Publication Date

Fall 2016

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Barbara Burch (Director), Brian Meredith, Ann Mead

Degree Program

Educational Leadership Doctoral Program

Degree Type

Doctor of Education


Internationalization has become a central feature of American universities and has continued to grow in importance as administrators, teachers, and students desire to take advantage of the multitude of benefits (academic, social/cultural, economic, and political) successful internationalization can offer. Several studies have been conducted on internationalization in higher education, but research is needed that seeks to understand internationalization on an institutional level, i.e., the commonly accepted practices used to internationalize a university, the various rationales used to justify internationalization, and the common challenges associated with internationalization.

The goal of this phenomenological study is to examine the process of implementing internationalization at Western Kentucky University (WKU) in order to highlight the actions taken to internationalize an American university and to describe the challenges that can be associated with these efforts. Five major themes are explored to develop a better understanding of internationalization: approaches, rationales, challenges, solutions to challenges, and indicators of successful internationalization. Knight’s (2004) framework was used to code and analyze the approaches and rationales used at WKU, and the three remaining categories were analyzed independently. Eleven subjects agreed to participate in the study, and each agreed to a semi-structured face-to-face interview. Participants played a key role in the creation, organization, or implementation of internationalization since 2006, when international reach was added to the university’s vision statement, indicating a renewed focus on international initiatives.

A host of key findings are identified from the research relating to each of the five primary research questions/categories. The patterns and themes found in the study focus on internationalization at WKU and the special issues presented by the university’s contextual situation as it relates to implementing international initiatives. The study also reveals a considerable amount of information about the unique perspectives of upperlevel administrators about internationalization as it continues to grow in importance, the complexity of implementing a university-wide change on such a large scale, and the nature and character of balanced, comprehensive internationalization.


Higher Education | International and Comparative Education