Nahoko Nishiwaki (M.A. ’18, International Higher Education) works in the international office at Kansai University in Osaka, Japan, coordinating exchange programs with universities around the world to encourage study abroad.

She loves her administrative job at the large private university, but she felt something was missing from her knowledge base and skill set. “I didn’t know what was going on at other universities in Japan or in higher education in America, Europe, Asia, and Africa,” she says. “I need to know what’s happening around the globe.”

So Nishiwaki took a two-year professional development leave-of-absence and enrolled in the International Higher Education (IHE) master’s degree program at the Lynch School of Education and Human Development at Boston College. She had considered other U.S. universities but was drawn to this newly created program’s broad focus and academic resources.

Through courses and conversations, Nishiwaki is exploring trends and best practices surrounding the internationalization of higher education that she can put to work on the job back home. For example, she is learning about trends in student mobility, partnerships between universities, and transnational education—such as the increasing number of universities establishing branch campuses in other countries. She wonders how Japanese universities will be able to compete with English-speaking institutions in that burgeoning arena.

IHE fellows at conference

IHE students at the 2017 Forum on Education Abroad.

“I am learning how higher education is changing and facing challenges in a global context,” she notes. Beyond academics, Nishiwaki is gaining practical experience working in BC’s Office of International Programs, where she greets visitors and fields phone calls. And she values networking with other IHE graduate students, who represent a range of backgrounds and professional experiences. “They could be my future colleagues,” she notes.

Like her fellow students, Nishiwaki raves about the IHE program faculty. She praises Hans de Wit, Ph.D., research professor of higher education and director of the Center for International Higher Education, and Laura E. Rumbley, Ph.D., assistant professor of the practice and associate director of the center, for their breadth of knowledge and helpfulness.

“I don’t know how they do it,” she says. “They travel to conferences, do research, teach, and care so much about their students. They don’t act like they’re busy. They give good advice and have good connections.” Nishiwaki, who is 30 and single, admires Rumbley’s ability to balance work with raising a school-age child. “I want to be like her in the future, having a family but also having a professional career.”

Nishiwaki, a native of Osaka, has studied in America before. She was a high school exchange student in Oklahoma for a year, and she spent two semesters at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts while an undergraduate at Kansai University, her current employer. Kansai is providing partial salary and a loan to enable this professional development experience. Still, the decision to pause her regular life for two years wasn’t easy, says Nishiwaki. “It’s [a] big investment, but I’m so glad I took this chance.”