Alum George Kacenga talks about global engagement and his career in international education

The goal and scope of higher education internationalization have increasingly moved towards efforts in developing global engagement through interdisciplinary collaborations among faculty, students, alumni, and other practitioners and scholars across countries and cultures. George Kacenga, an avid scholar and professional in international affairs in education, suggests that such partnership-based engagement is becoming eminent in higher education sector.

“My academic and professional work centers on global engagement in higher education. I recognize a need and advocate for a renewed focus on the value of international education and engagement: advocating for more than moving students across borders; instead, emphasizing faculty engagement, global mindset development, and investment in deep, lasting relationships with partners abroad. Under this framework, global competencies are developed among students, staff, and faculty alike, enriching our classrooms, our culture, and our lives,” Kacenga asserts.

George Kacenga is a PhD alum of the Social and Comparative Analysis in Education (SCAE) Program, School of Education. He has a wide range of research interests, including international comparative education, foreign credential evaluation, international economics, higher education, and globalization. Graduated in 2017, Kacenga’s dissertation focused on the globalization of higher education institutions in the United States. His dissertation, entitled “Globalization of Foreign Academic Credential Placement Recommendations for Graduate Study in the United States, 1932- 2015”, has been downloaded more than 800 times up to this February 2020.

The IISE's mission to link local and global research and praxis in education resonates with Kacenga’s belief. “International education fosters global perspective in all that we do. Global can literally mean international, but it is also an emphasis on systems and perspectives beyond our own. International education primes learners to make connections unimaginable where experiences are only centered upon what is local. Through researching and understanding others, we can better understand ourselves."

Since 2018, Kacenga has served as the first Executive Director of Global Engagement at Purdue University Northwest (PNW) in Indiana, where he works to further internationalization and support global awareness projects. Kacenga has been building his astonishing career in international affairs in higher education.
Prior to PNW, he was the Director of International Enrollment Management at the University of Colorado, Denver; Assistant Director of International Admissions at the University of Pittsburgh; Higher Education Consultant at Point Park University’s Office of International Education; and Assistant Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at Saint Vincent College. In 2019, Kacenga was appointed as co-chair of the American Council on Education Internationalization Laboratory at PNW, which is developing a comprehensive internationalization strategy and an ontology for tracking and assessing success.



Kacenga credits the faculty and students at the Pitt School of Education for his thriving career in higher education sector. He recalls his learning experiences at Pitt and their profound impacts on his academic and professional achievements. “Pitt SOE programs are respected, and the curriculum is both relevant and designed to train scholars to meet and engage new lines of inquiry. The academic coursework pushed me to see and understand the world in new and different ways, the culture and environment in SOE was a lot of fun and encouraged collegial camaraderie that helped me recognize the demanding curriculum for the meaningful, thought-provoking, and preparatory endeavor that it was.”

He appreciates the social capital he has gained from Pitt which continues to have effects on his career after graduation. “I now have an extended network of professional colleagues and friends that began during my time in Pitt's SOE and the experiences and memories I have with them are the foundation for a rewarding professional and academic career. Classmates and former professors from the SCAE program are now part of relationships that I highly value and routinely call on to gain perspective, challenge assumptions, and share a good laugh with."

Being an SoE alum whose focused work is in international education and development, Kacenga considers his trainings at the School of Education had prepared him to be not only job-ready, but also global-ready. “The training I received at Pitt allows me to serve as a principle investigator on grants, affords opportunities to engage with faculty in a meaningful way, and positions me to excel in my efforts to advance global engagement for a university community.”