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International Student Engagement: Strategies for Creating Inclusive, Connected, and Purposeful Campus Environments
Date Reviewed: May 29, 2017
In 1950, just over 25,000 foreign students were enrolled in institutions of higher education in the United States. At the time this review appears on the Internet, that number will be close to 1 million (1). While many schools’ admissions offices have sought to increase their enrollment of international students as an important source of revenue, those who work at colleges and universities in the U.S. should understand that the integration of so many international students into campuses poses a special challenge. If faculty and administrators do not do it well through intentional policies and practices, institutions run the risk of failing the students who have chosen to come to their schools. This book seeks to identify the types of campus environments that lead to the greatest flourishing and growth for international students.
The authors draw from two primary types of data in order to discover best practices for integrating international students on campus. They combine analysis of the big data provided by the ongoing Global Perspective Inventory with stories from individual international students. As they put it, the authors’ goal is to use both the “big stories” and the “small stories” to learn what factors contribute to flourishing for such students. The small stories are one of the real strengths of the book, as they are drawn from a variety of schools: small private liberal arts colleges, large state universities, and community colleges are all represented. Over the course of the book, the authors tackle a number of big issues that they see as central to international student flourishing. Individual chapters are devoted to: how diversity is recognized and addressed in the classroom; how international students are involved in campus student leadership; the roles that friends and peers, family, and social media in helping students; and what types of campus contexts create a sense of belonging.
Ultimately, the authors conclude that intentional campus-wide policies and practices that support integration of students into many different aspects of campus life are the most successful. They give a number of specific suggestions for best practices, which are well summarized in the last chapter of the book. One of their central arguments is that such measures should not be limited to particular offices (the advising office, the admissions office, and so forth), but that entire campus cultures need to be adjusted, and that this requires buy-in not only from administrative units, but from academic units as well. This book provides much to think about, and would be useful for people in a number of different positions within academia. It is a welcome contribution at a time when faculty and administrators are engaging with the question of what it means to have increasing numbers of international students in college, university, and seminary classrooms.
Meeting the Transitional Needs of Young Adult Learners (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, Number 143)
Date Reviewed: February 4, 2016
Part of the series “New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education,” Meeting the Transitional Needs of Young Adult Learners is the first entry to address young adult learners in thirty years. As such, it is a welcome contribution to the series, as well as a valuable resource in its own right. Faculty teaching traditional undergraduates, as well as those in continuing and adult education roles, will find much of value here.
The terms “young adult” and “youth” are used across the essays in the volume, though without a single common definition. Generally, “young adult” refers to individuals from ages eighteen to twenty-five, though with some flexibility on both sides; adult education may begin at sixteen, as Davis notes (chapter 6). Chapter 1, by Joanna Wyn, introduces several key concepts that recur in subsequent chapters. Wyn offers a nice overview of the scholarship of youth transitions, new adulthood, and age. She argues that the “metaphor of transition” — a frequent feature in discussions of young adulthood — should be replaced with a “metaphor of belonging” that emphasizes relationships and connections (9).
Indeed, many of the following chapters take up this call for an emphasis on relationships and belonging. Chapters 2 through 8 follow a basic model of identifying a specific community, reviewing the literature, data, or relevant theoretical work relating to that community, and concluding with suggestions for instructors. Thus Brendaly Drayton (chapter 2) introduces and theorizes cultural difference, with special attention to ethnic difference and the experience of young adults positioned in multiple cultures. Drayton encourages instructors to use texts from a range of cultures as well as collaborative learning practices. Rongbing Xie, Bisakha (Pia) Sen, and E. Michael Foster (chapter 3) offer a similar introduction to “vulnerable youth,” a broad category that encompasses socio-economic disparities, mental health, welfare, and involvement with the justice system. Noting the problem of youth who “age out” of social services, they call on educators to be informed and competent allies for vulnerable youth and to provide social support. Jessica Nina Lester (chapter 4) makes a similar argument with respect to “youth with dis/ability labels.” The pedagogical emphasis in these chapters is on the affective and relational, encouraging instructors to engage beyond course material. Steven B. Frye’s contribution addresses young adults in faith communities (chapter 5). Instructors in confessional contexts may find his insights helpful; in other contexts, less so.
The final three chapters are the work of the editors, C. Amelia Davis and Joann S. Olson. Davis (chapter 6) discusses adult education programs as they serve young adult learners, and offers some helpful suggestions for strengthening these programs. Olson (chapter 7) takes up the transition from school to workplace, arguing that educators can intentionally create classroom and school experiences that prepare students for, and ease the transition to, the workplace. She also offers a number of useful examples, including discussing class assignments. A final chapter by Olson and Davis (chapter 8) offers a concise overview of key themes from the preceding chapters. This is a valuable collection of essays, which much to offer all educators working with young adults.
Reading, Writing, and Discussing at the Graduate Level A Guidebook for International Students
Date Reviewed: January 18, 2016
Reading, Writing, and Discussing at the Graduate Level A Guidebook for International Students by Rina Kim, Lillie R. Ablert, and Hang Gyun Sihn is a new resource for graduate international students and those who work with them in the academic setting. The three authors come from diverse personal and academic backgrounds and draw from their experiences as international students themselves and from working with international students in developing this text. They provide a guidebook for students who are proficient in English but struggle to understand the “academic culture and norms in the United States” (ix).
Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of graduate level work; academic reading, in-class discussions, writing assignments, preparing oral presentations, and developing relationships with classmates and professors. The authors do a good job of stating the limited scope of their effort. They recognize that the text is not going to provide a comprehensive primer on academic writing or research, but they point out common ways in which international students are derailed in their efforts because they misunderstand expectations. Throughout the text, the authors draw on informal conversations they have had with students to illustrate common perspectives or misunderstandings. The scenarios they highlight help to clarify issues and suggest ways of moving forward. These scenarios provide some of the most helpful insights in the book.
International students may find chapter two on “Engaging in Academic Discussions” and chapter five on “Developing Social and Academic Relationships” to be the most helpful because they discuss at length ways to build confidence and helpful hints for anticipating the atmosphere of classroom interactions in the United States. The most effective aspects of each chapter are the ways in which the authors show how perspectives and expectations differ even in basic items such as how reading lists are arranged in a syllabus or clarifying the expectation to write in your own words. The subtle nuances of the academic culture of the United States are dealt with in a relaxed manner, encouraging students to ask questions or seek help when necessary.
The text does assume a high level of reading proficiency. This is stated clearly by the authors, but the writing might be too complex for the students who are seeking the type of assistance the book covers. Although the main audience is the international student, this book is probably more helpful for faculty members who are beginning to teach international students. The informal scenarios that are scattered throughout the book provide a helpful window into the mind of the international student. Faculty members or other mentors will find this text helpful as they shape assignments, engage international students in classroom discussions, and articulate expectations.