"A really good fit"

Kathryn Hanson (M.A. ’18, International Higher Education) was developing her “statement of purpose” for a graduate program at another university when the Lynch School’s new Master of Arts in International Higher Education (IHE) program popped up in an internet search. Hanson was intrigued by its academic rigor, flexibility, and proximity to her home near Boston. “As I read about the program, I realized this would be a really good fit for me.”

Hanson scrapped her plans and applied to Boston College, where she joined the inaugural IHE class this fall. The 23-year-old enrolled in order to expand her knowledge—and gain academic credentials—in the relatively new but fast-growing field of international higher education. Hanson hopes to eventually work in study abroad, an area of higher education about which she is passionate.

Hanson spent a semester at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan, while attending Gettysburg College, where she majored in Japanese studies and graduated in 2015. “It was a defining experience,” she says. “Coming from a very small town [Rye Brook, New York], education for me has been about breaking the bubble and seeing what else is out there in the world. Japan was so different from living in the U.S. It really pushed my bubble out. ... When you interact with people from other cultures, especially in person, you lose that fear we’re seeing a lot of in today’s society.”

About 60 percent of Gettysburg students opt for study abroad, and Hanson was surprised to learn that, nationally, only about ten percent of U.S. college students do so. “That sparked a flame in me,” she says. “I want to see more students study abroad.” She’s considering a thesis project examining the barriers that keep students from considering international experiences, and how they can be overcome.

Hanson, a part-time student who works full-time as a project coordinator for a translation company, relishes the flexibility the IHE program provides—including the option to take classes in person or online remotely. She was also attracted to its rich curriculum, with foundational courses on theory, practice, and policy in global higher education; research courses that build data-evaluation skills; and electives on such topics as higher education leadership, economics, and student affairs.

One of her fall courses, “Global and Comparative Systems of Higher Education,” led to an unexpected opportunity: co-authoring an article with her professor, Hans de Wit, Ph.D., a leading scholar in international higher education.

Hanson had written a research paper on academic freedom that caught de Wit’s attention. “He emailed me and said, ‘Hey, I really liked your paper, would you like to co-author a blog post with me?’” Their joint piece, “Academic Freedom Under Threat Everywhere,” appeared in Inside Higher Ed in November 2016. “It was my first published paper, and it was very exciting.”