Empowered to Serve?

Higher Education International Center Directors and Their Roles on Campus Internationalization





case study,, empowerment, international students, midlevel staff


Some institutions have sought to centralize the supports they give students by developing a center or office dedicated to international students, led by a director or manager overseeing international student support. However, these directors are also not given the resources needed to fully support international students. Our study focuses on the role and empowerment of these international center leaders. A multi-institution case study approach, guided by the empowerment framework, was utilized. The first research question asked what perceptions international center directors have of the resources and support structures provided by their institutions for the growing international student population. The second research question examined how international center directors perceive their empowerment, and which dimensions of empowerment they experience, or lack. Findings include international center directors reporting their sense of empowerment is founded in their desire to serve, sense of autonomy, and the sense of meaning they find engaging in the work.

Author Biographies

Hugo Garcia, Texas Tech University, USA

Hugo A. García, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the Department of Educational Psychology and Leadership at Texas Tech University. His research interests pertain to access and equity in higher education, community colleges, international higher education, and diversity in higher education

Jon McNaughtan, Texas Tech University, USA

Jon McNaughtan, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the Educational Psychology and Leadership department in the College of Education at Texas Tech University. His research focuses on higher education leadership with an emphasis on communication, empowerment, and engagement. 

Xinyang Li, Texas Tech University, USA

Xinyang Li, M.Ed., is a Ph.D. candidate at Educational Psychology and Leadership at Texas Tech University. His major research interests revolves around psychological characteristics in online educational setting, internationalization in higher education, and Hierarchical Linear Modeling

Mi Chelle Leong, Texas Tech University, USA

Mi Chelle Leong, M.Ed, is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate in the state of Texas. She received a M.Ed in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Texas Tech University and B.Sc in Psychology from Upper Iowa University. Her research interests revolves around international population, LGBTQ and cultural diversity. She is currently expanding her research interest in assessment and cultural diversity at workplace. 

Andrew Scott Herridge, Texas Tech University, USA

Andrew S. Herridge, Ph.D., is an Instructor in Women's and Gender Studies at Texas Tech University. His research interests include access and equity in higher education, LGBTQIA students and resources, institutional leadership and policy, and international higher education


Albrecht, S. L., & Andreetta, M. (2011). The influence of empowering leadership, empowerment and engagement on affective commitment and turnover intentions in community health service workers: Test of a model. Leadership in Health Services, 24(3), 228–237. https://doi.org/10.1108/17511871111151126

Altbach, P. G., & Knight, J. (2007). The internationalization of higher education: Motivations and realities. Journal of Studies in International Education, 11(3/4), 290–305. https://doi.org/10.1177/1028315307202542

Ammigan, R., & Jones, E. (2018). Improving the student experience: Learning from a comparative study of international student satisfaction. Journal of Studies in International Education, 22(4), 283–301. https://doi.org/10.1177/102831531

Andrade, M. (2005). International students and the first year of college. Journal of the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 17(1), 101–129. https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/fyesit/fyesit/2005/00000017/00000001/art00005?crawler=true&casa_token=cy19noBrtKgAAAAA:p7-NoYcBGt


Bodine Al-Sharif, M. A., García, H. A., & McNaughtan, J. (2020). Making meaning of the mid-level administrator roles in international student service centers. The Journal of Higher Education, 1-24. https://doi.org/10.1080/00221546.2020.

Banjong, D. N. (2015). International students’ enhanced academic performance: Effects of campus resources. Journal of International Students, 5(2), 132–142. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v5i2.430

Berry, J. W. (1974). Psychological aspects of cultural pluralism: Unity and identity reconsidered. Topics in Culture Learning, 2, 17–22. https://files.eric.ed.gov/


Berry, J. W. (1997). Immigration, acculturation, and adaptation. Applied Psychology, 46(1), 5–34. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1464-0597.1997.tb01087.x

Cantwell, B. (2015). Are international students cash cows? Examining the relationship between new international undergraduate enrollments and institutional revenue at public colleges and universities in the US. Journal of International Students, 5(4), 512–525. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v5i4.412

Castiello-Gutiérrez, S. Robbins, K., García, H. A., & McNaughtan, J. (2020). Educators, not bureaucrats: How managerial professionals at international centers engage in job crafting and create meaning in their work. Studies in Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2020.

Chen, S., & Bartlett, M. E. (2017). Content analysis of international students services at universities with top CTE programs. International Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 24(1), 28-41. http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/



Cho, J., & Yu, H. (2015). Roles of university support for international students in the United States: Analysis of a systematic model of university identification, university support, and psychological well-being. Journal of Studies in International Education, 19(1), 11–27. https://doi.org/10.1177/1028315314

Deschamps, E., & Lee, J. J. (2015). Internationalization as mergers and acquisitions: Senior international officers’ entrepreneurial strategies and activities in public universities. Journal of Studies in International Education, 19(2), 122–139. https://doi.org/10.1177/1028315314538284

García, H. A., & Villarreal, M. D. L. (2014). The “redirecting” of international students: American higher education policy hindrances and implications. Journal of International Students, 4(2), 126-136. https://doi/10.32674/jis.


