Building capacity within universities for leadership of international mobility experiences

Year: 2018

Author: Parr, Graham, Williams, Judy, Fitzgerald, Ange, Wellam, Rachel, Basia, Diug, Bethany, Howard

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Globalisation and technological advances have promoted the interaction of peoples, practices and cultures across national and international borders. This interaction has sometimes facilitated education projects where culturally diverse groups have been able to work together to address local and global issues (UNESCO, 2011). For more culturally homogeneous groups, though, increased interaction with diverse ‘others’ has sometimes generated distrust and fear, as seen in the rise of political movements founded upon nationalistic rhetoric and/or xenophobia (Wodak, 2015). In the face of these disturbing developments, governments across the world have urged higher education institutions to play a role in developing greater transcultural understanding and appreciation of difference in their graduates (de Wit et al., 2015). One of the ways that universities have done this is to develop a suite of international mobility experience (IME) programs, in which students undertake a period of intercultural study in an overseas setting, with active pedagogical support from the university. 
The positive impact of international mobility experiences for both students and academic mentors is well documented. Some research suggests they are the most transformative experience that universities can offer their students (Anderson, 2014). They enable students to deepen disciplinary expertise, build intercultural competence and leadership skills, and develop their capabilities as responsible and ethical global citizens. There are significant benefits for institutions of higher education, themselves, which are encouraged to develop culturally enriched understandings of discipline areas and practices. They also assist in the development of international engagement partnerships. While there is a significant commitment to researching and resourcing students’ IME programs, up to now there has been scant attention given to developing the cross-disciplinary knowledge and expertise required for academic leadership of students who undertake and return from IMEs, in ways that maximize the positive change promoted by these experiences.
This presentation reports on a two-year project, funded by the Monash Education Academy, which is developing a set of flexible, multimodal professional learning resources for academic leaders who accompany university students on overseas IME programs. Drawing on the expertise of Monash staff across all faculties who have undertaken IMEs in the past, as well as current research in this area, the resources support a low-risk, better coordinated, more efficiently resourced suite of IME offerings. The paper focuses on the methodology of the project and some early feedback about the impact of the multimodal resources on users in our own institution and internationally.