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Whatley Wins NAFSA Innovative Research Award

Whatley Wins Research award

by Jewel Caruso

Melissa Whatley (PhD 2019) is the recipient of the 2023 TLS Innovative Research in International Education Award from NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

This award is given to individuals whose research is applicable to international education and meets NAFSA's knowledge domains. Their research must also demonstrate an impact in the field of international education and addresses the innovative nature of the research. 

Whatley's article submitted for the award, "Who Enrolls in Internationalized Courses? An Exploration of At-Home Access at One Community College," explores the accessibility of internationalized courses at a U.S. Southeast community college which has become increasingly prominent in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Published in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, the study focuses on how international education can reproduce long-standing racial and economics hierarchy through two international education experiences: at-home internationalized coursework and study abroad.

Adopting a critical quantitative approach, Whatley compares students who study abroad and students who enroll in internationalized coursework offered on their home campus along with several student demographic characteristics. She pulls data from a single community college that has developed a large international education program. Whatley found that Black students experience the most formidable barriers to participation in both study abroad programs and at-home internationalized coursework.

The article suggests steps for community colleges to take to increase access to these programs for underrepresented students. Whatley recommends that institutions can offer more opportunities for students to engage with international topics and intercultural exchange. In addition, Whatley advocates for creating more inclusive programs by prioritizing diversity and inclusion in program design and implementation. By actively recruiting diverse groups from the student population and providing pre-departure orientation, administrators could lessen key barriers to participation. 

Whatley is currently an assistant professor of international and global education at the School of International Training (SIT).

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