Gen Z’s Not Gonna Put Up with This!

Gen Z’s Not Gonna Put Up with This!
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Glance at The Chronicle, Inside Higher Ed, or the Forum’s State of the Field Report, and it’s easy to discern that higher education has an employment crisis. Staffing is down, and workloads are increasing. Already low salaries aren’t keeping pace with inflation. Many institutions cut benefits during the pandemic that they have yet to fully restore. Far too many leaders spend their days trying to return to pre-COVID times or arguing that we already have. Most are ignoring that higher ed employment is undergoing a major shift, and no, it’s not the fault of COVID. COVID merely accelerated changes that were already occurring.

The priorities and values of Gen Z are different than preceding generations, and they’re driving a lot of the change. Colleges and universities need Gen Z to fill entry-level positions. Entry-level positions require conformity and adaptation to rigid systems and processes. Universities demand loyalty and sacrifice. They rely on altruism and a belief in the greater good, and most university leaders are comfortable with this approach because it’s the system in which they rose through the ranks.

Enter Gen Z. Gen Z prioritizes humans and self-care. These are great values – unless you work in an organization that survives on its employees’ goodwill (aka, backs). Gen Z prioritizes justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Universities talk a decent JEDI game – just don’t take a deep look at employment practices. Gen Z values resourcefulness and independence. Institutions demand entry-level employees that do what they’re told and don’t rock the boat. Gen Z values flexibility. Colleges and universities are some of the most intractable and obstinate organizations on the planet. Gen Z values professional growth and development. These go at the hint of financial instability, and few advancement pathways exist unless one is willing to change institutions. Gen Z values good remuneration. Higher ed – well, if you’re reading this, probably enough said.

If an organization is having trouble filling positions or retaining employees – especially entry-level ones, it’s time to evaluate its culture. Does it support Gen Z’s values? The bottom line is that employment culture is changing. As a geriatric millennial, I had a front-row seat to the development of Internet culture, which prompted huge organizational changes. History is replete with similar examples. It’s not about giving Gen Z everything it wants. It is about whether to adapt or submit because higher ed needs Gen Z to survive, and Gen Z’s not gonna put up with this.

So what’s a university leader to do? First, converse. Cultivate intentional conversations with your team. What are their needs? What are their expectations? What makes them feel valued? Leadership at any level requires knowing those you lead, and communication is the tool for that. Second, advocate. Push for better and more flexible conditions and be transparent about it. Expect to be told no (maybe a lot), but change occurs only when leaders advocate for it. Finally, develop. Create growth opportunities for those you lead. Leaders who value their teams find ways (even low- or no-cost ways) to promote professional development. What can you do internally to support your team? How can team members support each other? While these won’t immediately resolve the challenges higher ed currently faces, they will position leaders to demonstrate they value Gen Z and the contributions Gen Z can make to higher education.

About the author: Todd Lee Goen is the Director of Global Education and Senior International Officer at Virginia Military Institute. He is active in AIEA, NAFSA, the Forum on Education Abroad, and the World Council on Intercultural and Global Competence. Prior to joining VMI, Goen held faculty appointments at Christopher Newport, Purdue Fort Wayne, and Clemson. He earned a BA from Harding University, an MA from the University of Arkansas, and completed all coursework toward a PhD at the University of Georgia. He is the 2020 recipient of SSCA’s John I. Sisco Excellence in Teaching Award and the 2022 recipient of NAFSA’s Lily von Klemperer Award.

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Episode 29: Cultural Lens on U.S. Higher Education: Analyzing International Perceptions of 'Anti-Woke’ Discourse

Dive into a nuanced exploration of the global discourse surrounding higher education in the United States. Join us for a panel discussion with esteemed international educators as we embark on a journey through the lenses of culture and international perspective, examining how global audiences interpret and engage with the ‘anti-woke’ discourse within the context of U.S. higher education. This engaging panel discussion will delve into the intersections of culture, ideology, and education, and the complex landscape of how international audiences perceive the ‘anti-woke’ narrative that has emerged within U.S. academia.

