International student collaboration and experiential exercise projects as a professional, inter-personal and inter-institutional networking platform

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This paper has the aim to analyze and to reflect on the experiential exercise from the point of views of instructor and students attending University Center of Economic and Managerial Sciences at University of Guadalajara and participating in the
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  Global Advanced Research Journal of Educational Research and Review Vol. 1(2) pp. xxx-xxx, March, 2012 Available online http://www.garj.org/garjerr/index.htm Copyright © 2012 Global Advanced Research Journals Review International student collaboration and experiential exercise projects as a professional, inter-personal and inter-institutional networking platform José G. Vargas-Hernández*, Adrián de León-Arias, Andrés Valdes-Zepeda, Víctor Manuel Castillo-Girón   University center for economic and managerial sciences, university of Guadalajara, Periférico Norte 799 Edif. G201-7, Núcleo universitario los belenes, Zapopan, Jalisco, 45100, México. Accepted 20 March, 2012 This paper has the aim to analyze and to reflect on the experiential exercise from the point of views of instructor and students attending University Center of Economic and Managerial Sciences at University of Guadalajara and participating in the “X-Culture International Student Collaboration Project” as a professional, inter-personal and inter-institutional networking platform. Keywords: Experiential exercise projects, international student collaboration program, inter-institutional, networking, professional development, inter-personal. INTRODUCTION There is a growing trend on an increasing number of international student collaboration agreements among institutions of higher education to promote educative exchange programs, internationalization of teaching, research, curricula, etc. Current literature on internationalization of student cooperation projects and international academic exchange fail to adequately address the local teaching and research dimensions, including the international and global academic activities of local institutions and agents. Institutional efforts to internationalize and play an important academic role at the global competitive dimension go beyond the overcoming the character of multiple local constraints. Global economic, social, political, cultural, and educational forces driven by information and communication technologies have an impact on higher education institutions and pulling them to become international and even global actors. *Corresponding Author E-mail: jvargas2006@gmail.com,  jgvh0811@yahoo.com, Telefax: +52 (33) 37703340 Neo-liberal economic policies emphasize the role of educative institutions in the economy by confronting states versus higher education institutions, and states versus markets. These economic policies are intended to reducing subsidization, shifting the costs to the consumers and market and to be accountable for institutional performance (Neave and Van Vught 1991). Neoliberal governments are structuring higher education systems and institutions into a more marketplace under the paradox of “steering from a distance” (Marginson 1997; Meek, Goedegebuure, Kivenen and Rinne, 1996) and increasing demands on accountability of higher education as “evaluative” states (Neave 1998). Some local institutional structures may be more resistant to educative, science, technology, cultural, etc., policies dictated by global and international institutions. Institutional structures of education systems differ substantially across nations in several institutional features such as the educational decision-making powers and processes, resource allocation, incentives to different actors and agents, etc., which involve differences on educational student’s performance, etc. Institutional features of the high education system influence the   incentives of foreign students to determine the resources the students spend to achieve higher performance. Differences in the institutional incentive structures determined by estimates of features in education systems at student-level strongly influence student performance (Woßmann, 2003). Differences in institutional incentive mechanisms may explain the international differences in international students’ cognitive skills and thus, in students’ performance. Other local institutional structures may have an influence on the design of international policies, providing local experiences and agency for adjusting structural adjustment policies. Academic institutions are embedded in national state and marketplace systems. Nation states and institutions focused on the trend towards internationalization of higher education are committing resources and efforts to produce and distribute research and knowledge at the international level. To assess the institutional research and knowledge production capacities, one way is to compare the research infrastructure against national capital wealth. Internationalization of higher education programs is related to the provision of funding to facilitate persons and institutions to engage in international academic and educative activities (Knight, 2004). Internationalization of higher education may reflect the institutional priorities of universities and academic organizations. International student multidisciplinary collaboration is the key to solving many global problems related with business economics and management. At the international academic institutional level may be more interest in pursue financial purposes by recruiting fee-paying foreign students while at the national sector level the interest may be more emphasis on the cultural and social goals. Traditionally, international student collaboration programs at the inter-personal and inter- institutional levels are considered as strategies and policies designed and implemented either at home institution or at a host or exchange institution abroad. The international higher education