Staffing Models: How International Education Offices Are Structured and Why

March 19, 2018

By Chrissie Faupel and Elizabeth Leibach

Have you ever wondered if your office structure is the best fit for the type of institution, students, and scholars that you have?

International education offices can be structured in a variety of ways, so how do you divide responsibilities between staff? Do advisers specialize in academic programs? Or specialize by function? By visa type? By region? By length of program?

Customer service responsibilities can also be balanced in different ways. Do you require students and scholars to make appointments, or is it first-come, first-serve? And how do you make sure that your office structure is adapting to the ever-changing needs of your students and scholars?

To answer these tough questions, our offices set out on a mission to discover the perfect staffing model to fit our needs.

For Chrissie’s Study Abroad Office at the University of South Carolina, where advisers work with regionally based exchange portfolios, this meant adopting a model where each staff member liaises with a different department, and they all strive to be expert generalists.

For Elizabeth's International Student and Scholar Services Office at the University of Kentucky, this meant transitioning away from a system with no case assignments for advisers. Previously, caseloads were randomly distributed during walk-in hours and through an automated case management system using student identification numbers. Now, some advisers are assigned caseloads based upon specific program areas, such as sponsored students or language training students, while others receive caseloads based on the general population of students. The general advisers are also assigned specific colleges or departments in order to provide tailored programming to those specific populations of students (for example, business majors versus engineering majors).

We both changed our staffing approach to align with the mission and goals of our universities and offices. During our session in the Career Center at the NAFSA 2018 Annual Conference & Expo in Philadelphia, we will share how we evaluated our offices, assessed our students, and considered our staff to determine if our current model was working and what changes we could make to be more effective. Join us on Wednesday, May 30, at 2:30 p.m. for “Staffing the IE Office: Developing and Evaluating Your Office’s Structure.”

We’re looking forward to sharing our questions to consider, lessons learned, and successes from this process and giving you an opportunity to meet others considering these questions so that you can do some peer benchmarking and networking while at the NAFSA Annual Conference.

A great way to start the staffing model discussion on your campus in advance of NAFSA 2018 is to purchase the on-demand NAFSA e-Learning Seminar, Model Staffing: Evaluating Your Office Structure and Effectiveness, which includes helpful resources and discussion questions.


Chrissie Faupel is the assistant director of undergraduate advising at the University of South Carolina Study Abroad Office. Elizabeth Leibach is the director of international student and scholar services at the University of Kentucky.


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