2017 AIEA Annual Conference

Internationalization through Difference: Transcending Boundaries

February 19-22, 2017 
Washington Marriott Wardman Park 
Washington, DC, USA 
Conference Chair: Dr. Hilary Kahn, Indiana University  

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2017 AIEA Postcard

The 2017 AIEA Annual Conference focuses on the interplay between boundaries and connections in internationalization. International education leaders must negotiate boundaries due to cultural differences, wide-ranging institutional structures, divergent motivations and meanings, and distinct resource allocations – all of which vary from institution to institution, and nation to nation. Boundaries create silos which, as Gillian Tett explains (in The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers, 2015, Simon & Schuster), present both problems and possibilities for advancement. Silos can create blinders and tunnel vision, discourage progressive thinking, reinforce status hierarchies, and foster skill sets that are epistemologically static and difficult to expand. On the other hand, utilizing and sometimes repositioning silos can be productive, by encouraging strategic thinking and avoiding inward looking approaches and proprietary impasses. 

To negotiate boundaries, international education leaders must imagine the scope of their work across large generalizable landscapes, such as the ones we imagine as we aim to broadly internationalize an institution or connect to an emerging global network of higher education, and across more specific and often bounded units and missions, such as communities at our institutions or elsewhere that may have unique cultural values and interpretations of what it is to internationalize. Like students who are learning about the world, and finding connections and commitments to universals as much as to localized meanings, international education leaders must see their world of internationalization as a complex assemblage that is made meaningful by particular units and actors, that incorporates various and often distinct missions and motivations, and that may in fact be manifesting and practicing internationalization in unique ways. Provosts and rectors, institutional partners, overseas study, international students, domestic students, multicultural offices, risk management, ministries of education, campus strategic planners, trustees, disciplines, faculty, local communities, senior international officers, and everything and everyone in between, have both similar and different approaches to and understandings of internationalization. Divergent definitions of what and who is a Senior International Officer even exist! This diversity should not be viewed as a problem. Instead, agile leaders create internationalization strategies and practices that embrace this diversity and find synergies within and across it.

Leaders of internationalization must promote shared visions and models, while also recognizing that there are multiple meanings, various approaches, and different practices that substantiate what we all call internationalization. Since internationalization means something unique to different institutions, people, and regions of the world, we need to develop nimble frameworks and sets of best practices that are malleable to our settings, cultural values, and different ways of doing things. Further, because our internationalization practices are all embodied within power structures, we must also manage the political and economic structures that give rise to them - both within each institution and globally. With that said, we need to identify ways to collect and sort through the many meanings of our practices and determine whether they are all equally productive. Common standards of practice and research may be useful at this complex intersection of boundaries and connections.

Not surprising, at the core of this call for both recognizing and working across boundaries, and for incorporating both relative and universal approaches to internationalization, is the need to challenge binaries that prevent us from seeing a world that transcends and also respects boundaries. To name a few: local/global; scholar/practitioner; faculty/administrator; learner/educator; relative/universal; teaching/research; intellectual/pragmatic; and humanities/social sciences. Unless these are critiqued, or coped with in productive ways, they could become default assumptions of our profession that mask the intersections that exist among and between them.

One of the most critical boundaries for international education leaders to rethink is the bifurcation of scholarship and practice. To be resourceful and adept, and to have the analytic and empirical skills to see across difference, listen and learn from diverse values, and work with silos, international education leaders should identify as scholar-practitioners. Senior International Officers (SIOs) must embrace multiple identities and approaches if they are to bridge the practical and the academic. With the drivers for international education being as diverse as its many stakeholders, SIOs should have a command of both the practical and intellectual underpinnings of the field so that they can situate it within the many contexts and cultures in which they work.

This is difficult work. AIEA invites submissions that take up any or all of the following sub-themes, or other topics that explore the interplay between boundaries and connections in the internationalization of higher education.

  • SIOs as International Education Leaders – Navigating the silos on and beyond campus: What is the nature of the silos that leaders in international education face? Why did these silos arise, what keeps leaders going, and what are their goals and interests? How do silos inhibit or enhance the everyday practices of Senior International Officers?  How can university leaders bridge silos in addressing the bigger picture as represented by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals?  How do international education leaders manage the silos they currently encounter in internationalizing their institutions? How might transcending silos enhance the various areas of SIO responsibilities, such as partnerships, risk management, recruitment, curriculum, study abroad, faculty engagement, and working with administrators and other stakeholders?
  • SIOs as Scholar-Practitioners – Analyzing frameworks for challenging silos: What is gained by transcending boundaries in the context of research in internationalization?  How do frameworks and theories aid us as we tackle boundaries that prevent new strategic practices and constrain thinking? How do we assess the quality of learning, teaching and research within internationalization? How does the challenging of boundaries call for a more critical awareness of power and politics in internationalization and what research speaks to this? What do SIOs gain from being scholar-practitioners?  How does research and theory empower us as leaders in international education?
  • SIOs as Nimble Practitioners – Exploring emerging practices in internationalization:What new approaches and practices will allow international education leaders to transcend boundaries and undo binaries? How can interactive technologies, strategic partnerships, innovative pedagogies, and other practices enhance our ability to work across differences? What are the lessons learned in these practices?  What new practical approaches are required for international education leaders to transcend, rather than be victims of, silos?  How can leaders learn from failure and what new practices emerge as a result of our failures?  How might transnational organizations and broader agendas, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, help SIOs break down silos?
  • SIOs as Proficient Communicators – Conversing across difference: How can SIOs foster conversations to bridge silos on and beyond campus? How might SIOs use dialogue to lead to understanding, collaboration, common ground, and new ways of thinking around comprehensive internationalization? How can communications and marketing be improved when incorporating and transcending difference? What conversations do SIOs need to initiate and/or be part of to transcend difference? How might a focus on communicating across difference help work through thorny issues that may arise with risk management or partnerships?
  • SIOs as Change Agents – Implementing organizational change management: How can we honor the specialization needed for the intricacies of our internationalization work while creating broader connectivity across these specializations? How can we build on the strengths and possibilities of existing units and ideas, while also generating interest in new paradigms, strategies, and activities in international education? How can SIOs contribute to learning environments that promote contextualized relativism alongside more universalized ideas and practices? How do SIOs work with and strengthen the disciplines while recognizing the benefits of interdisciplinary scholarship? 
  • SIOs as Innovative Educators – Enhancing global teaching and learning: How can SIOs challenge how we teach students so they move beyond automatically relying on the paradigms and categories traditionally used to understand the world? What types of boundaries need to be critiqued and crossed for students to be responsible citizens of the world? How should global classrooms integrate deep understanding of particular regions of the world alongside broader transnational phenomena and practices?  What is the essence of a global learning environment that transcends boundaries and successfully leverages difference? What can SIOs do to promote global teaching and learning that overcomes boundaries and avoids binaries? How can an interdisciplinary rethinking of academic silos further curriculum internationalization?
  • SIOs as Responsible Leaders – Exploring standards and responsibilities of international educators: What should be the rules of engagement as we learn to work with and across our boundaries?  What are the standards and ethics that SIOs should espouse in their profession? How can we best respond to the potential conflict and resentment that emerge when ideas clash or practices are changed? How do leaders engage and navigate within competing priorities in international education? What are the responsibilities of international education leaders as we confront the differences in our practices?