Exploring Opportunities and Challenges of Cross-Cultural and International Teaching, Research, and Service for Higher Education Faculty Members

Exploring Opportunities and Challenges of Cross-Cultural and International Teaching, Research, and Service for Higher Education Faculty Members

Melanie C. Brooks (University of Idaho, USA) and Jeffrey S. Brooks (Monash University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8376-1.ch003


In this chapter, we relate themes derived from an analysis of literature related to international collaboration and cross-cultural communication. Our analysis helped identify five critical areas that present challenges and opportunities for improvement: (1) communication and language; (2) cultural differences; (3) funding and time; (4) co-authorship and memorandums of understanding; and (5) ethics, respect and trust. We complement presentation of these themes by also including some of our personal reflections on international work as faculty members working at institutions of higher education in the United States. One of the key insights of this inquiry is that the roles and perspectives of many administrators and leaders in institutions of higher education should be reconsidered and reframed in a global perspective to effect meaningful change and improvement.
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Institutions of higher education in the United States often emphasize the benefits of international partnerships and collaborative research through their strategic plans and in mission and vision statements (Spencer-Oatey, 2012). These institutions rely on establishing strong international relationships, for they are central to increasing institutional prestige, enhancing knowledge capacity, and expanding financial opportunities, among other benefits (Altbach & Knight, 2007; Cooper & Mitsunaga, 2010). Yet not all institutions enjoy strong international partnerships. For some, having strong international relationships is aspirational rather than established. Further, this varies greatly from discipline to discipline and from college to college (Altbach, 2006). Many universities rely on faculty resourcefulness and creativity to provide the foundation for developing and sustaining these partnerships. These collaborative efforts are often hindered by myriad individual, institutional and cross-cultural challenges (Black, 2004; Brookes & Becket, 2001; Stohl, 2007). The twofold purpose of this inquiry was to (a) identify common issues that undermine the establishment and sustainability of international collaborations and (b) make actionable suggestions on how to improve or overcome such issues, being particularly mindful of the role of administrators as facilitators of such endeavors.

To better understand these challenges, we begin this study with an integrated and multidisciplinary literature review designed to identify issues and dynamics related to international collaboration. The methods used in this study were in keeping with recommendations for critical literature reviews outlined by Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Lee and Podsakoff (2003). We conducted a search in electronic databases with specific educational leadership collections (JSTOR, SAGE Education, Emerald Insight, Academic Search Premier, etc.) and Google Scholar by cross-referencing keywords such as international partnership, international collaboration, international higher education, international education linkages, cross-cultural communication, etc. This technique guaranteed that many peer-reviewed journals and works published by major publishing houses were part of the sample. We extended this search through “bibliographic branching that entailed review of the reference lists in the literature identified to locate additional resources that did not emerge in database searches” (886). After identifying relevant data, we reviewed, analyzed articles, reports, books and policy documents and coded them into categories that became the main key findings discussed in this chapter (Bogdan & Biklen, 2007).

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