New affiliation creates opportunity for international experiences in student affairs education

Contact: Chris Hybels

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University College of Education and Human Development's higher education and student affairs leadership program announced a new affiliation with the University of Toronto (U of T) to create customizable international field experiences for graduate students at the respective campuses who are studying higher education and student affairs.

The higher education and student affairs (HESA) leadership graduate program in Western's Department of Educational Leadership, Research and Technology announced a new agreement with the U of T Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) and the U of T Mississauga Campus.

Dr. Ramona Lewis, center, with Tiara Koenig and Pranay Reddy during their field experience at WMU.

The international exchange initiative was launched by Dr. Ramona Lewis, HESA program coordinator, and Dr. Dave Kim, OISE faculty supervisor. The new partnership program allows students from both campuses to develop a deeper understanding and explore the similarities and differences in the U.S. higher education systems to be able to effectively implement the practice of student affairs.

Amie Sarabosing McPharlin and Dr. Dave Kim.

According to Lewis, the affiliation is addressing the increasing emphasis on global education in the field of student affairs. Students will serve as short-term international field scholars both contributing to and learning from the offices where they work during the summer. 

“The goal is to provide high-quality, theory-to-practice learning experiences for students of both partner institutions; students gain exposure to the breadth and depth of experiential knowledge of higher education and student affairs,” says Lewis.

The affiliation with U of T is different than most field experiences because it is completely customizable to match student's interests. Amie Sarabosing McPharlin, a current HESA student and member of the inaugural cohort, completed her experience by participating in research at the International Education Centre, Student Affairs Division at the Mississauga campus.

"As an international student herself, Amie was interested in international student affairs, so they created the field-based research position specifically for her," says Lewis. 

Students from U of T will have the opportunity to select from several units within the WMU Division of Student Affairs as part of their international experience. Lewis believes the willingness of student service departments at both campuses will be vital to the success of the affiliation agreement.  

"With this new effort, Dr. Ramona Lewis sets the stage for developing new partnerships and collaborations that take international alliances to a new level," says Dr. David Szabla, chair of the Department of Educational Leadership, Research and Technology. "With Dr. Lewis’s international exchange initiative, students are immersed into cross border cultural contexts gaining new insights and practices into higher education and student affairs. Ultimately, the alliance fosters diverse campus environments and enriches learning ecosystems with new perspectives." 

Lewis's work with the U of T has already received recognition from the NASPA International Educational Knowledge Community. During the NASPA ceremony in 2023, Lewis and Kim were presented with the international award for Best Practices in Intercultural Awareness and Programming for their global classrooms initiative.  The award recognized their international collaboration in creating new opportunities for international and domestic students, also spreading awareness to the benefits of international field experiences. 

For more information about the affiliation agreement or the international field experience program, contact Dr. Ramona Lewis

hesa at wmu

The higher education and student affairs (HESA) concentration in the educational leadership program emphasizes a practitioner- scholar model. The curriculum combines a student development and leadership theory core, diversity and inclusion electives, and individualized field experiences. Curriculum and experiences highlight intercultural development and advocating for historically marginalized and underserved student populations in all areas of professional practice. For more information about the program, visit the HESA webpage.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.