The Faculty Experience of Internationalization: Motivations for, Practices of, and Means for Engagement

Open Access
Klyberg, Sarah
Graduate Program:
Higher Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 04, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Lisa Lattuca, Dissertation Advisor
  • Roger Lewis Geiger, Committee Chair
  • Gerald K Letendre, Committee Member
  • Vincent M Colapietro, Special Member
  • internationalization
  • faculty work
  • higher education
  • curriculum
  • faculty motivation
In recent decades, many U.S. colleges and universities have adopted policies of internationalization through which they have promoted such activities as study abroad, international student recruitment, curriculum development and/or reform, faculty exchanges, institutional linkages, and overseas campus development. Prior research has identified institutional motivations for engagement in internationalization that include preparation of students to live and work in an increasingly interconnected world, competition with other institutions, and revenue generation. Institutional initiatives often rely on the cooperation and engagement of faculty members, but faculty motivation for participation in their institution’s internationalization effort is not well understood. The absence of research in this area is problematic because the faculty plays a crucial role in the fulfillment of higher education’s tripartite mission of teaching, research, and service through such responsibilities as designing and reforming curricula, teaching and mentoring students, collaborating on research, engaging in campus and community outreach, and perpetuating institutional culture. The phenomenon of internationalization provides a timely setting in which to explore how faculty members, as individuals, choose to enhance their work lives via engagement in an institutional initiative. It also offers an appropriate venue in which to investigate how faculty and institutional goals for an institutional initiative merge and diverge. To these ends, this study engaged 15 faculty members at two undergraduate-focused institutions in the northeastern United States in phenomenological interviews as well as focus groups that explored personal and institutional motivations for faculty participation in internationalization; the teaching, research, service, and other professional activities that connect to their institution’s internationalization initiative; and the effect of facilitators and/or impediments to their engagement in internationalization on their motivation to continue to participate in these efforts. This inquiry was informed by scholarship from the fields of philosophy and higher education, particularly the theoretical underpinnings of the concept of internationalization, research on practices of internationalization, and research on faculty life and work. Data analysis employed Giorgi’s method of descriptive phenomenological reduction, through which structures, or dimensions, of the experience of internationalization and descriptions of how those dimensions connected to each other were identified. Among the key findings of this study regarding the structures of the faculty experience of internationalization was that participants were more intrinsically than extrinsically motivated to engage in it. Specifically, participant engagement in internationalization generally predated institutional adoption of an internationalization initiative and came from personal experience. Regarding faculty practices of internationalization, a key finding was that participants had difficulty integrating internationalized teaching, research, and service practices throughout their work, despite an interest in doing so. Participants generally attributed this difficulty to a lack of institutional support. They also suggested that their efforts were not integrated into the broader life and work of their institutions because, despite the expressed intentions of their universities, internationalization was not incorporated into the broader institutional vision, identity, and mission. Findings from this study generated a series of propositions for future research on faculty experiences of internationalization and the effects that they believe their engagement in it has on their academic work and professional lives, as well as on how individuals’ goals and institutional goals for internationalization may or may not correspond and thus be achieved. Recommendations for the design of future studies on this topic are also offered, as are recommendations for institutional practices and policies of internationalization.