Between Rhetoric and Reality: The Journey Toward a Globalized Community College


No. 8, January 2018, Global Studies Literature Review

As Madeleine Green lays bare in her preface to International Education at Community Colleges: Themes, Practices, and Case Studies, “In all measures of [internationalization] infrastructural supports, U.S. institutions lag behind” (Raby and Valeau 2016, vi). From this introductory note, author-editors Rosalind Latiner Raby and Edward Valeau then work forward to analyze, challenge, distinguish, and, most importantly, add to the scholarship on internationalization in community colleges.

Drawing on topics from around the world, yet written for “community college leaders whose decisions will impact learning across generations,” the book provides a not-so-subtle call to action (Raby and Valeau 2016, ix). Chapter titles like “Global Is Not the Opposite of Local” and “Calls for Accountability: Measuring Internationalization at Community Colleges” are straightforward and direct. The various chapters in this volume represent case study, phenomenological and quantitative studies of the unique settings, student mix, and leader challenges within the community college sector today.

For example, the first case study begins with a jarring but classic, nativist viewpoint of “Why should we ‘import’ students from other countries?” before then pursuing one college’s vision, planning, and actions to counter that position (Raby and Valeau 2016, 176). Raby and Valeau frame the historical perspective of how nativism continues with each passing decade, even 25 years into an age of globalization where political (i.e., college district), linguistic, technological, and physical boundaries diminish any effects of the official district boundaries that once protected community colleges’ economic and social domains (Cohen and Brawer 1996; Frost 2009). Other chapters in International Education at Community Colleges detail the benefits of appreciative advising, the complexities of international leader mentoring programs, and the low levels of awareness that international students have of Title IX regulations. Above all, the diversity of topics and high level of scholarship in this book make it a milestone in community college literature.

Perhaps what is most striking—in the accounts of colleges struggling to develop multifaceted internationalization programs—is the comparative aspects between community colleges and their university counterparts today. Since the 1980s (and some of the authors argue since the Truman Commission’s 1947 report, see page 11), community colleges have struggled to legitimize the role of international and global studies programs. Study abroad programs still may live or die within the lifespan of the president or chief executive officer (currently averaging three to five years). The authors of this book implore college leaders to “implement international education programming that respects the vision of their own international educators” (Raby and Valeau 2016, 170). In brief, this collection makes it clear that community colleges still build programs in the moment, based on the current staff and leader dynamic, rather than based on a tradition of a globalized curriculum.

Worthy of applause, too, is the diverse selection of scholar-practitioners among the chapter authors. Nearly all have extensive community college backgrounds, many are noted international education scholars, and several are eminent community college leadership professors.

International Education at Community Colleges will be of interest within international higher education graduate programs for its balance of case studies and original research, even as it provides community college leaders with step-by-step cases of college program planning, launch, and development. The concluding chapter presents a focus toward the future. There, Valeau asks the question at the center of the debate: Why isn’t internationalization at U.S. community colleges widely established and institutionalized? Raby and Valeau’s book may be the very first to challenge the historical parochialism of community college leadership, particularly at the board level:

Hindering internationalization are leaders whose ill-conceived reasoning is that dollars for international education distracts from the colleges’ mission. Too many boards still use the myth that support for internationalization is at the expense of resident students and represents a possible lost seat. CEOs, despite their personal feelings, are not aggressive champions because they are not likely to be evaluated on the success or existence of internationalization. (338)

The book vastly widens the discussion on when, or if, the next decade will provide the leadership, funding, and organizational stability for international education to root deeply and mature within the community college sector. The authors are correct in calling attention to the need for diversity within the community college leadership tracks and, in particular, calling out the benefits of recruiting international education leaders into executive ranks.

Several of the program development cases are illustrative of the many programs imagined and then built under the inspiration of a new and visionary leader. But for all the evident enthusiasm within the institutional case studies, the concluding and “recommendations” sections supply both reminders of past failures and examples of the transformative leadership that sustained successful programs. Rather than present a series of “hero tales” so common in leadership literature, Raby and Valeau have both problematized and challenged a current generation. And of course, now, more than ever, global societies need the benefits derived from the globalized citizenry that such community-based institutions can offer.

Cohen, Arthur M., and Florence B. Brawer. 1996. The American Community College, Third Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Frost, Robert A. 2009. “Globalization Contextualized: An Organization-Environment Case Study.” Community College Journal of Research and Practice 33, 12:1009–1024.

Raby, Rosalind Latiner, and Edward J. Valeau, eds. 2016. International Education at Community Colleges: Themes, Practices, and Case Studies. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.