Global Engagement Solutions for Higher Education


International Education and
Challenges of Perception
with Jim Ketterer

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FEBRUARY 22, 2023

Episode Summary

Studying and working abroad adds a unique layer to one's life experience and allows one to broaden their perspectives, learn new languages, and familiarize themselves with other cultures. But not everyone has the same opportunity, or at least, they think they don't. Therefore, we need to use as many channels as possible to communicate enrollment options at a particular educational institution.

In this episode of Global Engagement Insights, we are joined by Jim Ketterer, the dean of the School of Continuing Education, The American University in Cairo. Jim discusses what makes an educational institution international, the challenges they faced during the pandemic, and the impact of digital transformation. He also touches upon the importance of mentorships and how global experiences are not about changing your location; they are about changing your mindset.


Name: Jim Ketterer

What he does: Jim is the dean of the School of Continuing Education.

Company: The American University in Cairo

Noteworthy: Jim also worked at the State University of New York (SUNY) and Bard College.

Where to find Jim: LinkedIn

Key Insights

  • Necessity is the mother of invention. And that proved to be true in many spheres, including education, once the pandemic hit. In fact, even global institutions like The American University in Cairo faced many challenges during that period. “We had to shift gears quickly. We had no other choice. [...] There were technology questions, and then there were questions of acceptability, not just of the students but also of the faculty. How could we convince our part-time instructors who have other jobs in Egypt and other places in the world that they could and should do this? And how could we train them in a way that would not only give them a sense of comfort in doing it but also would maintain our quality? [...] So the faculty was one thing, and then the students, and of course, like many institutions, we were facing people who said, ‘Well, I'll wait it out.’ [...] And when it wasn't over as quickly as we all initially thought it would be, they started to explore the online options.”
  • One should not overlook the importance of mentorship. Prior to joining The American University in Cairo, Jim spent some time at the State University of New York, working as the Center for International Development director. As a result, he had a chance to work with some remarkable figures like the former ambassador, Robert Gosende, whom he considered a mentor. “I learned a lot about the power of having a mentor who can guide one in not only what to do and how to think about what to do and how to think about working with others and in teams but then also learning to be a mentor and having the joy and the challenge of doing it with and for others. And not just how can I do it and be a mentor and be a mentee, but how can we integrate it into our educational offerings?”
  • You don't have to leave your home to have a global experience. Instead, explore various resources, and connect with people with similar interests and paths. After all, these experiences often appear in unexpected places. “One could have something that is an incredibly transformational, interesting, global experience in a 10-minute drive from your house, whether through experiencing a new food, meeting a family from somewhere else in the world, or coming across a great book with a different perspective. Developing that mindset and sense of curiosity is not place-specific. There's a real power in taking yourself out of your comfort zone. Learn a new language and learn a new culture and not learn it for career reasons but because you want to get to know people, understand what they’re saying, and have them understand what you're saying. So don't overlook the things that may not appear to be global at first but are still important and transformational.”

Episode Highlights

What Makes an Educational Institution Global

“My current institution is the American University in Cairo, and as the name says, we have a foot in at least two places. We're an American university, both in the style of our education and in that we offer a truly liberal arts and sciences approach to undergraduate and graduate education.

But also, we are accredited in the United States and Egypt; so, we're in both places and of both places. And by definition, the legalistic regulatory definition makes us global.

We’re also global because we have people from all over the world who come to study at the university. And we also send our students all over the world to study. We also have faculty who, in one way or another, are doing collaborative research projects with scholars from around the world and spend sabbatical years in other parts of the world.

So, like many universities, we have a global reach. We also have this magnetizing global effect, and we bring people to the region.”

We Underrated Continuing Education for Years

“[But] there has been an opportunity during the difficulties of the pandemic for people to realize this non-traditional education that meets people where they are and finds ways to deliver education to them at various points in their lives.

It's not a nice ancillary thing to do, but it is one component of the core mission of any serious university. And so there has been an important moment in the last few years to realize this is true. It has always been true but hasn't always been recognized in its value.”

Going Digital Allowed Us to Present Ourselves to a Broader Audience

“We had developed a cadre of instructors who were well-trained and highly motivated to teach online. And we started having more and more students interested in doing it. It allows us to get beyond the limits of the city of Cairo and our neighboring city across the river of Giza and reach out to other constituencies across Egypt and the region.

It also allows us to develop new courses with a global audience in mind and things we can offer a global audience that leverages our position as an American institution in Egypt. [...]

We never will stop developing new ways of doing this and thinking about this. So it's not like, now that we're back face-to-face, we'll say, 'Well, we're finished with that online thing.' That is part and parcel of what we're going to do in perpetuity. [...]

And it's the beginning for us. It's an exciting moment for us and anybody interested in this kind of education — and a sense of what's accessible and acceptable in ways that just a few years ago would not have been at all.”