Academic Advisors and Their Diverse Advisees: Towards More Ethical Global Universities

By Lee, Yuko Ikegami; Metcalfe, Amy Scott | Journal of International Students, October/November 2017 | Go to article overview

Academic Advisors and Their Diverse Advisees: Towards More Ethical Global Universities


Lee, Yuko Ikegami, Metcalfe, Amy Scott, Journal of International Students


The number of international students arriving at U.S. and Canadian university campuses is steadily increasing (Canadian Bureau for International Education [CBIE], 2016; Institute of International Education [IIE], 2016; Kunin, 2012). In Canada, the number of international students at the university level reached 177,290 in 2015. This number reflects a 92% increase in international students in Canada between 2008 (184,170) and 2015 (353,570) for all levels of education (CBIE, 2016, p. 18). Similarly, the United States also saw a rise in its international students' enrollment on a larger scale. In the 2015/2016 academic year, a combined total number of the U.S. undergraduate and graduate international students reached 811,248 (IIE, 2016). This was an increase of 7.1% and 6% for undergraduate and graduate students respectively from the year before. While international student enrollments in both countries have increased, the current global political climate, marked by rising nationalism and xenophobia in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, Trump's 'America First' policy and Brexit to name a pair, may have an impact on international students' global mobility in the future. However, a fair number of colleges and universities are paying closer attention to factors that enhance international students' retention including strategically-distributed scholarship opportunities and financial incentives for international students (Bolsmann & Miller, 2008). A key motivation for international students to seek university education abroad is to secure their favorable economic and social status at home and potentially in the host nation upon graduation (Mazzarol & Soutar, 2002). During their university study, international students face many issues related to unmet expectations, racial stereotyping, and discrimination (Lee, 2010). These factors affect their academic performance and undermine their original objective of attending foreign universities. While many institutions offer academic advising to all students, academic advisors are ideally positioned to support international students' educational and broader future successes. However, the role of academic advisors is often not clearly defined or not proportionally and specifically assigned to the growing international student population. In this aspect, internationally well-versed academic advisors are needed to support the increasingly diversifying international student body of the Anglophone universities in the United States and Canada that strategically recruit international students.

The function of academic advisors can be different from one unit to the other, but they all work behind the scenes to support students' academic success. Thus, the role of academic advisors is often not fully understood by students, professors, and administrators, which hinders the effectiveness of this academic service role. Therefore, the aim of this study was to distinguish the roles, functions, and expectations of academic advisors who are non-faculty, professional staffmembers and examine how their role may serve as a holistic support for international students.

BACKGROUND

Higher education institutions and their service mechanisms have evolved over the last several centuries as enrollment has shifted from elite to mass and universal access (Trow, 1972, 2007). This growth has resulted in large classrooms and higher teacher-student ratios that make the traditional academic mentoring more difficult, even at private liberal arts colleges (Paris, 2013). Student composition has also changed drastically over the years (El-Khawas, 2003). As well, institutions have changed operationally. With the increase of a more academic capitalistic profession (Rhoades & Slaughter, 1997; Slaughter & Leslie, 1997), institutions have become used to hiring non-faculty professionals for cheaper alternatives to faculty labor as a cost saving measure. Therefore, many institutions are now systematically relying on a non-tenured workforce versus tenured professors to manage many aspects of institutional operations including educational services and student enrollment. …

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