Examining how global competition is changing the work of colleges and universities

Research changes in higher education

Examining how global competition is changing the work of colleges and universities

As a professor, Gerardo Blanco-Ramirez hopes to provide the kind of invaluable mentorship he enjoyed as a UMass graduate student.

Headshot of Gerry Blanco-Ramirez

Although Gerardo Blanco-Ramirez came to UMass Amherst to work as a residence director, the College of Education was a significant draw. Knowing he might pursue a doctorate down the road, he wanted to work at a university with an excellent higher education graduate program and UMass fit the bill. As expected, Blanco-Ramirez entered the higher education doctoral program two years later and completed his doctorate in 2013. His first faculty position was as an assistant professor in the higher education doctoral program at UMass Boston, teaching qualitative research methods and dissertation seminars as well as electives on change, globalization, and sociological perspectives in higher ed. In 2018, Blanco-Ramirez became an assistant professor of higher education and student affairs at the University of Connecticut.

Blanco-Ramirez had planned a career in education from the beginning of his college experience. He earned his undergraduate degree in education at the Universidad de las Américas in Puebla, Mexico and a master’s in higher education at the University of Maine.

I think higher education can be transformational for people and I want to support that.

Gerardo Blanco-Ramirez
Headshot of Gerardo Blanco-Ramirez smiling

As a doctoral student, Blanco-Ramirez focused on the internationalization of quality assurance practices in higher education, particularly how universities in the global south were pursuing accreditation or recognition processes that were located in countries of the global north. “I had an interest in understanding why universities in Mexico and many different countries, seem to be so interested in pursuing institutional accreditation, particularly from American organizations,” he explains.

As a professor, Blanco-Ramirez continues to focus on international quality assurance practices in his research. He’s interested in how international higher education rankings impact the work we do in colleges and universities and how university administrators and faculty make sense of the rankings and global competition. “There seems to be much more competition than collaboration when it comes to the global arena. How is this idea of global competition changing the reality and changing the work that we are conducting in colleges and universities?” He is also interested in the process of branding in higher education, in the context of global competition: “What are the narratives and stories that we tell about our universities and how do they relate against this background of global competition?”

As a UMass graduate student in higher education, Blanco-Ramirez recalls being most affected by the mentoring he received in the program. “I appreciated that at UMass Amherst, there wasn’t just one mentor, there were many.” he recalls. “I really felt supported by people who had different roles in mentoring me and nurturing me going along; in the program, across the department, and I would even say across the whole College of Education.”

I see as my career goals serving as a mentor for other higher education professionals and scholars.

Blanco-Ramirez has been passionate about replicating this model in his teaching. “I see as my career goals serving as a mentor for other higher education professionals and scholars… I think higher education can be transformational for people and I want to support that.” In his view, mentoring students on the micro level is the key to changes on the macro level. He’s inspired seeing individuals fulfilling their potential because this “get us all closer to having higher education institutions closer to fulfilling their potential to be more equitable spaces and more socially just spaces.”

Blanco-Ramirez’s advice to graduate students is, not surprisingly, to develop a wide network of mentors and to be candid with mentors about goals and aspirations. He also advises that students take on a wide array of experiences both within and outside of the program. Finally, Blanco-Ramirez encourages higher education students to have a broad definition of success, which he sees as a hallmark of the program. “Something I really appreciate about the UMass Amherst doctoral program is that we have many different examples of success,” he observes, noting that some graduates have gone on to become faculty at very prestigious institutions, other have remained at UMass Amherst, making a significant contributions to the university, and others have pursued careers as practitioners. “Sometimes people enter the program having clear career goals, but sometimes those clear goals could be too narrow… If you’re open to being surprised and open to the experience, you could end up with something that is much more satisfying and rewarding as career.”