Careers in International Higher Education

Wanted: Culturally aware individuals passionate about helping undergraduate and graduate students develop a global perspective.

A university’s international office advances their school’s mission around global education. Passionate about how intercultural understanding makes societies stronger, the staff work to help students learn about other cultures, develop an openness to different ways of thinking, or improve their foreign language skills.

They connect their students to opportunities for studying outside of the United States, and recruit international students and scholars to their campus for study, research, or intercultural exchange. They also support international students and scholars as they adjust to their new environment.

If you’re enthusiastic about living and studying overseas, and want to bring that experience to others, a career in international higher education might be for you. Here are some common roles where graduates of our International Higher Education and Intercultural Relations master’s program are doing meaningful work.

Study Abroad Advisor

As a study abroad advisor, you’d bring the study abroad experience to the students on your campus. In study abroad, students study overseas for a few weeks, or a semester or two.

You might help develop and manage faculty-led programs where a professor takes a group of undergrads overseas for a specific objective. You'd likely coordinate exchange programs where an overseas school sends its students to your school, and vice versa. Study abroad advisors also evaluate external study abroad providers that offer programs to students from many universities.

Flotaing shrine at Miyajima Japan from Lesley University Study Abroad Trip
Floating shrine at Miyajima, Japan, taken on a Lesley University faculty-led study abroad trip. Each year, faculty from our art school take a group of students to Japan over winter break to examine how the country approaches design.

 

Advisors help students understand their options. They assist them in navigating the study abroad process—from applying to programs and getting ready for departure, to supporting the students while overseas and once they return home.

Amanda Roshan-Rawaan ’10 was a study abroad advisor at Georgia State University and is now the assistant director for the Office of Overseas Study at Indiana University, Bloomington. Amanda supervises 4 full-time study abroad advisors and 12 peer counselors. She advises for the university’s programs in Germany, Austria, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as for inbound exchange students from partner universities.

“I love talking about study abroad—from advising a student in my office to tabling at an event with prospective freshman and their families, or strategizing with departments about how to increase their students’ participation rates. One aspect I like the most is framing study abroad as a ‘can do.’ How it can be affordable, how you can graduate on time, and how you can be safe while overseas,” she says.

 

“My graduate program increased my awareness of biases we might have when encountering someone or something different. I draw from activities and theories from the program when I do pre-departure study abroad orientations to help students think about their identities and to consider ways they might be viewing ‘the Other.’”
Amanda Roshan-Rawaan ’10, International Higher Education & Intercultural Relations

International Student Advisor

International students might come to the United States for their entire academic program or for a short-term exchange. As an international student advisor, you’d assist students on immigration and visa processes as well as develop programs to support students as they adjust to life in the U.S.

Dana Riechman ’10 is an international student programming administrator and advisor at MIT. In this fast-paced role, Dana publicizes and runs 1-2 student events each week and regularly gives presentations on how to communicate across cultures. She assists with international student orientations, shares immigration updates and event reminders through a monthly e-newsletter, and meets with students about their immigration questions. She also coordinates the International Council where leaders from student cultural groups come together to voice their concerns.

International Higher Education and Intercultural Relations alumna Dana Riechman advises a student.
Dana Riechman '10 advises international students on visa requirements and plans initiatives to support students' cultural adjustment in the U.S.

 

“I love that my job is to welcome international students and help them integrate into their new community. I have fond memories of studying and living abroad, and those early connections are crucial,” Dana says. “I also enjoy partnering with students, student groups, and administrators to support new and existing programs such as the How to Adult Series and the Language Conversation Exchange, which connects international students to U.S. students.” Some new initiatives Dana has worked on include the “Navigating MIT” Series, a Table Etiquette Around the World event, and helping the MIT Visiting Student Association get officially recognized on campus.

International Scholar Advisor

As an international scholar advisor, you’d be working with individuals who come to a U.S. university for research or work, not to study.

In this role, you might review requests for visa sponsorship for incoming international postdocs and visitors. You’d likely prepare petitions for submission to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), advise departments and scholars on immigration regulations, and manage intake forms and processes.

But it’s not all paperwork. Scholar advisors also work with people, presenting workshops across campus or leading orientations for newly arrived scholars.

“I love working with people from all over the world who are working on such interesting projects. It’s a rewarding job in that I’m providing a valuable service to the scholars and the university. I also love it because it’s very process-driven, structured work,” says Laura Beth Mours ’11, the international scholar advisor at Brown University.

While the scholar advisor role is similar to an international student advisor, the needs of scholars and students are different. “Scholars are typically self-sufficient, needing less support through the process of coming to the U.S. or preparing for life in a new country. The relationship between an advisor and scholar is more peer-to-peer,” she says.

Q: What is a Designated School Official (DSO)?

A: In international higher education, a common role you’ll see is “DSO” or “designated school official.” According to federal law, for a school to be Student and Exchange Visitor Programs (SEVP) certified, it must have dedicated employees for assisting and overseeing students on F, M, and J visas. That is, non-immigrant visas for students studying in the United States or engaging in cultural exchange. The DSO is one of those dedicated employees, and they are required to update and maintain student records in SEVIS–the web-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security.

Program Coordinator

Program coordinators may have a wide variety of responsibilities, working across the study abroad side and international student side of their school’s global education office, with no two days looking the same. 

Mary M. Struzska-Tyamayev ‘16 (née Mary Pyne) started out as the program coordinator and Designated School Official (DSO) at Center for Global Education at Simmons University. Her job was a combination of the 3 roles we've highlighted above. Mary not only oversaw the daily operation of the center’s activities, but also developed international programs and advised students on education abroad programs. She counseled international students, scholars, and professors on government visa regulations, and advised a student organization. Now, Mary is the director of the Center.

“I love how rewarding my job is. Working both with students coming to the U.S. and students wanting to go abroad, is a reminder of how interconnected the world is. Seeing the ‘aha’ moment for a student wishing to go abroad when they realize that there is a world beyond Europe, bridging the gap between an international student and a faculty member, and supporting international students in their adjustment to life in the U.S. are parts of my job that make my days bright,” she says.

Learn More

Prepare for a career working with undergraduate and graduate students in a university’s global education office. With a master’s degree in International Higher Education and Intercultural Relations from Lesley, you’ll be prepared to join this dynamic field.

Take it from Mary M. Struzska-Tyamayev '16. “This program is what allowed me to do this type of work. The network you create as part of the Lesley family is immense, and the coursework is practical. Classes on education abroad, immigration law, and international student advising gave me the tools to understand how systems work, why they may or may not be successful, and how to improve them," she says.

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