International educators typically exhibit ample empathy, as our life's work revolves around facilitating diverse friendships across borders. We passionately espouse the kind of easy empathy that inspires awareness of cultural differences around the world.
Paradoxically, that eagerness to engage the other can easily degenerate when considering the political climate within our own borders. True empathy encourages acknowledgment of our adversaries' ideas. And therein lies the challenge of our times.
I am not at all suggesting that we abandon our deep convictions to advance policies and practices that build global citizens. On the contrary, exercising true empathy may be one of a very few paths to fulfilling that ambition. Success during this new decade (for all of us, especially international educators) depends on true empathy.
A highly empathetic approach may very well decelerate the pace of deterioration in political discourse (in the United States and beyond) from the past few years -- and lead to more productive conversations and ensuing policies. (For details, see the 2016 PIE News piece, Treat the Trump phenomenon like a study abroad experience.)
How can international educators pro-actively initiate true empathy? Starting with a strong dose of humility, consider your target audiences:
Toward isolationists: Acknowledge shortcomings of the current student visa application model, and advocate to improve it with proven methods informed by Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering Guidelines now used by the global banking industry. This approach could help mitigate visa denials in mid- to high-risk jurisdictions of origin.
Toward campus-based finance teams: Work to address inefficiencies in the current recruitment cycle, and present carefully crafted Return on Investment data that highlight the advantages of your efforts. Always complement those metrics with powerful stories around human impact.
Toward colleagues within the industry: Share the latest positive developments that improve both the efficiency and integrity of enrollment management from around the world -- most notably from the Groningen Declaration Network. GDN's mission revolves around the premise that Citizens worldwide should be able to access and share their authentic educational data with whomever they want, whenever they want, wherever they are.
We’re international educators, mostly drawn to the field to advance the notion of embracing the other. Let's practice what we preach (especially within our own borders) by considering ideas from the other end of the spectrum, to ultimately advance the global mobility of qualified students.
Cheryl DarrupBoychuck works across cultures and disciplines to identify creative synergies that benefit all parties. Her thought leadership over the past 20+ years culminated in NAFSA: Association of International Educators’ Annual Award for Outstanding Contributions to International Enrollment Management in 2018.