Agata Mirowska of NEOMA Business School offers some advice on how to integrate international academics into new institutions
Recruiting talented faculty from around the world is becoming essential in the modern higher education climate, as institutions seek to compete on an international scale to provide the best education possible. While there is plenty of talent from within one’s own country, international staff can provide new ideas and help ensure consistent improvement.
As the recruitment of international professors becomes a strategic priority, the challenge of integrating these international faculty members and their families in their new home country grows in importance.
A new international faculty recruit faces several challenges in a new country such as – among others – language barriers, culture shocks, and a distinct lack of belonging. These factors can cause international faculty to question whether their motives for moving around the world are truly worthwhile.
The following lessons, which I learned both as a relocating faculty member and in my role to facilitate integration of new international faculty, can contribute to make the experience of moving to a new country as seamless and enjoyable as possible.
How to welcome faculty
Integrating into a new school surrounded by other academics – who conduct research, teach, and are involved in the same departmental and institutional events – is the relatively easy part in international faculty transitions. But finding this same sense of belonging in one’s personal life in a new country can be a completely different story, especially if there are partners and/or children involved.
We find it important to make sure that staff feel welcomed and accompanied from the moment they arrive in the country. We make sure they are met at the airport by a bilingual driver, and we put at their disposal an integration team specialised in helping them arrange everything from bank appointments with English speaking advisors to school registration for their children.
To ensure that their transition to their new lives is as stress-free as possible, we provide new faculty and their families with fully furnished accommodations for their first four months, with all utilities included and paid for – I like to tell them that as soon as they arrive, they are home! To avoid them having to spend their first days in France frantically searching for necessities, we provide welcome packages with basic food and household supplies, as well as information personalised to the neighbourhood they live in, with key detail such as pharmacies, hospitals, and public transit information to get to and from the school, as well as about other key landmarks.
How to ensure faculty remain happy and fulfilled
A warm welcome when arriving in any country is always a good start, but it will not solve all the problems associated with moving. There are also long-term issues which need addressing.
The number one issue we find for international professors is the impact the move has on their family. It can be easy for international professors to become accustomed to their new workplace, but their family risks feeling alienated, particularly partners who are left at home with little to do and with little grasp of the French language or culture.
Recognising the ongoing nature of acclimating our faculty members’ families to such a move, our integration process does not stop upon arrival. We offer an integration seminar into French culture open to the whole family, including a visit to a local market and tour around the city, and French language lessons for new faculty and their partners. We also provide job search support for partners looking to relaunch their careers in France, if needed. My integration team remains available throughout the new faculty members first year (and sometimes beyond!) and we pay for housing search services to help them find permanent accommodations that suit their family needs.
We operate on a continuous improvement mode, but, as a former newly arrived international faculty member myself, I am proud of the support we offer to our new faculty. By being as helpful and present as much as possible during this major change in their lives, our goal is for our new international faculty members to feel accompanied and part of the NEOMA family from day one. This approach reflects the values of NEOMA Business School and provides the best chance of an excellent integration experience and, in turn, of long-term retention of our international faculty members.
About the author
Agata Mirowska is Academic Director and also Assistant Professor of Human Resources Management and Organizational Behaviour at NEOMA Business School (France).