GAISA Launches as Bold Advocate for International Students in the Face of COVID-19, Government Hostility and Widespread Institutional Neglect

Posted Oct 08, 2020

Global Alliance for International Student Advancement Will Amplify the Voices and Experiences of International Students to Build More Equitable, Supportive and Transformative Programs


Boston, Massachusetts, Oct. 8, 2020—International students help to subsidize the financial stability of countless public and private institutions and pump billions of dollars into national and local economies each year. Yet the voices of these students are too often missing from the discussions and decisions that profoundly impact their lives. This has become especially problematic in the U.S. this year, as institutions face an 11.2 percent drop in international student enrollments.


GAISA, the Global Alliance of International Student Advancement, launches today to champion the millions of students studying abroad in the face of multiple challenges. GAISA is building a new model of international student success in higher education through a student-centered, evidence-based approach to collaboratively cultivate and promote insights and resources that advance the outcomes of international students around the globe.


And beginning today, GAISA invites students and families from anywhere in the world to add their voices to a first-of-its-kind research initiative, available here, that is gathering data and information on an ongoing basis regarding the international student experience and how institutions can deliver better outcomes.


“The health and political crises of 2020, terrible as they have been, are serving to magnify how many colleges and universities continue to treat their international students, year after year,” said Richard DeCapua, Ed.D., Founding President of GAISA. “Opportunities to transform the educational experience for all students, domestic and international, are squandered when institutions accept the full tuition international students provide, while paying little attention to integrating them into the broader community and reducing their burdens to success.”


The Research 

The organization’s research initiatives are being developed in collaboration with AAC&U, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and focus on building insights into the international student experience around:


Health Concerns

Financial and Legal Issues

Social and Cultural Experiences

Workforce Readiness


GAISA has released an initial report, available here, that is intended to serve as a living document to gather data and insights regarding the international student experience. All those interested in or a member of the community of international students, including students, families, educators, researchers and administrators, are invited to add to this ongoing research by contributing relevant data, information or experiences. 


“AAC&U is collaborating with GAISA to understand how institutions are addressing the challenges facing international students with meaningful, evidenced-based research,” said Lynn Pasquerella, President of AAC&U. “The critical need to better support international students has been sharply refocused by the COVID-19 pandemic, elevating the need for institutions to recommit to global learning amidst the stresses of the current socio political climate.”


Initial research from the GAISA report reveals:

Institutions boast about their international student populations when recruiting domestic students, but fail to support the integration of student populations. 

70% of domestic students said their college or university advertised their global and diverse student population when going through the admissions process

57% of domestic students said interactions with international students have been a valuable or meaningful part of their collegiate experience

52% of domestic students said they don’t have any international student friends


60% of international students said their institution was providing enough support and resources to enable their success on and off their campus, but when asked about specific things their institution could do to better support them, 78% had the following answers:

21%: Enhanced resources for mental health, counseling, housing, nutrition, and healthcare

21%: Increased focus on campus life integration

19%: Enhanced academic advising and faculty support

8%: Enhanced visa navigation assistance

4%: Open dialogue about social issues

4%: More personalized marketing and communications

1%: Enhanced onboarding programming


Advisory Council

GAISA has the support of an Advisory Council comprised of notable educators, including:

Austin Ashe, Associate Director of Undergraduate Education, MIT Sloan School of Management

Cissy Petty, Vice President, The George Washington University

Dulce Amor L. Dorado, Director of International Students & Programs, University of California- San Diego

Huan Roholt, Advisor to International Students and Scholars, University of Pennsylvania

Jamele Adams, Dean of Students, Brandeis University 

Jenny Bowen, Director of International Student Advising, Indiana University at Bloomington

John Singleton, Director of International Student Programs, Texas Christian University

Justin Jeffery, Director of International Student Life, University of Georgia

Shams Vahedi, International Student and Faculty Advisor, Michigan State University

Suzanne Beech, Professor, University of Ulster in Northern Ireland

Tamara Yakabowski, Professor and Higher Education Program Director, University of Northern Colorado

Whitney Szmodis, Assistant Director of Fellowship Advising, Lehigh University


“Amid the very real pain of the current pandemic and the discord that surrounds it, GAISA is stepping up as a steadfast ally and advocate for those who are at the heart of the international student experience, to uncover the complex and pressing challenges they face today,” said Huan Roholt, Advisor to International Students and Scholars at the University of Pennsylvania. “I am looking forward to facing these challenges head-on alongside my fellow colleagues and experts in international student success.”


For more information about GAISA or if you would like to participate in advancing the achievement of international students, please visit:


About The Global Alliance for International Student Advancement

The Global Alliance of International Student Advancement, GAISA, is building a new model of international student success in higher education through a student-centered, evidence-based approach to collaboratively cultivate and promote insights and resources that advance the outcomes of international students around the globe. For more information, please visit




Media Contact

Brianna Schmitz

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