policies integrate and sustain the institutional vision and mission regarding the international orientation of student collaboration projects and exchange academic programs. Institutional vision, mission and cultures may result in aggressively competitive strategies to get better positioned in the global academic market combining international teaching, research and services’ projects. It is assumed that the market is a terrain of natural private freedom functioning according to natural laws prior to the state that have shaped higher education institutions. Also, traditionally, international student collaboration programs through academic and research projects may be considered as a contribution to the development and technical assistance work framed by nation-building efforts of a developing country. Institutions of higher education for nation-building purposes may be more oriented to receive foreign education programs and student collaboration projects from developed countries and are less interested in export academic programs. Teaching-focused and export-oriented institutions are revenue driven operating in the global market of higher education for business purposes catering at lower quality for lower cost. Quality of higher education is dependent on the overall perceptions on a specific national education system rather than specific academic institutions (OECD 2004, p. 266). International education takes place in not single and unified global market but in several markets largely lying on local and regional boundaries around the world. International higher education and international student collaboration initiatives implemented in most national and even international universities and institutions provide students limited basic levels of international knowledge, skills and competencies. Higher education institutions play an important role in the production and distribution of scientific, technological and cultural knowledge. Academic capitalism as a metaphor used to describe a trend towards standardization and normalization of global academic and educative institutions, faculty, professionals, programs, curricula, knowledge, internal management and governance, etc., while ignoring the local contributions. The management and control of universities and institutions of higher education regarding their function of training and developing professionals requires flexibility, high level of autonomy and institutional independence. This ideal status of academic and research institutions is in contradiction to global and international agencies´ recommendations regarding the dominant patterns on global accreditation and certification of international student collaboration projects and academic exchange programs. Institutional categorization of international student collaboration projects Global and international agencies’ are influential spheres with capacities to establish some recommended patterns to guide the international advanced training and development of professionals. Institutional academic institutions of higher education and universities are categorized between elite-high status world class such as the Ivy League, intermediate level such as the Western European Universities and mass institutions such as more of the Asian Universities. Academic institutions located in the intermediate segments of higher education global market find some entry barriers to move upwards to higher segments. Intermediate institutions hardly receive full recognition for the quality of their teaching and research. Some intermediate academic institutions are entrepreneurially oriented whether non-profit or for-profit, struggle to   secure income by filling the available places, dedicating their efforts to teaching as the core business. Some international entrepreneurial academic institutions specialize in high levels of fee-paying foreign students based on massive hyper-marketing programs abroad to maximize institutional revenues and profits that are reinvested into more foreign business. The revenue driven international institutions of higher education are more mass and commercially oriented, teaching focused and less prestigious in research. Teaching-oriented institutions as intermediate are perceived as low social status in their market position with low value access places. Some of the intermediate institutions do not have enough resources to get committed to research. Some intermediate teaching-focused institutions are for profit or public sector with strong commercial orientations and practices characterized by high value and resource scarcity. The high value position of any institutional higher education program is subject to limitations constraining the growth of institutions producing high value positional goods and services. High status, world class and elite universities focused on status maximization while mass institutions are characterized by expansive place-filling. Elite English-speaking institutions are fully engaged and well positioned in the dominant dynamics of global competition to attract affluent and fee-paying students from emerging economies. Institutional academic and intellectual leadership at international and global levels follows from expensive faculty and researchers concentrated in scientific and technological areas of strength and well-funded infrastructure. International high value elite academic institutions are few and very limited in size and most of them are not interested in expanding enrollment of fee-paying students and optimizing research funding. International institutions compete for international research funding targeting public and private projects, philanthropy, services, consultancy, patents, etc. Although there is not consistent relation between research and the quality of teaching (Terenzini and Pascarella, 1994) teaching-research nexus shapes the institutional culture of comprehensive research universities. Institutions of higher education are influenced by the national institutional culture and identities and economic, social and political structures. Institutional culture of