Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Kortegast, Carrie A.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling and Higher Education (CAHE)


This study explored how academic experiences were influenced when international graduate students engaged with faculty at a public, Midwestern university in the United States. The study used a phenomenological interpretive approach, incorporating the narratives of fifteen international graduate students from eleven countries. The researcher guided this study based on Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model of human development (1977, 1979, 1994). The findings provided insight into the interactions that international graduate students have with faculty, how these interactions influenced their experiences, and how classroom practices impacted academic experiences for international graduate students.

Faculty who acknowledged the unique needs and cultural differences of international graduate students supported students in positive ways, resulting in favorable outcomes. Reaching out to offer assistance, friendship, and guidance provided an important foundation for students’ ability to persist. Exhibiting patience and extending time for issues involving the English language in the areas of class participation, reading, and writing were also instrumental in supporting academic progress.

When faculty employed cultural references in class that eluded international graduate students or incorporated curriculum that was outside of their lived experiences, students were lost, felt excluded, and were unable to learn or make sense of the material. In these cases, international graduate students struggled, suffered, and in some instances failed.

Understanding this engagement process between faculty and international graduate students, and subsequent influences on academic experience and progress, contributes to the literature by calling attention to the impact this engagement may present. Further, detailing the important role faculty and institutions of higher education may impart, as well as consequences for students should the engagement be less than supportive, helps fill gaps in the existing literature regarding interactions between faculty and international graduate students.

I also presented conclusions, recommendations for faculty, international graduate students, and institutions of higher education, and suggestions for future research. Acknowledging that the needs of international graduate students are unique and significant will aid faculty toward this end. Orientation programs for faculty providing strategies to work with and support international graduate students is imperative. Further, institutional programs that effectively support international graduate students during their educational adjustment must be a priority in our universities. Enhancing these support programs for faculty and international graduate students is an important consideration and recommendation for universities to heed.

Key words: international graduate students, influences on academic experiences, ecological model, faculty and student interactions


190 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type