Treat the Trump phenomenon like a study abroad experience
“We’re international educators, mostly drawn to the field to advance the notion of embracing the ‘other’. In this case, the ‘other’ happens to be a guy with ideas very foreign to our own”
There are many in international education who aren’t delighted at the prospect of Donald Trump becoming president, but the field is all about embracing the ‘other’ – so perhaps we should apply the same approach, argues Cheryl DarrupBoychuck, US director of institutional relations at INTCAS .
Those pendulum swings can be painful but powerful pushes to new perspectives.
Many, though certainly not all, international educators were surprised and maybe even saddened that Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. Plenty of industry leaders are taking a “wait and see” approach, in anticipation of whether his campaign rhetoric will in fact translate to significant changes in US immigration policy and global student mobility. That reticent approach may be prudent under certain circumstances.
“That reticent approach may be prudent under certain circumstances doesn’t sit well with the ‘problem-solvers’ among us. Certainly there’s something we can do to proactively ‘fix this'”
But that doesn’t sit well with the “problem-solvers” among us. Certainly there’s something we can do to proactively “fix this.”
Here’s my answer to that, for starters: Let’s treat the Trump Phenomenon as if it were a study abroad experience.
We’re international educators, mostly drawn to the field to advance the notion of embracing the “other”. In this case, the “other” happens to be a guy with ideas very foreign to our own, at the far end of the spectrum.
So why aren’t we practicing what we preach to facilitate intercultural competence?
In our professional capacity, particularly when advising students, we understand that other world views exist, and that different people behave and believe differently. In theory, we make no judgment about the relative merits of these views as a whole, but recognize that different cultures have different merits. We’re (usually) willing to bring together the good from several different aspects to create a new, shared culture, which has new meaning for everyone.
If we dig deep enough (with a strong dose of humility), we can find common ground in our mutual goal to attract, recruit and manage qualified international students and scholars. The fact is, we can do a better job in international admissions. And as we all know, it is entirely possible (and even healthy) to step out of our comfort zones, while staying true to ourselves.
“If we dig deep enough (with a strong dose of humility), we can find common ground in our mutual goal to attract qualified international students and scholars”
So here’s what we CAN do, to counter any notion of “building a wall” (figuratively or literally):
1. Improve the vetting process of student visa applicants. Take advantage of proven, robust technology to pro-actively conduct stronger due diligence. That technology includes identity authentication, informed by “Know Your Customer” and “Anti-Money Laundering Guidelines” currently used in the global banking industry. And encourage bona fide students to substantiate their financial capacity over time.
2. Advise applicants to establish escrow accounts in advance, with the first year’s tuition and living expenses. That could very well mitigate visa denials in mid- to high-risk jurisdictions. In some countries, escrow accounts are gaining significant momentum, as parents are eager to elevate their son or daughter’s visa application. And let’s keep in mind that an escrow account also protects the family, in case the educational institution stumbles financially — especially in these volatile times.
3. Refresh your “financial management” skills to articulate compelling arguments that showcase the value of international education. In budget meetings, present carefully crafted data that highlight the positive results of your recruitment efforts. Get comfortable with phrases like “Return on Investment” and “yield ratio of initial inquiries to enrolled students.” And always complement those metrics with powerful stories around the human elements of our industry.
When making these recommendations, it’s important to tap into that “intercultural competency” training, and peer into a proverbial mirror: “How would I feel if I was the student applicant or parent or sponsor?”
· I find “digital due diligence” creepy.
· I’m not in love with the idea of parting with my money any sooner than necessary.
· I hate the notion of treating students like numbers with dollar signs in front of them.
But I understand the rationale that necessitates these initiatives. And if that means I can help my kid become a better citizen of the world via study abroad, then I’m all in.
The beauty of these initiatives, is that even if nothing changes dramatically with regard to US visa regulations, we can still improve the international admissions process for the sake of all stakeholders.
So let’s get to work. No passport required.