more internationalized universities tends to be more autonomous and entrepreneurial oriented corporations driven by the global business systems. Changes in the institutional cultures are related to changes in economic globalization processes and global commercial competition. In very competitive times signaled by an aggressive hyper-marketing of high quality international exchange academic and professional development programs and marked by cost-cutting and public funding reductions, it seems that only elite world class universities can be competitive in delivering educative, academic and research services. Marketing and media exposition of institutional international programs of higher education affects consumer awareness and creates a positional market (Geiger, 2004), high status, branding reputation and prestige rankings as measures of selectivity and costs. International institutions exercising branding reputation as a symbolic power limit the access to foreign students. International elite universities and institutions of higher education compete for tuition revenues from undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate exchange academic, educative and professional development programs designed to meet the needs of international students. The tuition paid by international students may have an impact on institutional resource allocation and costs of services provided and influencing the educational processes. Academic institutions after gaining branding reputation and prestige increase their tuitions revenues to complement public funding for research and to be able to pay high-cost faculty. To the rest universities around the world and internationally oriented, it is required to combine institutional and professional efforts to provide a competitive teaching and research. High research and teaching performing universities are the magnet to attract bright students, confirming the positive links between the quality of teaching and research is enhanced more by the status that by the professional performance en each domain. Status relationships between students, intimacy and pleasantness of intergroup interactions and working on common goals for the group as a whole are important elements (Amir, 1969). However, it is not necessarily the case supported by the “X-Culture International Student Collaboration Project”, an international business academic program lead by University of North Caroline, Greensboro. The Instructor’s Handbook describes and details the project stating that “The purpose of the X-Culture project is two-fold: first, to enhance learning in International Business/Management and related courses; second, to provide a platform for high quality International Business research.” (Taras, 2011, 5). According to this Handbook, the last term October – December 2011 semester, there were participating 145 student teams with a total number of 1,150 students from 26 universities and 22 countries. Nevertheless, for universities participating in high value international education exchange and student collaboration programs are required to maintain professional leadership. This paper has the aim to analyze and to reflect on the experiential exercise from the point of views of instructor and students attending University Center of Economic and Managerial Sciences at University of Guadalajara and participating in the “X-    Figure 1 . Analytical model to show the elements and their relationships in international student collaboration projects Culture International Student Collaboration Project” as aprofessional, inter-personal and inter-institutional networking platform. Analytical model for international student collaboration International student collaborations projects which implies studying, learning and training at universities other than the academic institution at which the student srcinally enrolled, has been for a long time an important element in academic professional education and development. Internationalization of higher education in general and international student collaboration programs have different interpretations depending of national and institutional culture, values, priorities, resources, policies, actions, etc. Internationalization process of higher education and academic exchange programs are characterized and categorized in relation of the approach taken to this interpretation. To analyze in some detail the dynamic relationships involved in international student collaboration projects, the elements of the analytical model used are depicted ion the following figure 1. The process of internationalization is the institutional integration of an international dimension into teaching, learning, and service functions (Knight, 2004). Academic institutions in early stage of internationalization process may assess the opportunities, challenges and benefits to commit to different purposes of an international educative orientation and to establish international inter-institutional liaisons. The international orientation of an institutional academic level may be influenced by some important factors such as international policies orientation in higher education, organizational vision and mission, availability of resources, funding sources, faculty profile, etc. Academic institutions may be motivated to become more international in order to achieve international recognition of high-quality branding reputation, as well as to generate more financial resources and sources of income by recruiting foreign fee-paying students. Institutional reputation of higher education programs is a positioned good (Hirsch, 1976) placed as a social status and better opportunities for students while teaching quality receives indifference. The motives to establish international inter-institutional linkages have different purposes for different academic institutions such as international student collaboration programs, joint teaching and research initiatives, academic mobility, curriculum development, publishing agreements, faculty training and development, etc. One of the motives to internationalize