Global education delivery in higher education has shifted remarkably over the past 18-24 months and now includes virtual and domestic programming in addition to outgoing and incoming student programs. To meet the multidimensional needs of students and prepare them to be global leaders of tomorrow, we must now view students through a more complete — and complex — lens that incorporates all facets of their collegiate global engagement experience.
Similar to how business marketers personalize customer engagement strategies, institutions must view their students with this type of focus, personalizing and connecting their international cultural experiences for a more enriching result. How can this be accomplished?
1. Shift Overall Mindset: To engage more students in a comprehensive international education experience, institutions should create and capture interest earlier in the student journey and get to know students from their first interaction with the institution. This means approaching international education during the recruitment phase and freshman year and promoting available opportunities like internships, volunteer programs, domestic and international trips and valuable virtual programming (which may also be paired with in-person experiences). As an example of earlier global programming, Northeastern University offers a freshman global experience called the N.U.in Program, where students study abroad for their first semester before transitioning to the institution’s Boston campus in January.
2. Connect Globalization Dots To Understand Students As Individuals: Linking all relevant student information requires connecting data among all campus departments that touch global engagement. With this gold mine of integrated data, including demographics, major, GPA, relevant campus interests, etc., colleges can tap into technology solutions to begin suggesting personalized and tailored international programs, trips or other experiences that may be of interest, similar to the Netflix or Amazon “more like this” offering. Incorporating duty of care across this vast amount of student data is part of the puzzle for informing a relevant, engaging global experience. For example, institutions like Syracuse University successfully pulled in data from different sources and used it to ensure students’ safety and compliance domestically during the pandemic.
3. Analyze Trends And Bring Like-Minded Students Together: Once the data is connected, institutions should apply analytics to understand their student populations and help broaden student connections based on common elements that go beyond typical characteristics like the same major. This approach means acting on the concept of inclusivity by creating an authentic sense of community rather than segmenting or isolating groups. For example, it is possible to identify a common thread among students who have similar demographic traits (e.g., identify as LGBTQ+), interests in a similar region/country and/or have traveled to or are from a certain country or region of the world. The intersections of these types of common threads can help identify new global connection opportunities and deepen the overall student experience.
4. Personalize Communication: Colleges and universities can establish and strengthen globally minded connections with students by communicating new opportunities for them to explore global interests based on the known, linked data points of each student. Whether study abroad, international clubs on campus or new programming that intersects with relevant demographic groups, institutions have the information needed to elevate global engagement experiences at an individual level. Taking it a step further, institutions can benefit from involving alumni in the global engagement process — based on their unique backgrounds and global experiences, they can be helpful for recruiting students to become involved in global programs.
Besides personal connections, respecting college students’ communication preferences goes a long way. As today’s students typically prefer to communicate via social channels and apps more than email, it’s important to not only connect the dots but also meet students where they are in how they wish to receive or share information. This must be done seamlessly and at scale to ensure student participation and investment.
Today’s collegiate international experiences no longer resemble the traditional study abroad and international student programs of yesteryear; students expect much more from these multidimensional experiences. As such, institutions must transform their global engagement approaches by leveraging data to understand students in a much deeper way than ever before. With this approach, they will be well positioned to deliver personalized, enriching cultural experiences for every student from their first interactions through graduation and beyond.