Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein Palmer

Second Advisor

Dr. Sue Poppink

Third Advisor

Dr. Mark Orbe


International students, student outcomes, internationalization, higher education leadership, culture, survey


This study used a cross-sectional survey to examine the perceptions of undergraduate and graduate international students enrolled at a public university in the Midwest, regarding the personal and professional value they receive from their higher education experience. In addition, the study explored international students’ perceptions of the level of engagement they experience as cultural resources at their institution.

Results indicated that international students’ decisions to come to the U.S. were mostly driven by professional motivations, such as getting quality education, developing a better understanding of their fields of study, and gaining practical skills and experiences. Yet, international students’ professional outcomes were significantly lower than their expectations related to their professional development. However, students benefited personally to a much greater extent than they had anticipated.

The strongest predictors of international students’ professional outcomes were opportunities to practically apply academic knowledge, being taught skills needed for employment, talking about career plans with professors or advisors, using university career services, having professors ask questions about international students’ countries and cultures, and having international perspectives integrated into classes. Personal outcomes were predicted by having professors and staff encourage contact among students from different backgrounds, using university career services, other students’ willingness to help international students, engaging in serious conversations with students with differing backgrounds, using student services, having international perspectives integrated into classes, U.S. Americans trying to get to know international students and their cultures, and working in multicultural groups for class projects. International students’ goals, institutional support, and students’ engagement in goal achievement were predictive of students’ perception of the value received from U.S. higher education. The perception of value differed by students’ region of origin and years at the university.

The study reveals that international students are not actively engaged as cultural resources although they would like to do more to help others learn about their countries and cultures. The level of desired engagement as a cultural resource was the highest among South and Central American students, and the lowest among European students. The study suggests multiple areas of opportunities for higher education to increase international students’ personal and professional outcomes while also offering ideas of how international students can actively contribute to the university’s strategic goal of global engagement and internationalization.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access