Hechanova-Alampay, R., Beehr, T. A., Christiansen, N. D., & Van Horn, R. K. (2002). Adjustment and strain among domestic and international student sojourners: A longitudinal study. School Psychology International, 23(4),

–474. https://doi.org/10.1177/0143034302234007

Herridge, A. S., García, H. A., & Leong, M. (2019). Intersectionality of lesbian, gay, and bisexual international students: Impact of perceived experiences on campus engagement. Journal for the Study of Postsecondary and Tertiary Education, 4, 49-65. https://doi.org/10.28945/4412

Institute of International Education. (2017). International Student Enrollment Trends, 1948/49-2016/17. Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. https://www.iie.org/Research-and-Insights/Open-Doors/Data/Inter-national-Students/Enrollment.

Kezar, A. (2012). Bottom-up/top-down leadership: Contradiction or hidden phenomenon. The Journal of Higher Education, 83(5), 725–760. https://


Korobova, N., & Starobin, S. S., (2015). A comparative study of student engagement, satisfaction, and academic success among international and American students. Journal of International Students, 5(1), 72–85. https://


Laschinger, H. K. S., & Finegan, J. (2005). Using empowerment to build trust and respect in the workplace: A strategy for addressing the nursing shortage. Nursing Economics, 23(1), 6. https://search.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/



Lau, J., Garza, T., & García, H. A. (2018). International students in community colleges: On-campus services used and its affect on sense of belonging. Community College Journal of Research and Practice. https://doi.org/


Li, A., & Gasser, M. B. (2005). Predicting Asian international students’ sociocultural adjustment: A test of two mediation models. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 29(5), 561–576. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.


McNaughtan, J., García, H. A., Garza, T., & Harwood, Y. R. (2019). Empowering satisfaction: Analyzing the relationship between empowerment, work conditions, and job satisfaction for international center managers. Tertiary Education and Management, 25(1), 83-99. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11233-018-09016-7

Mori, S. (2000). Addressing the mental health concerns of international students. Journal of Counseling and Development, 78(2), 137–144. https://doi.org/


Morse, J. M. (1997). Perfectly healthy, but dead: The myth of inter-rater reliability. Qualitative Health Research, 7(4), 445–447. https://doi.org/10.1177/

Oba, Y., & Pope, M. (2013). Counseling and advocacy with LGBT international students. Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 7(2), 185–193. https://doi.org/10.1080/15538605.2013.785468

Pal, P. R., McNaughtan, J., & García, H. A. (2020). Defining mid-level career motivation and primary work responsibilities in international higher education. New Directions for Higher Education, 2020(189), 103-116. https://doi.org/


Psoinos, A., & Smithson, S. (2002). Employee empowerment in manufacturing: A study of organisations in the UK. New Technology, Work and Employment, 17(2), 132–148. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-005x.00099

Quinn, R. E., & Spreitzer, G. M. (1997). The road to empowerment: Seven questions every leader should consider. Organizational Dynamics, 26(2), 37–49. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0090-2616(97)90004-8

Rajapaksa, S., & Dundes, L. (2002). It’s a long way home: International student adjustment to living in the United States. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 4(1), 15–28. https://doi.org/10.2190/5hcy-u2q9-kvgl-8m3k

Reynolds, A. L., & Constantine, M. G. (2007). Cultural adjustment difficulties and career development of international college students. Journal of Career Assessment, 15(3), 338–350. https://doi.org/10.1177/1069072707301218

Roberts, D. L. (2014). International comparative student affairs: How international and comparative higher education impacts our work with students. Journal of College and Character, 15(1), 45–50. https://doi.org/10.1515/jcc-2014-0007

Roberts, P., & Dunworth, K. (2012). Staff and student perceptions of support services for international students in higher education: A case study. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 34(5), 517–528. https://doi.org/


Scheyvens, R., Wild, K., & Overton, J. (2003). International students pursuing postgraduate study in geography: Impediments to their learning experiences. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 27(3), 309–323. https://doi.org/

1080/ 0309826032000145070

Sherry, M., Thomas, P., & Chui, W. H. (2010). International students: A vulnerable student population. Higher Education, 60(1), 33–46. https://doi.org/10.1007/


Spreitzer, G. M. (1995). Psychological empowerment in the workplace: Dimensions, measurement, and validation. Academy of Management Journal, 38(5), 1442–1465. https://doi.org/10.5465/256865

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Sage.

Thomas, K. W., & Velthouse, B. A. (1990). Cognitive elements of empowerment: An “interpretive” model of intrinsic task motivation. Academy of Management Review, 15(4), 666–681. https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.1990.4310926

Whetten, D. A., & Cameron, K. S. (2015). Developing management skills. Pearson Publishing.

Wu, H., Garza, E., & Guzman, N. (2015). International student’s challenge and adjustment to college. Education Research International, 2015, 1–9. https://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2015/202753

Yin, R., (2014). Case study research design and methods (4th ed.). Sage.

Zhang, J., & Goodson, P. (2011). Predictors of international students’ psychosocial adjustment to life in the United States: A systematic review. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35(2), 139–162. https://doi.org/10.1016/


Zhang, X., & Bartol, K. M. (2010). Linking empowering leadership and employee creativity: The influence of psychological empowerment, intrinsic motivation, and creative process engagement. Academy of Management Journal, 53(1), 107–128. https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2010.48037118




How to Cite

Garcia, H., McNaughtan, J., Li, X., Leong, M. C., & Herridge, A. S. (2021). Empowered to Serve? : Higher Education International Center Directors and Their Roles on Campus Internationalization. Journal of International Students, 11(3), 666–686. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11i3.2039



Research Articles (English)