Whether you’re a senior international officer, or simply curious about the diverse viewpoints shaping U.S. higher education, this podcast episode will provide an invaluable space for critical analysis and insightful conversations.

Speaker Biography:

Fanta Aw is a distinguished leader in international education, renowned for her extensive contributions to global learning, cross-cultural understanding, and educational equity. With a deep commitment to fostering connections between diverse cultures and promoting educational excellence, she has significantly impacted the international education community.

Fanta Aw’s career has been characterized by her dedication to advancing global education initiatives, promoting diversity and inclusion, and nurturing partnerships that transcend borders. She has held influential roles in various organizations, advocating for the importance of international collaboration and learning experiences that empower individuals to navigate an increasingly interconnected world.

As a thought leader and visionary, Fanta Aw’s insights and expertise have shaped discussions on the future of international education, emphasizing the significance of equitable access, cultural exchange, and lifelong learning. Her work has not only elevated institutions but has also inspired countless individuals to embrace the transformative power of global education.

Date: September 14th, 2023
Time: 12 noon ET

Sponsored by:

Mark Beirn


An experienced global researcher and administrator, Mark Beirn brings a critical approach to risk management, factoring structural racism and identity-based violence into his rubric for supporting equitable global mobility.

Specialization Areas:

– Global Risk Management
– Education Abroad
– Diversity, Equity, Inclusion in International Education
– Health and Safety
– Curriculum Development


Stephen Appiah-Padi​


Stephen Appiah-Padi is an international educator with several years of teaching and administrative experience in both 4 and 2-year HEIs. An experienced global education practitioner-scholar, with a demonstrated history of success in the field.

Dr. Appiah-Padi has a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada in Educational Policy & Administration with a specialization in International/Intercultural Education.

At Northwestern College, he provided oversight in the administration of education abroad and international student services. In Lansing, Michigan, he first oversaw diversity and intercultural education at Lansing Community College, and later created the Center for International and Intercultural Education (CIIE) which merged intercultural engagement and international education programs of the institution, and he became its first director. Additionally, Dr. Appiah-Padi taught a course, “Diversity in the American Workplace”, to undergraduate management students of the College. In his current position, he provides leadership and vision in advancing strategic internationalization initiatives, including international partnerships and study abroad programs at Bucknell University.

Dr Appiah-Padi has created and facilitated several workshops for faculty and staff development in higher education and in business organizations. He has presented at several national and international conferences. In NAFSA, among several volunteer leadership positions, he has served as Dean of the Fundamentals of Intercultural Communication Workshop, the Leadership Development Committee member, Chair of the Africa Special Interest Group, and a Fellow of the Global Fellowship Program for mentoring emerging leaders of internationalization in African HEIs. He currently serves as a member of the NAFSA Board of Directors.

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Rosa Almoguera


Dr. Rosa Almoguera has worked as an international educator for over twenty years. She was trained as a Hispanic Philologist at the Universidad Complutense, in Madrid, and did her M.A. at the University of Pennsylvania. Her Ph.D., from Universidad Complutense included a field study and edition of written balladry “Romancero”. During many years Rosa combined teaching and her role as a senior administrator at the Fundación Ortega-Marañón in Toledo, Spain. At the Foundation, Rosa directed and, in many cases created, programs for the University of Minnesota, Notre Dame, Princeton, Ohio State, Arcadia, and the University of Chicago. She has also been a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, University of Portland, and Interamericana de Puerto Rico.

Beginning in 2016, Rosa works as an international education consultant for both public and private European and US higher education institutions. Rosa has been successful in developing new partnerships and programs, as well as helping improve already existing ones.

Rosa is a member of Forum and NAFSA and has presented with higher education professionals on innovative academic and research programming, STEM in study abroad and Nationalism in Europe. Rosa is currently completing the final Professional Certification from the Forum on Education Abroad.

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