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Intercultural and Communications Concentrations | SIS

Transnational Education Concentration

 Below are some questions and course options for this concentration.

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.

This innovative concentration will prepare the next generation of international relations 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 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.    

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.   

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.   

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.    

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) Managing International/Intercultural Programs/Exchanges (Spring 2015)

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.


1) Culturally-Responsive Transnational Education Programs and Policy
3) Intercultural and International Education Program Evaluation
7) Assessing Intercultural Competence in International Education Practicum (Summer 2014) 

In this interactive seminar, students will gain the frameworks and skills necessary to design and implement culturally-responsive international and intercultural education programs.Drawing on case studies, students will also apply this framework to critically analyze transnational educational policies. We will consider the goals, design, and experience of international and intercultural education and will examine the role that race, class, and power play in international education. We will also focus on how identity, institutional biography, and culture structure interpretations and interactions in cross-cultural contexts. 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.


2) 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.


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.


4) Designing Intercultural Training Programs

This hands-on course focuses on the design of intercultural programs to enhance and develop intercultural understanding, communication, and competence. Students develop and critique training program materials and curricula for practical application in such settings as schools, business, government, non-profits, and in international contexts. Emphasis is placed on programs for multicultural as well as substantially mono-cultural contexts. In addition to interpersonal and intercultural skills, and the development of training materials, the course briefly touches on evaluation as integral components of effective program design.


5) Transnational Migration

The cross-border migration of people is not a new phenomenon, what is new is the degree to which state and non-state actors are involved in encouraging, managing, and controlling the movement of people. This course on transnational migration in the twenty-first century introduces students to multidisciplinary frameworks for analyzing the phenomenon. It examines historical-structural forces that shaped migration during the colonial era, followed by their material and symbolic legacies in the present. Among the topics covered are international policies and conventions governing different dimensions (such as labor, asylum, and leisure) and modes (regular and irregular) of migration; the role of contemporary trade policies; the human trafficking-terrorism nexus; the emergence of transnational communities and identities; and the politics of immigration in receiving countries.


6) Global and Comparative Perspectives on Public Diplomacy

This course provides an introduction to the conceptual and theoretical foundations for public diplomacy programs, new media public diplomacy initiatives, and how media outlets are used by international actors to influence global public opinion. The course covers issues and theories related to soft power, strategic communication, and media-based international relations. It reviews contemporary debates on U.S public diplomacy and the public diplomacy initiatives of other nation-states and non-state actors. The course is a comprehensive inquiry into assumptions that continue to justify and define the evolving range of policies related to public diplomacy and strategic communication.


In order for NGOs to effectively implement international educational programs, they must be equipped to recognize and respond to the cultural dynamics shaping their work. This practicum will support Teach for China (TFC), an affiliate of the growing Teach for All network dedicated to reducing the global education gap, with their efforts to recruit, prepare, and support interculturally-competent teaching fellows for work in rural Chinese schools. The practicum team will begin by developing a conceptual framework to define and evaluate intercultural competency as well as to measure the effectiveness of intercultural training initiatives. Following a preliminary set of interviews with TFC leaders about the program's mission and goals, the practicum team will observe and evaluate the relevant portion of the organization's Washington, D.C.-based selection process for its new American fellows. The team will then travel to rural China during TFC's summer training institute for its incoming cohort. Focusing on the portion of the program dedicated to intercultural training, the team will conduct ethnographic observations and interviews to evaluate its effectiveness. The team may also implement a pre-and post-institute assessment and may also deliver an intercultural competency workshop for the fellows, depending on the organization's interest and needs. Upon our return, we will analyze our data to produce a comprehensive assessment and will provide concrete recommendations to support the organization's future recruitment and professional development efforts.


How do I learn more?

Please contact Dr. Amanda Taylor, at, to learn more about this concentration.