply, it feels immoral to worry about coaches having to give up some of their multi-million dollar salaries because of lost revenue next season (big-time football coaches , let’s remember, earn far more than their campus presidents).

I can’t begin to imagine the Zoom calls with donors to collegiate football programs, with the coaches, and the development officers…How do they square the trade-offs of loss of revenue with no football season, against the loss of revenue from say, vast reduction in enrollment of international students, or loss of revenue because low-income/minority kids cannot afford to return to class?

What would it look like to turn football stadiums built for 80-90,000 fans into field hospitals? Even the vast parking lots outside these stadiums offer enough space to meet the overflow needs of hospitals.

I’m not in the mood to say more. I’m thinking about the first sentence in the CBS report that campuses across the country may suffer a loss of less than what one large athletic program costs at just one of our campuses…

The Fate of the News…

Like everyone on the planet, everything I do and think about now lies within the framework of the pandemic.

My child is a journalist and we are fully committed to her profession- and to its importance in our democracy. This quote is taken from a March 29 story in the New Yorker online: “The Fate of the News in The Age of the Coronavirus, ” by Michael Luo:

“A robust, independent press is widely understood to be an essential part of a functioning democracy. It helps keep citizens informed; it also serves as a bulwark against the rumors, half-truths, and propaganda that are rife on digital platforms. It’s a problem, therefore, when the majority of the highest-quality journalism is behind a paywall. In recent weeks, recognizing the value of timely, fact-based news during a pandemic, the TimesThe Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other publications—including The New Yorker—have lowered their paywalls for portions of their coronavirus coverage. But it’s unclear how long publishers will stay committed to keeping their paywalls down, as the state of emergency stretches on. The coronavirus crisis promises to engulf every aspect of society, leading to widespread economic dislocations and social disruptions that will test our political processes and institutions in ways far beyond the immediate public-health threat. With the misinformation emanating from the Trump White House, the need for reliable, widely-accessible information and facts is more urgent than ever. Yet the economic shutdown created by the spread of covid-19 promises to decimate advertising revenue, which could doom more digital news outlets and local newspapers.”

This piece goes on to frame the fate of the information ecosystem in the US around the widening economic gaps in our society –the best educated, wealthiest Americans have access to the finest forms of journalism. All others fend for themselves in the online marketplace of free information – fake or inaccurate though it may be.

I’m thinking about the fate of our higher education system in this same way: the best endowed privates or public institutions in the wealthy states will make it through to the other side of this economic catastrophe. And the benefits of “higher” education flow accordingly.

And so it goes ..

An Update: Campus Challenges and Opportunities in Devising Meaningful Processes of Career Integration

In 2014, the University of Minnesota’s Learning Abroad Center in collaboration with CAPA, sponsored the first-ever Career Integration conference. I had already been writing and speaking about this topic for a decade and I was grateful to be part of this program and submit a piece for the publication which followed the conference (” On the Linkage of International Student Experience and Student Employability”). From the outset, although conference participants were predominently from the U.S., authors in the compilation of conference topics were drawn from many nations.

Conferences have subsequently taken place in 2014, 2016 and 2018. The open-sourced volumes for the first two events summarizing presentations can be found at: The volume representing issues addressed in 2018 will be out in print on Monday, April 6; however, you can access the PDF here: wmv7iEbIxajjXtddFhxWToC5OYfB5ClscGizYKcV35N8P1gkY0h

At the first conference, a colleague named Simon Kho , formerly the director of the KPMG Global Internship Program [now Director of Campus Recruiting at Discover Financial Services], presented with me. And he wrote the Forward for the first conference publication. It’s worth quoting him:

“…there is a massive opportunity for university faculty and staff to serve as the bridge between workplace talent needs and students. Partnerhips between the world of work and the world of academia will broaden and deepen mutually beneficial interactions. Instead of just promoting international study experience, how can you help elevate the development opportunity for those students? We’d all agree that study abroad can be a life-altering experience. But, I have to believe that with the right preparation and learning cues, students who live and study overseas would maximize both personal and professional development, while impacting their future career trajectory.”

The 2020 volume carries on the dialogue as to whether or not campuses have been successful at building the bridge Kho alludes to. While written, of course, before the Covid-19 pandemic upended the world, I would hope the chapters provide food for thought as the global higher education community slowly digs itself out from this crisis. Here is an excerpt from the Introduction:

“The third edition of this journal offers further compelling evidence of the centrality of career preparation and employability in the agenda of education abroad. The discussions here, as in the previous volumes, attest to a pervasive awareness of the responsibility of educators for the lives of students beyond their formal studies. However, there is no untroubled consensus about how to realize this responsibility; it is apparent that the issues around career integration and employability are contested and challenge ideologies and pedagogies in several and various ways. There is, clearly, an ongoing and intense relationship between higher education and questions of employability within international contexts. These are uneasy times and, if there is such a thing as a zeitgeist, it might be that we seek remnants of security and pockets of stability. That education should lead to employment is just such a proposition; simple in statement but complex in application, as many of these essays demonstrate…”

It is safe to assume that the centrality of career preparation and employability within the context of education abroad will become even more critical in years to come. Campuses will need to reframe the contribution of international experience to the mission of their institution. Families will need to be convinced that as the job market recovers from the pandemic, their sons and daughters will gain essential skills and competencies from abroad experiences which strengthen their career aspirations upon graduation.

