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International Communication | SIS

Transnational Education Concentration

Why Transnational Education?

In our increasingly globalized world, the traditional boundaries between “international” and “domestic” education theory, policy and practice are no longer sufficient to meet the dynamic and interconnected nature of global educational challenges and opportunities. These separations represent false dichotomies given that the lines are blurred. Once seen as a very parochial and technical practice, education is increasingly recognized as a transnational phenomenon and an adaptive challenge-opportunity with distinctly international and intercultural dimensions.

What is Transnational Education?

This innovative concentration will prepare the next generation of global educational leaders with the knowledge and skills necessary to support educational transformation for social justice both domestically and abroad. By building bridges between international and US-based educational theories, this concentration will adopt a transnational approach to the practice and study of education, broadly defined. It will synergize key educational concepts, frameworks, and practices from an interdisciplinary perspective (incorporating sociology, anthropology, critical theory, history, political science, and intercultural communication). It is designed to help students develop the sophisticated frameworks and—importantly—the practical skills necessary to lead for educational and social change in our interconnected and complex era.  

Why in a School of International Service?

The School of International Service is uniquely positioned to support students interested in adopting a transnational approach to education. Focused on preparing graduates to address today’s complex global challenges, our dynamic faculty—the largest among top schools of international relations —adopts an interdisciplinary and integrated approach that blends cutting-edge theory and real-world practice.  By framing education in a broad international relations context, education can be understood and analyzed in a powerful way unique to other international relations and/or education schools--as a socio-cultural phenomenon being profoundly transformed by the major forces shaping people and institutions around the world including globalization, migration, nation state immigration policies, technological innovation, intercultural conflict, global poverty, and economic crises. Further, education can be viewed with a critical lens as a site within which many of the consequences of these global challenges are being reflected, tested, and contested. With this approach, we can understand how and why nation states are increasingly viewing education as a tool of statecraft, and are deploying it for nation-branding, national identity development, and public diplomacy. We can examine education as a mechanism to combat endemic poverty, a vehicle for community capacity building, and a means for economic development. 

What will this concentration prepare me to do?

This concentration is designed to help build both the knowledge and skills necessary for aspiring or current international development professionals, international education policymakers, leaders, trainers, program managers, teachers and researchers working in international education organizations, university internationalization efforts, domestic and foreign educational ministries, education-focused NGOs, nonprofits and schools.

What courses will I take in this concentration?

This concentration is open to all SIS master’s students, but may be of particular interest to students in the SIS MA program in International Communication. In addition to the specific degree program requirements, students who seek to concentrate in transnational education will be required to take two foundational courses and have the opportunity to further specialize by electing to enroll in additional courses associated with the concentration. 

Foundation courses

1) The Emergence of Transnational Education (Fall 2014)  

As our world experiences major changes, education, too, is undergoing rapid transformation. Globalization, migration, technological innovation, intercultural conflict, global poverty, and economic crises are shaping and reshaping the nature, meaning, and deployment of education throughout the world. This course considers questions such as how and why nation-states are increasingly relying on education as a tool of statecraft, nation-branding, nationalism, and public diplomacy. By synergizing key interdisciplinary concepts from international relations, sociology, anthropology, critical theory, history, political science, and intercultural communication, the course explores contemporary education as a quintessentially transnational phenomenon with powerful implications that are simultaneously global and local. Drawing from a critical perspective, students examine the actors involved in current educational policy and practice, and consider their interests and relationships. Students also evaluate the impact of this phenomenon for global social institutions, nation-states, communities, and individuals.

2) International Educational: Politics, Policy, and Power (Spring 2015)

This course will consider the relationship between transnational education and global politics, considering its role in fostering nationalism, nation branding and global competitiveness. It will consider education’s utility as a tool for public diplomacy, and its role in human, social and economic development. We will carefully examine the relationship between culture, power and education in national and international systems. We will examine the role of donors and international organizations and institutions in education governance, and will explore how state and non-state actors shape and disseminate national and transnational educational policies and reforms. This course will have a special focus on culturally relevant policy analysis and implementation.


Sample Elective Courses (not an exhaustive list)

1) Developing Budget Models for International Programs

This course presents a number of different funding models and provides students with the skills needed to construct a viable financial plan for developing an international program initiative. It includes how to construct financial models in support of an international educational initiative, how to build a budget model for an exchange program, dual/joint degree program, or study abroad models and leverage existing institutional resources in support of the initiative.


2) Intercultural and International Education Program Evaluation

Designed for program managers and other practitioners in the intercultural and international education field, this course provides an overview of program evaluation and assessment, including qualitative and quantitative methodologies, project types and rationales, and reporting strategies. Students review case examples and design an evaluation plan for a sample program.

3) Managing International/Intercultural Programs/Exchanges

This course examines the cultural, political, and economic dimensions of managing international and intercultural programs in the context of internationalization of university and college campuses. It includes international student and scholar programs and services, study abroad initiatives, and curriculum transformation. Students conduct related research including the use of case studies, and various assessment tools and models.

4) Race, Class and Power in International and Intercultural Education

International education can as easily be an instrument of antagonism as one of benevolence, one of manipulation as one of cooperation, and it can as easily involve complete isolation as it can constant interchange” (Smart, 1971, 442). In this interactive seminar, we will critically consider the goals, design, and experience of international and intercultural education. Using case studies, this course will examine the role that race, class, and power play in international education and will focus on how identity, institutional biography, and culture structure interpretations and interactions in cross-cultural contexts. Students will gain the frameworks and skills necessary to design and implement culturally-responsive international and intercultural education programs. Designed for prospective international trainers, program managers, and educators, we will focus on the educational arena but this course will be broadly applicable to anyone planning to work in diverse environments.

How do I learn more?  

Applications are now being accepted for the Fall 2014 semester. Please contact Dr. Amanda Taylor, at ataylor@american.edu, to learn more about this concentration.