university academic and research activities is an effort to enhance institutional revenues or high status position within the local higher education system. Motivations and forces   driving internationalization of higher education programs vary from institution to institution and from country to country although the primary rationale may be the internationalization of research and knowledge production (Knight, 2004). Public non-profit educative institutions may have some income available to fund other activities, although Knight (2004) argues that the economic rationale is dependent on the commercialization and commoditization of cross-border delivery of education programs and services. Academic institutions and countries may conceptualize and implement several approaches international student collaboration projects at the same time (Knight and de Wit, 1999). Some countries as well as some universities partially close the doors to international student collaboration, in part because of possible concerns about low academic level and the lack of adequate international supervision from the sponsoring institutions or simply by an ethnocentric orientation. Liu (1998) emphasizes de common ethnocentrism arguing that educational do not take account of the different contexts and traditions, adopting ideas and practices that maybe not be useful in their home environment (Liu 1998: 4). Liu’s contribution is to recognize the importance to develop appropriate pedagogies for the specific educational contexts and traditions rather than assuming that the Western pedagogies must be right for all (Holliday 1994; Kramsch and Sullivan 1996). The student's perceptions on nationality and ethnic status and his or her attitudes toward host country is referred as the "status-deprivation" hypothesis (Mishler, 1965), the "perceptual-reciprocity" hypothesis (Ibrahim, 1970) and "two way mirror" hypothesis (Davis 1971). Foreign student needs to attain adjustment as a national representative sensitive about his or her nationality and ethnic background (Bochner, 1972). Research on foreign student adjustment have been developed on a limited methods based mainly on questionnaires and checklists. Evaluative perceptions, ethnocentric attitudes and stereotypes, status differentials, fear of rejection and the high level of anxiety and threat to self-esteem associated with intercultural interactions and encounters, among other factors, may inhibit social interactions with host cultures (Porter, 1972; Wedge, 1972). Cultures may differ in their level of stressful demands and psychological differentiation (Berry, 1975; Witkin and Berry, 1975) thus, can be hypothesized that students may better adjust when their interactions are with other individuals in cultures characterized by similar level of differentiation. Multiple host cultures (Klineberg and Hull, 1979) compare the adjustment of students from more than one host culture. An international exchange program might have as outcomes the development of favorable and appreciation attitudes toward the host culture, although this goal may be simple, because the students may develop some differentiated images and not necessarily all positive attitudes (Heath, 1970). There is a reciprocal relationship between the nature of social interaction and a positive adjustment relationship whereby "social relations and adjustment reinforce each other, with social relations easing adjustment, and greater adjustment freeing the student to enter more fully into social relations" (Selltiz et al., 1963, p. 159). Increased social interaction relates to more favorable attitudes and better personal adjustments, supporting the modified culture contact hypothesis and the association hypothesis (Klineberg and Hull, 1979). Empirical studies found support for the association hypothesis proving that increased social interactions among students with host nationals lead to improved adjustment and with more favorable attitudes toward the hosts (Chang, 1973). More superficial personal changes than changes in cultural values may be more consistent outcomes of student adaptation (Klineberg and Hull, 1979). The amount of contacts and interactions between students are not very extensive (Klineberg and Hull, 1979) many students report wishing to have more interactions with host national (Hull, 1978) some students tend to wait for host cultures to initiate contact and interaction (Gezi, 1961). Objective personal self-reliance and self-confidence, appreciation and more favorable attitudes toward the host country, a broader international mindedness, personal self-awareness, ethnocentrism reduced, etc., are some of the outcomes of successful student adaptation (Adler, 1975). Changes in personal self-reliance and self-awareness are more likely to be student outcomes than changes cultural value-based. Adaptation to the psychological and cultural interactions generally involves gradual adaptations to social interaction patterns, acceptance of individual differences and changes in personal culture identities. Empirical studies strongly support the relationship between accorded national status and attitudes toward host country for students from low status countries. Studies aimed at determining the difficulties among students coming from different cultures with different levels of differentiation and autonomy to interact with each other. A student who would have less difficulties in adapting to other foreign participants is profiled as playing a role of universal communicator (Gardner, 1962) and multi-cultural (Adler, 1977) described and characterized as the student that has cultural sensitivity, pattern of identity and resiliency, that may help the participant to adjust and adapt to multiple cultures. Academic institutions may concentrate only at home their international programs on the cross-cultural and intercultural dimension and concentrating on teaching, research and services without getting involved on cross-border and mobility programs. An ethical concern for the cross-cultural student
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