International Student Services Committee: A Multi-faceted Approach to Supporting International Students through Community and Advocacy
By Arame Mbodj, Ivette Mekdessi, Kelly Woods, Xinrui (Rose) Xu
The NCDA ISSC began as a task force in 2012. In recognition of the impactful work of the group, we officially became an NCDA committee in 2015. Since then, our work has honed in on increasing our understanding, and fulfilling the career development needs, of international students while ensuring advocacy on the behalf of the international community.
Our diverse team of career practitioners has developed resources and webinars, cultivated online communities, and conducted research to help increase the competencies of career development practitioners and professionals who work to support international students. The committee aims to continue to contribute to and sustain a learning environment where we can cultivate cultural competence for career practitioners, inform our work with employers and support the international student community. This work is created through three sub-teams (Social Media, Research and Writing, and Resources teams), providing increasingly sought-after resources by continuing to focus on best serving our constituents with avenues to exchange ideas, resources, best practices, programs, recommendations, and innovations for working with international students and employers on career development topics.
Utilizing a Participatory Action Research Approach
Through our experience in working with international students, we have found that they face unique career development challenges due to complex issues including intrapersonal, interpersonal, and socio-political factors. To better serve this population, our research team has worked diligently on projects to further understand international students' career development experiences in the United States by initiating survey projects of key stakeholders and publishing research findings from surveys with career development professionals (2013), international students (2014), and employers/companies (2015). We then began disseminating the findings from the surveys with key stakeholders through academic and professional journals and the creation of the NCDA ISSC "Resources for Partnering with International Students" guide.
Moving forward since 2015, our research team has focused on studying the multicultural, social justice, and advocacy competencies of career practitioners, using a participatory action research approach to engage career practitioners as researchers. We are now leading a survey to update some of the initial surveys with key stakeholders. Our research aims to gain an updated perspective on international students' career development.
As U.S. colleges and universities have strived to retain and support international students, many higher education career service professionals seek out research-based insights and best practices to improve their existing services and programs to address unique career needs of this population. Working alongside other teams within ISSC, the research team is actively identifying ways to share what we have learned with the career practitioner community through journal articles and conference presentations, and most recently through social media on LinkedIn and YouTube.
Expanded Outreach and Impact
Simultaneous with the creation of the task force in 2012, we established our social media presence via a LinkedIn group which later led to the creation of our social media sub-team. The NCDA: International Student Career Development Professionals LinkedIn group has evolved to gathering 630 career development practitioners and researchers in higher education working with international students. Through our social media presence, we expand our committee's reach and impact. We encourage the exchange of information among career development professionals to grow and connect with our target audience. We amplify our committee’s ongoing efforts to increase brand awareness and promote content. We provide a shared forum for like-minded professionals working with international students in their career development to increase community engagement. We are very excited to increase accessibility of our research findings, as well as other current, relevant topics and research implications, for career development professionals through our new YouTube page’s short, engaging, informative videos to increase community access.
Comprehensive Resource Guide
The NCDA ISSC “Resources for Partnering With International Students” guide was first published in 2014. Since then, we have updated the guide approximately every two years (2015, 2018, 2020) to ensure the resources and information are relevant and accurate. This comprehensive resource is designed for career practitioners who support international student career development in a college or university setting. Our 40+ page guide includes data-driven insights and best practices on multicultural counseling, supporting transitions, building relevant career services, assisting global job and internship searches, a U.S. employers’ guide to hiring international students, previous research findings and results, and strategies to engage employers and alumni to aid international students. Our international student resources guide also includes highlights from the NCDA’s Service to International Students Award recipients. The resources guide is available to all NCDA members on the NCDA website, under Members Only resources (login required).
In addition to the resource guide targeting career professionals, our committee also created an easily accessible and publicly available one-page handout for international students. These resources can be found in the “International Students” section under the “Special Populations” on the NCDA Internet Sites for Career Planning resource webpage.
Presentations to Increase the Knowledge Base
Our most recent endeavor includes our second annual mini-conference, themed “Serving International students During Transition; Illuminating Career Pathways, Resources and Opportunities.” This free mini-conference had previously been available only for ISSC members. This year, we opened up six sessions for all NCDA non-ISSC members to engage in thoughtful, interactive and deeper dive presentations on best practices in working with international students. We also provided 4.5 continuing education (CE) credits as an incentive to increase the knowledge base for practitioners supporting international students. Some of our recorded sessions will be featured on our YouTube page.
Advocacy in Higher Education
Our mission is based on advocating for more effective services, primarily in career services, as well as other related student services units, in higher education institutions. As we continue to provide knowledge and support to the international community, we hope to connect with and grow our community of practitioners and professionals. We invite any NCDA member who is working with and supports the international student community to join us on LinkedIn and/or as a part of our committee!
Career Convergence welcomes articles with an international connection.
Xinrui (Rose) Xu formerly worked at Purdue University Center for Career Opportunities as a senior career services consultant specializing in serving international students across different majors and degrees for various career concerns. Currently, Xinrui works at Huazhong University of Science and Technology School of Education as an Assistant Professor. Xinrui has been an active member of the NCDA ISSC Committee since 2019.
Ivette Mekdessi is a multicultural career development professional with 6 years of experience developing and implementing instructional programming related to professional development in Rice University’s Center for Career Development (CCD). She has been an active member of the NCDA ISSC Committee since 2016 and is looking forward to co-chairing the committee this year.
Kelly R. Woods brings over 18 years of experience in student development and advising to her current role as the associate director, career advising, in the Career Development Center at Mount Holyoke College. As a certified global career development facilitator and a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)–certified practitioner, Woods is adept at working with diverse learners and a variety of industries. Woods earned a B.S. in Natural Resources Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and an M.Ed. from Our Lady of the Elms College. Woods has been an active member of the NCDA ISSC Committee since 2016.
Arame Mbodj is an Assistant Director at Stanford University, BEAM Career Education working with underrepresented students at the intersection of career and identity. Arame is dedicated to supporting international students and has trained and supported other career development professionals to gain and incorporate intercultural competencies into their work. Arame has a degree in Psychology & Sociology, a master's in Mental Health Counseling, and is a certified Diversity Profession. She is currently the co-chair of the National Career Development Association’s International Student Services Committee. She can be reached at email@example.com