For further reading, I’d recommend a volume published in 2019 by Stylus and NAFSA: Education Abroad and the Undergraduate Experience: Critical Perspectives and Approaches to Integration With Student Learning and Development, co-edited by E. Brewer, A. Ogden. It’s excellent and the chapter on “The Intersection of Education Abroad and Career Readiness and the Role of International Educators” highlights current research connecting education abroad and employability.

My latest book chapter on education abroad and employability

Coming out in July!! My chapter in Education Abroad: Bridging Scholarship and Practice, is with co-authors, C. Matherly & J. Wiers-Janssen on “Employability: How education abroad impacts transition to employment.”

This is the latest in a series of chapters I’ve authored since 2012 on this topic. My interest in examining the employability advantages to students from their participation in education abroad programs dates back to the early 2000s. You will find a large selective bibliography -including all of my writing and that of varied authors from around the world – on my LinkedIn profile page:

When I first began to address the linkage between education abroad and student career development, including its tie-in with employability, I was largely viewing the topic from a uniquely American lens. In the early 2000s, I found few others in the U.S., in the international education field, examining this issue. Much of the research studies I found were, in fact, based on small samples of students, often from one academic institution -or from a selected population of alumni or recent participants, in a study abroad program sponsored by a private provider organization. Responses were most often self-reported by students. This new chapter adds a much broader, and may I say, nuanced, international perspective on the value of education abroad to a students’ future employability.

I’ve created a body of analysis in my writing where I advocated a two-tiered approach: First, for a more purposeful effort by campus study abroad and career offices to integrate their advising of students. That is, to point out the strategic, along with the personal and existential, advantages from education abroad. Secondly, the importance of engaging senior administrators and faculty in supporting the first point! As campuses now struggle to find their way through the perilous impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak, students are going to need every bit of advice, encouragement, mentoring and thoughtful perspective about their future plans. The disruption of this time is profound. What are the creative approaches to increasing co-curricular projects to internationalize at home?

There will be a sharp decline in the availability of overseas options for education abroad – highly likely for six months to a year- and we will need to fuel unmet student demand to build their cross-cultural skills and other interpersonal competencies, highly valued by employers, with experiences at home.

I think we are going to be re-defining the meaning of employability as a direct result of the pandemic.

Why should international education be an integral part of all undergraduate education?

The following text is from an address I delivered earlier this month (October, 2019) to a group of retired adults convening as part of the OSHER Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Oregon.

Why do families send their children to college?

What expectations do parents have regarding the outcome of their child obtaining a college degree?

…what was your expectation for going to college and what did you hope the degree would do for your career or job prospects?

I’m going to address the question, why international education should be an integral part of undergraduate education in the US?  To do so means we have to also acknowledge the changes in our economy, in our societal values, in our families, in the demographics of our nation, and in the diversity of our campus population.

At the turn of the last century, in the 1920s, the University Delaware started the first junior year abroad program; in 1948, Sweet Briar College took over the program.  It was only after WWII, in the 1940s, that the US began the Fulbright scholarship program.  There were a few nonprofit exchange programs that had begun earlier in the 3os, especially the Experiment in International Living which offered students, for the first time, family homestays in Europe.

The history of international education is that of a unique co-curricular program available primarily to privileged white and female students. Participation reflected the population of students on our campuses up until the 1960s. In fact, for much of the last century, most campuses did not have international education programs.

In the last 20 years, one of the drivers that has pushed campuses to rapidly open up international education opportunities is the globalization of the workforce in our nation and around the world. Along with technological innovations in communications, the type of experiences which students require to be competitive in the job market after graduation has transformed the approach of campuses to off-campus international experience.

We know that studying abroad, and international internships, in particular, have the potential – if properly structured- to contribute to a students’ employability after graduation… sooner and with higher salaries than for students without such experience.  We know the types of skills which employers [not only in business but in all occupations] value in hiring new talent —-and research has showed that many hiring managers are aware of the benefits of international education. And we also know there is a strong correlation, in many surveys and studies, between international education and employability.

