Back to School Thoughts on How to Earn Respect as an International Educator

Tony Ogden from Michigan State has recently published three interesting articles on LinkedIn on  “The Future of Education Abroad: On Establishing a Profession”. In the second of the articles, Tony lays out his aspirations for our profession: “Lest we become stuck in solely managerial and administrative roles that offer less intellectual flexibility and protection, it is important that we continue our collective work toward the establishment of an education abroad profession wherein we are regarded as competent and respected international educators that are sought out for our professional experience and knowledge of education abroad.”

He then recommends five ways to advance our status as educators. The one that resonated with me is his emphasis on the importance of the language we use. Using the language of higher education is, he says, a means to remind others (and ourselves!) that we are, first and foremost, educating students. This is wise advice, particularly for those of us immersed in the day-to-day details of making logistical arrangements for short-term programs. Keeping the educational and academic goals of your programs in the forefront tells those you are collaborating with that educating students is your goal as much as it is the university’s and the faculty’s goal.

I strongly agree with him that we must insist on using educational language when referring to faculty-led short-term programs. I worked with colleagues two decades ago who were trying to eradicate the word “trip” from faculty-led short term conversations. It has been a long haul since then and continues to surprise me how difficult that word is to eliminate from education abroad. Even though others in higher education might talk about “tours” or “trips”, the more we use educational language, the more it will become the norm.

I’ll end with a quotation from Tony’s article on the importance of using higher ed language:

“As education abroad professionals, it is important to be mindful of the jargon and terminology we use and to recognize how not using language consistent with U.S. higher education can be detrimental to our profession. If indeed the purpose of education abroad is about academic learning, then we should avoid using language that prioritizes international travel and tourism.”





  1. Courtney Kenny

    Hi Catherine– thanks for another thoughtful post! I read Tony’s series of articles and the same point resonated with me. I’m conscious of the language I use in my role to construct a vision of our Asia-based programming for U.S.-based faculty and study abroad offices. And even though I’ve been in the field long enough to know better, I find myself guilty of repeating these offenders from time to time.

    I would love to see this topic expanded into session around framing short-term faculty-led programs in a way that emphasis academic rigor and value. Any plans on presenting this at an upcoming conference or resources that you know of on this topic?

  2. Catherine (Post author)

    Thanks for your thoughts, Courtney! What a great idea for a session proposal. I hadn’t thought of expanding this idea into a session, although maybe Tony Ogden has. It would make a really interesting discussion, for sure.


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