Community College Internationalization: The Role of Presidential Leadership

Michael Brennan, University of Pennsylvania


The literature differentiates between globalization and internationalization, but views the two phenomena as inextricably linked. Globalization is defined as a set of imposing economic and political forces that demand higher education pursue increased levels of international engagement (Altbach & Knight, 2007, p. 290); and has been explained as a process accelerating the “…flow of people, culture, ideas, values, knowledge, technology, and economy across borders, resulting in a more interconnected and interdependent world” (Knight, 2008, p. x). Internationalization is a response by higher education to manage the impact of globalization. Approaches for internationalization may involve infusing intercultural perspectives into curriculum, recruiting international students, promoting study abroad, engaging in international development initiatives, and building international partnerships (Knight, 2008, p. xi). Exploring the academic landscape, the capacity to respond to global forces by internationalizing varies considerably. Community colleges are among the institutions failing to respond. International initiatives remain marginalized on most community college campuses (Boggs, 2007; Green, 2007; Raby & Valeau, 2007). Community colleges educate nearly 50% of U.S. undergraduates and a disproportionate share of minority, first generation, and first time in college students (AACC, 2015c). Given the inevitability of continued globalization (Altbach, 2010, 2015; Altbach & Knight, 2007; Hudzik, 2011, 2015; Knight, 1993, 1994), community college internationalization is an imperative for U.S. higher education. The purpose of this research study was to understand how presidents assert leadership and create organizational capacity for internationalizing their public community colleges. Qualitative research methods were employed to inform the development of research questions, structure data collection, and frame the data analysis. By design, this study brought together evidence from multiple sources. A minimum of ten interviews were conducted at each site. Relevant documents were collected for analysis. The presidents and campuses chosen and research methods allowed for a robust, in-depth examination of the president’s role in the internationalization process over a sustained period of time, but in dissimilar geographic, demographic and economic contexts. While they employed different strategies, the three presidents successfully achieved consensus among stakeholders that internationalization was an institutional imperative.

Subject Area

Community college education|Educational leadership|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Brennan, Michael, "Community College Internationalization: The Role of Presidential Leadership" (2017). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI10615429.