Strategies for Using Print and Electronic Media to Enhance Your Knowledge Base

May 04, 2016

By Ellen Badger, Ed.

This month’s Advice From the Field column from Gary Althen, former NAFSA president (1997-98) and retired from the University of Iowa, offers strategies for managing the never-ending amount of information we need to know to do our job as international educators.

Q. There’s so much information about my field both on line and in print. What are some strategies for staying informed?

A. Gary Althen
Early in my career I heard David Berlo, the author of The Process of Communication, say that people’s main problem in relation to communications was avoiding information for which they had no need.

That was more than a quarter century ago. In the meantime the problem has compounded many times over. The problem is too much information. Way too much.

International-education practitioners work in an array of fields – international students, intensive English, education abroad, enrollment management, internationalization, etc. No matter their specialization, practitioners will want to be informed about contemporary developments and issues facing their own institution. For that they can turn to their institution’s faculty-and-staff newsletter (whatever form it may take) and perhaps to the local newspaper, which may have a less “boosterish” stance than an institution’s own publication. (Of course, finding out what is really going on probably requires turning to one’s own informal network within the institution, rather than to anything anyone publishes.)

Practitioners will also want to be knowledgeable about developments and issues in U.S. higher education. Widely used sources include The Chronicle of Higher Education, www.insidehighered.com, and NAFSA’s International Educator magazine.

Many print publications also have an online version. News sites such as The New York Times, www.nytimes.com, allow subscribers to receive information across multiple platforms and request e-mail or smart phone notification by topic.

Beyond these generalist publications, practitioners need to seek out reliable sources concerning their own areas of responsibility. They need to know about such things as changing laws and regulations; best practices in their field; and developments in other countries to which they send or from which they receive significant numbers of students or where they have cooperative agreements.

How can practitioners identify reliable sources of information on these many topics? Here are five suggestions:

  • If your boss works in your field of specialization, find out what she reads.
  • Subscribe to your NAFSA knowledge community’s discussion group, and identify and arrange to receive appropriate NAFSA publications.
  • See whether your NAFSA knowledge community or special-interest group offers a bibliography and other resources.
  • Find out what people in peer positions (that is, people in positions like yours at institutions like yours) routinely read.
  • If you need to remain informed about developments in particular countries or regions, or in specialized fields such as linguistics or cross-cultural psychology, identify a faculty member who shares your interest and who can point you to helpful publications, including scholarly blogs.

Finally, make yourself a part of an informal information-sharing network among people who share your professional interests. Two suggestions:

  • When you find an item of particular interest, send it – or a link to it – to colleagues who you believe would benefit from it.
  • Among a group of colleagues, agree on a set of information sources that you would all like to have monitored, and then assign different sources to different colleagues, who will then share items of interest with others in the group. This reduces the need for everyone to read everything and helps everyone avoid information they don’t need.
  • Have a question? It may appear in a future column! Submit your questions to jr@nafsa.org.


    "Advice from the Field" is a bi-monthly online column that offers trusted career and professional development advice for international educators at all levels. The column is a joint initiative of NAFSA’s Phase II Member Interest Group (MIG) and the NAFSA Career Center, and is edited by Ellen Badger, coordinator of the Phase II MIG. For additional career resources, visit www.nafsa.org/careercenter.


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