However, here’s the problem:  in any given year, upwards of 20 million students are enrolled in over 4,000 colleges and universities  in our 50 states and territories.  But, less than 400,000 graduate with any type of international education experience!  The usual stat is that about 10% of undergrads who do graduate [and remember that only about 60% do so in 4 years] have such experience…

Students need to be disabused early upon their arrival freshman year, that they can glide through choosing courses, majors and selection of off-campus experiential learning – domestic or international- without considering how to build an effective action plan integrating all aspects of their classroom and off-campus learning experiences, to purposefully support their employability after graduation.

Participation in study abroad, an internship or a service-learning program abroad, in and of itself, is not sufficient –it’s the campus’ responsibility to provide students with the tools and preparatory work which helps them to make meaning of their experience and to place their experience in perspective with regards to their academic goals and career aspirations.

Merely addressing the question of increasing numbers going abroad, without insuring that there are adequate advising staff, well trained and with international experience themselves, will minimize the impact of a campus’ efforts to “internationalize” the campus curriculum .

I think the value-added, and contribution to the return on investment which families are concerned about, of international education is diminished if students cannot clearly articulate the way in which their international experience has strengthened specific intercultural competencies and soft skills of interest to prospective employers.

Globalization of the workforce, increased student mobility, rising demand by employers for “global-ready” graduates are but a few of the forces forcing change in the traditional structure of international education today. The momentum of these forces will continue to influence higher education policy and planning , in particular, the development of dynamic partnerships with businesses and industry to widen opportunities for students to obtain experiential learning and applied practical work experience for decades to come.

At a time when the nation is mired in political discord, when we are being pulled apart from each other on so many socio-economic & political issues – we need our campuses to support both domestic and international experiences which create opportunities for students to learn from each other, and from immersion in and exposure to unfamiliar communities in the US and abroad. This is why international education is more important now than ever for undergrads on all our campuses – 2 and 4 year, urban & rural, research & liberal arts.

The Service-Learning History Project-New Archive Opens at Stanford University

In 1995, Tim Stanton, Nadinne Cruz and Dwight Giles, concerned about the lack of understanding of the historical and philosophical roots of the rapidly growing field of service-learning, organized a gathering of “Pioneers” in the field (I was proud to be invited to attend this event). Sponsored by Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service thirty-three people from across the country, who were early adapters of service-learning pedagogy, came together at the Wingspread Conference Center to share their stories about how they came to be in the field. At The Wingspread Meeting 1995, they discussed their roots, their aspirations, their concerns and the challenges they faced. These narratives were captured in the book, “Service-Learning: A Movement’s Pioneers Reflect on its Origins, Practice and Future,” (Jossey-Bass, 1999), which is the only comprehensive account of the early days of this field, is widely cited in current literature, and was recently re-published in China in Mandarin. Documentation and findings from both this meeting and the book provided a foundation for what became known as the Service-Learning History Project.

In 2017, a steering committee made up of pioneers, younger field leaders, and representatives of Campus Compact, an organization which has helped service-learning grow and flourish for thirty years, organized a new gathering which brought together not only early pioneers, who continue to work in the field, but also younger practitioners, researchers and advocates of service-learning in higher education in the US and internationally. The purpose of The Gathering 2017 was to engage in critical, cross-generational review and reflection: to identify and address the field’s current challenges; to explore successful strategies and those that may be limited; and once again to revisit the roots of the practice to deepen understanding of how incorporating community service into the life blood of academic institutions improves instruction, empowers communities and enhances the civic life and skills of young people.

This archive contains audio and video recordings from these two meetings documenting service-learning practitioners’ reflection on their practice and the state of the field. The recordings include plenary sessions, small group discussions, and individual interviews. They explore the field’s emergence and ongoing institutionalization from its beginnings in the 1960s to the current time. The archive also contains other items (documents, videos, etc.) collected over the years that further shed light on the emergence and institutionalization of service-learning in higher education. Efforts to extend and expand the archive are ongoing. The curators welcome additional historical contributions at any time.

New Book Chapter: “Linking learning abroad and employability”

Dr. Cheryl Matherly , Vice President & Vice Provost for International Affairs at Lehigh University, and I have co-authored a chapter in the just published volume on Internationalization and Employability by Routledge. Our chapter is on ” Linking Learning Abroad and Employability.”  Cheryl and I have frequently published and presented on this topic over the past decade. 

The chapter contains a summary of current research on the topic and an analysis of international trends. In the first section of the book, we “set the scene by providing an overview of national policy on learning abroad and the growing trend to purposefully link learning abroad programs to employability outcomes.”

We state: “Employability is a widely expected outcome for higher education, and increasingly, learning abroad programs are evaluated by how well they prepare students for success in entering the workforce.” We emphasize that given the widely accepted view about the value-added that international experience brings to a students’ career portfolio during their college years, it’s more imperative than ever for campuses to diversify participation in all international educational programs. This has been and will continue to be a major challenge for all campuses with commitments to internationalization of their institution’s curriculum and co-curricular activities.

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