Whatley receives NAFSA award for inclusion research

Announcement Date: May 12, 2023   |   Faculty, Research, SIT Graduate Institute

Dr, Melissa Whatley

Research on inclusion in international education has earned SIT Assistant Professor Melissa Whatley an award from NAFSA: Association of International Educators. The 2023 Innovative Research in International Education is for research Dr. Whatley published in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education.

Whatley teaches international and global education at School for International Training (SIT) Graduate Institute. She is also editor of SIT's new peer-reviewed Journal of Critical Global Issues, which is expected to launch in early 2024.

Her research is aimed at understanding policies and practices that diversify who is able to access international education and the outcomes of these opportunities, especially within the context of U.S. community colleges.

"This research addresses a persistent problem in international education that has become increasingly prominent in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic: International education opportunities are largely reserved for students who are economically well-off and from an upper socioeconomic status," according to Whatley.

Using data from a community college in the southeastern United States, Whatley looked at how two international education experiences—at-home internationalized coursework and study abroad—reproduced longstanding racial and economic hierarchies. The results suggest differences in participation along racial/ethnic lines for both international experiences, with Black students appearing to experience the most formidable barriers to participation.

International education opportunities are largely reserved for students who are economically well-off and from an upper socioeconomic status.

Dr. Melissa Whatley

"Community colleges and the students who attend them are often side-lined in conversations in international education, which tend to focus on four-year research and liberal arts institutions," says Whatley. "This research instead centers the international education participation patterns of this student population, which should be a key focus of the field's recent DEI efforts."

In announcing the award, NAFSA cited Whatley's goal of "promoting inclusion in this area of education research."

Congratulating Whatley, Dr. Sora Friedman, chair of SIT's International Education MA program, noted that she was chosen through a blind, peer-review process coordinated by NAFSA’s Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship Knowledge Community.

Whatley is the author of An Introduction to Quantitative Analysis for International Educators (2022) and International Higher Education Research: State of the Field (2020; coauthored with Bryan McAllister-Grande). Her research is widely published in journals such as Higher Education, Journal of Higher Education, Journal of Studies in International Education, and Journal of Diversity in Higher Education.

She is an active researcher, writer, presenter, and contributor to various professional associations, including NAFSA. She earned her PhD in higher education from the University of Georgia’s Institute of Higher Education.