Navigating Graduate School: International Students, Institutionalism And Language Ideologies
International students are often relegated to narrow discussions of English language learning, immigration issues or cultural events on campus, and are viewed as the purview of a limited group of scholars, which is unfortunate given their growing numbers in universities across the United States. This case study of two economics departments at two competitive research universities examines institutional and language ideology forces acting on students at the university, disciplinary, and departmental levels in order to better understand the ways that non-native English speaking PhD students experience graduate school. The study offers their perspective on current tensions at research universities, as well as policy implications. Use of the institutional theory lens reveals how taken for granted the steps to graduate student success in economics can be. Much of what students need to do to be successful is learned informally; international students pick up on the norms and rules in much the same way as domestic students. PhD programs respond to disciplinary expectations, and tend to be relatively decoupled from the home university. Language ideology, on the other hand, enables a specific examination of attitudes toward non-native English speakers in graduate school. Student voices, considered through the lens of the language ideology, offer perspectives that may not have been considered before. Differential treatment, tensions between groups, and what happens naturally in an unregulated diverse environment show that the system could definitely work better than it does currently. Students receive very few direct messages about the importance of English language proficiency. Another area of the study that will continue to be debated is the role of English in graduate student work, especially in mathematical fields. This study shows no consensus: English is of secondary importance to technical expertise in economics, though there is a general acknowledgement that some minimal level of language is needed. Clearly, stronger English skills would not hurt a graduate student, but devoting time to English at the expense of research or academic work is not necessarily favored. The only regulated form of communication for graduate students is teaching, which, depending on funding needs, is often not a priority.
Sipple, John W
Rubineau, Brian; Villenas, Sofia A
Ph.D. of Education
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis