Highlights from the Advisory Council’s Inaugural Meeting
The inaugural meeting of the Advisory Council for the Global Alliance for International Student Advancement, GAISA, was recently held online and brought together a notable group of educational leaders. Fifteen nationally recognized educators, researchers, advisors, administrators and executives from a range of institutions, including private and public, large to small, convened to discuss the state of international students in higher education.
Committed to research and advocacy for the betterment of the international student community in higher ed, the founding members of the Council agreed that their aim is to be disruptive in effecting change across a number of areas, including:
- Health and wellness
- Financial and legal issues
- Social and cultural experiences
- Workforce readiness
Members asserted the importance of bringing international students into the conversation, especially around topics from which they are too often excluded, such as mental health, wellness, engagement and alumni relations. They agreed on the need to shift institutional culture to bring international students a greater sense of belonging and integration, on and off campus. Ensuring that international students are not viewed as “other” is at the very core of GAISA and serves as a directional guide for the Advisory Council’s strategies.
An important distinction was drawn between GAISA’s mission and that of other organizations that look at international students. Council members agreed that, in fact, much of the work done in this area hasn’t actually focused on supporting international students. Unlike our domestic study-abroad programs, which do focus on the student experience, international student organizations have not placed emphasis on the people who come here from around the world Additionally, COVID-19 raised areas of special concern for Council members, who discussed the cracks in support, engagement and resources for international students during the pandemic.
As their virtual gathering concluded, Advisory Council members reaffirmed their commitment to building resilience to barriers for international students, whether these obstacles were procedural, such as financial and legal problems, or perceptual, such as issues with feeling welcomed and integrated.
Would you like to keep up to date with GAISA’s Advisory Council and its initiatives, including its upcoming report Foreign on Campus 2021?