Leveraging Data to Implement Access-focused Change for Community College Globalized Courses


  • Suzanne LaVenture, MA | Davidson-Davie Community College (Retired)
  • Melissa Whatley, PhD | School of International Training (SIT)

The Community College Model

In the United States, community colleges offer tertiary education to students in local communities. Students can earn two-year Associate degrees that transfer to four-year institutions and a variety of certificates and diplomas in technical/vocational fields. The first community college was created in Joliet, Illinois in 1901, but they proliferated in the 1960s. Community colleges were created to democratize higher education, offering open access to farm workers and other members of the working class. The focus at community colleges is on teaching, not research. Community colleges often partner closely with local business and industry to provide needed training. There are currently 1,038 community colleges in the US, and 38% of all undergraduates in the US attend a community college (1). This article describes how one community college worked to extend its open-access mission to international education using data to identify areas to improve access to globalized courses. Globalized (often referred to as internationalized in the literature) courses are a key component of many institutional Internationalization at Home (IaH) strategies.

Community College International Education

Because of the focus on the local community, many community colleges do not offer international education opportunities. However, as the local is increasingly more global (e.g., many international companies now operate in rural parts of the United States), many institutions have begun to offer activities and coursework with a global perspective. Because of financial and familial constraints, very few community college students can study abroad. Hence, the need for internationalization at home activities is even more crucial at these institutions compared to four-year colleges and universities. An example of this trend is Davidson-Davie Community College (DDCC), located in Thomasville, North Carolina. In 2013, DDCC launched their Scholars of Global Distinction program, in an effort to reach more students and, hopefully, to offer more equitable access to internationalized curricula. The Global Scholars program requires students to take 15 hours of globalized coursework, attend eight on-campus events, and participate in a Global Experience (study abroad, virtual exchange, or a project with a global focus). DDCC’s International Education committee reviewed all course offerings and designated certain courses (e.g., World Languages, International Business, World Religion) as inherently global. The committee also developed a process for faculty to globalize any course not deemed as inherently global. In brief, faculty were required to add a Global Learning Outcome, internationalized course content and activities to support the outcome, and an assessment. Each course was submitted to a Course Approval Team, consisting of three faculty members from the International Education committee.

In 2014, World View, a Center at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel-Hill, moved to expand the Global Distinction program to all North Carolina community colleges. World View created curriculum internationalization grants open to faculty across the state. The faculty receiving grants worked in collaboration with UNC librarians and National Resource Centers (NRCs) to develop courses with content focused on various world regions. Each approved course was stored in a repository available to faculty across the state. Every college has access to these World View approved courses in addition to courses internationalized at the institutional level. Each institution has some latitude in determining what constitutes a globalized course and how it is approved. However, the following student competencies should be met:

  • Investigate the world beyond their immediate environment, framing significant problems and conducting well-crafted and age-appropriate research
  • Recognize perspectives, others’ and their own, articulating and explaining such perspectives thoughtfully and respectfully
  • Communicate ideas effectively with diverse audiences, bridging geographic, linguistic, ideological, and cultural barriers
  • Reflect critically on their role as a member of the global community and pursue ways to create positive change

There are currently 33 community colleges offering a Global Distinction program under the umbrella of World View. Thousands of students across North Carolina participate in globalized coursework, even those not participating in the Global Distinction program.

Assessing Diversity

Globalizing coursework with the goal of increasing access to international opportunities is a worthy endeavor in and of itself. However, just because educators have this intention doesn’t mean that such access happens automatically or that it is equitably distributed. To explore the extent to which globalized courses were equitably accessed among students across demographics at DDCC, we used data from the college’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Office of International Education. The Office of Institutional Effectiveness collects data annually on student demographics and course enrollments, and the Office of International Education tracks courses that are globalized. Through combining these two data sources, we were able to analyze the extent to which students belonging to different demographic groups enrolled in globalized courses. The demographic characteristics we were able to account for included: racial/ethnic identity, sex, first-generation-in-college status, low-income status (defined as receiving a Pell grant), and age. Academically, we accounted for a student’s degree program (e.g., Associate in Arts, Associate in Science) and their full-time/part-time enrollment status.

With reference to demographic characteristics specifically, our results indicated that Black students and older students enrolled in globalized courses to a lesser extent than they would have if enrollment patterns were equitably distributed. In contrast, white students, female students, and Pell recipients were more likely to take globalized courses than we would expect by chance. These relationships in our data were all statistically significant.

Implementing Policy Changes

These results pointed to key areas where equity-focused institutional policies and practices could be changed or newly implemented to improve access to globalized courses for marginalized students. However, arriving at the results and translating them into action are two different things. One key recommendation from our results involved globalizing courses that were already popular among Black students and older students. We returned to our dataset to identify courses, and the faculty members who taught them, to report to the college’s International Education Committee. Globalizing these courses would benefit the most students from these two demographic groups. With the support of the International Education Committee, faculty members were encouraged to globalize their courses, a process by which access to globalized courses would become more equitable for the diverse students attending DDCC.

This example illustrates one way in which data can be used to support diversity initiatives in international education. Other similar analyses could be used to explore diversity among participants in other international education opportunities or to explore learning outcomes among diverse students who participate in international education. By combining data from several units on campus, we were able to identify gaps in access for particular demographic groups and suggest key changes to institutional practices that would address these gaps. Gathering and analyzing data regarding student enrollment and participation in IaH activities, such as globalized courses, is a first step in addressing access inequalities so that design and implementation can more intentionally address international education’s longstanding patterns of inequitable access and inclusion. Communicating with stakeholders, such as the International Education Committee in this example, is key to translating these findings to practices that promote diversity and inclusion in global programming.

(1) https://www.aacc.nche.edu/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/AACC2023_FastFacts.pdf

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