Art by Caitlyn Roark
When new students arrive at Pepperdine, it seems that they are instantly bombarded with questions of where they want to go abroad.
The pressure to study overseas seems to be evident from the fact that Pepperdine is ranked as the No. 1 university in the nation for the highest percentage of study abroad participation three years in a row, according to the International Programs website.
Because two-thirds of Pepperdine students participate in a study abroad program, the International Programs Office highly impacts the Pepperdine experience. As Charles Hall has announced that he will be stepping down from his role as the Dean of International Programs (IP), PGM pens this letter to prospective deans to understand that this role has a significant impact on the student body.
For the past 14 years, Hall has served the dean of the International Programs Office. In those years, he oversaw the creation of the Lausanne and Shanghai programs. He most recently started the Global Fellows Program to prepare students to be international agents of change.
As the university begins its search for a new administrative dean, we invite the applicants and administration to consider the following:
1. Be understanding of all cultures.
PGM recognizes and commends the IP office’s efforts toward promoting cultural competency, and we encourage them to continue stressing the importance of this ability.
When we look at the diversity across our International Programs, we see drastically different cultures an IP Dean has to be ready to engage with. Since the IP Dean frequently travels to each of the programs, that person will be coming into contact with cultures and people who could have different values or beliefs from those in the United States.
Cultural competency is a skill that all should strive to achieve, but it is especially important for the dean to possess this trait so that students can have a model of what it means to be culturally aware and respectful.
In knowing the cultures of each location, the IP office can accurately promote their respective cultural experiences accurately to students.
2. Be more transparent.
We understand things happen, but when a director leaves or a program accepts more students than it can accommodate, students deserve to know why. Being far from home and distant from the rest of the Pepperdine community, students can easily feel left in the dark when they are uninformed on certain instances regarding their own program.
We understand that there are things the office cannot reveal as they work behind the scenes to solve issues, but explaining major problems to students as they occur is important. When the office is not transparent, it leads to students being confused and upset once news about certain mishaps within their program is broken to them.
3. Talk about the good, the bad and the ugly.
International Programs highly promotes that studying abroad will result in “life-changing experiences” for students to buy into. Although there are many benefits of going abroad, International Programs should lean toward promoting this experience with authenticity. In other words, don’t just promote how amazing being abroad is, but rather be honest that there are hardships that will inevitably come with moving away.
The way IP presents their programs can be often picture perfect and idealistic. The truth is that not everyone considers their abroad experience to be fully positive. Addressing negative aspects of being abroad can help prospective students make more informed decisions about whether an international program is truly for them.
4. Don’t pressure students to apply so early.
We understand that the IP office is proactive in setting up their programs in advance, but it is a bit overwhelming to have to choose where you want to spend a year away when students have just arrived in Malibu.
Freshmen are still transitioning and adjusting to college life during the month that International Programs applications are first due. The pressure on top of that to have to decide to what sophomore year will look like can be quite daunting.
We understand that an early priority deadline in the fall allows freshmen to know in advance what classes they need to register for for the spring semester. However, if the office pushes the application deadline to a later time, students will be able to make more informed decisions about whether they should or which program to apply.
Students are thankful for the diverse opportunities the International Programs Office offers us and for the people who serve to make students’ abroad experiences as great as they are.
PGM offer these suggestions for the new dean because there are always opportunities for the office to grow and improve.
The IP office needs someone who will take on these challenges and serve as a role model for the students working in the office as well as those participating in the programs. This is an important role, and we trust that the university will find someone who reflects cultural competency in his/her behavior, be transparent with the students, promote authentic experiences and relieve the pressures of going abroad.
Follow the Pepperdine Graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic