Xin Bu

Year of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

International Educational Leadership

Department or School/College

College of Education and Human Sciences

Committee Chair

Patty Kero

Commitee Members

William P. McCaw, John Matt, Daniel Lee, Zhen Cao


University of Montana


In today’s global context, higher education delivery has increasingly become borderless due to the growth of cross-border higher education provision between countries. Universities in China and the U.S. have been engaged in cross-border education through partnering in establishing International Branch Campuses (IBCs). This qualitative, phenomenological study, guided by Moustakas’ (1994) phenomenological strategy of inquiry, explored Western faculty members’ cross-border lived experiences educating students, collaborating with other colleagues, interacting with leaders, and exploring cultures at IBCs in China. IBCs in this study were co-established by American universities and their Chinese partners. The central research question that guided this study is: What are the lived experiences of Western faculty members at IBCs in China? This study purposefully selected 14 participants. Data were collected through fourteen semi-structured, one-on-one, face-to-face interviews. Moustakas’ (1994) seven-level method involving a process of meaning reduction was followed to analyze data. Based on the first six levels of data analysis, level seven unified participants’ experiences into a narrative describing the essence of lived experiences.

The findings identified ten themes, five components in textural description, and four components in structural description. Evolved from an analysis of structural and textural description, the essence of the participants’ lived experiences described two components: value and adjustment. Working in a similar academic context to that in the U.S., teaching Chinese students, and exploring Chinese culture was a valuable experience to the participants. However, there was a need to make adjustments given that China presented a culturally and linguistically different context to the participants. Also, they had to adjust because they were locally supported by Chinese partners but academically supervised by the home campuses. Further, the complicated relationship between the home campuses and the partners, described as cooperative as well as competitive, required the participants to adjust. The Findings from this study were valuable for leaders to rethink how to better support Western faculty in this joint higher education venture. Recommendations for future study include: (1) Globalized/localized leadership at IBCs, (2) Students’ lived experiences at IBCs, (3) Core values underlying IBC partnership, and (4) Case study on contributing factors to the success of IBCs.

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