Old Dominion University
The development of new communication technologies that make use of the global computer network – internet – acted as a trigger to the all-encompassing process of globalization. While there were fears that globalization could constitute a serious threat to idiosyncratic cultures and identities, soon it became clear that there are more benefits to it than downsides since it is an opportunity to observe and share approaches and practices different from your own and at the same time showcase your achievements. The inevitable process of globalization has already changed and is continuing to impact the way education systems function around the world.
The new realities made it necessary for higher educational institutions to start thinking about and implementing measures for campus internationalization in order to stay competitive in the global educational market. However, the rationale for internationalizing is not just economic competitiveness. International education fosters personal growth through reflection on assumptions, values, and moral choices. Internationalization allows a higher education institution to better position itself within a rapidly evolving global educational landscape. Students at universities that offer high degree of internationalization can better “reflect and address the increasingly interdependent nature of our world” (Gaff, Ratcliff, 1996, p. 416). Therefore, it is worthwhile for universities to “strengthen their commitment and attention to internationalization and increase both the number and quality of their efforts” (Gaff, Ratcliff, 1996, p. 416). Ideally, measures for internationalization should be included in a university’s strategic goals.
Open Doors report reveals that record numbers of international students enroll in schools in the U.S. In 2010, 690 923 international students were enrolled in American higher education institutions with China, India, South Korea, Canada and Taiwan being the top five places that students came from and comprising 52% of all international students (Institute of International Education, 2010). The U.S. has a competitive advantage in international education; it is surely because the U.S. colleges and universities have enrolled far more foreign students than those of any other nation (Gaff, Ratcliff, 1996, p. 421). The United States remains among the most desirable destinations for international students. However, as the global economy changes and as the higher education systems in other nations strengthen, U.S. institutions will need to pay closer attention to what campus factors help attract and retain international students (How Student Services Can Help Increase International Enrollment, 2009).
Millard Fillmore University currently enrolls 10,500 students. International student population constitutes 10%, which makes 1050. Despite the fact that there has been a decline in the international student body from 15% before September, 2001. The number of 15% was placing Millard Fillmore University among the top United States universities in terms of international student ratio towards the overall student population (Institute of International Education, 2010). However, even 10% is an impressive ratio which very few American universities can boast. This percentage places Millard Fillmore University above the average in term or international student enrollment (Institute of International Education, 2010).
Nevertheless, Millard Fillmore University has set it as a goal to increase the current international enrollment by 10% within five years. If this objective is achieved it will make the University the top institution in terms of international student ratio to overall student population. To attain this goal a plan should be designed specifying the number of measures that will address the issues related to internationalization.
Organizational Structure of the Office of International Programs
Increasing the international student enrollment and retention is a priority for Millard Fillmore University. Internationalization of the campus is a collective commitment and is the responsibility of almost every office or department of the university including the administrators, the staff, and the faculty. While the attainment of this goal is not confined to any one division or department, the accurate blending of the principal unit responsible for international student enrollment and retention, the Office of International Programs, into the structure of the university and its robust organization is the clue to effective delivery of services to international student population. As Bolman and Deal (2003) put it “right formal arrangements minimize problems and maximize performance” (p.45). They further maintain that “clear, well-understood roles and relationships and adequate coordination are key to how well an organization performs” (p. 44).
Currently the Director of International Programs reports to the Vice President for Student Affairs. The work and responsibilities of the office under his purview, however, involve constant communication not just with Student Affairs’ offices, such as the Office of Residence Life and Housing but also with Academic Affairs’. It is through the Office of International Programs that academic advisors are assigned to international students and important academic and non-academic information is communicated to governmental or sponsoring bodies.
Furthermore, the Office of International Programs works in close cooperation with the Office of Admissions, since it is here that students are recruited and their credentials are evaluated for eligibility. Thus, the work of the International Programs is much broader than the scope of Student Affairs Division under which it currently functions. At the same time it would not be reasonable to place the Office of International Programs’ operation within the umbrella of Office of Administration and Finance, since the latter has very specific functions related to finances, and enrollment. Just as with the Division of Student Affairs this would be a far from perfect place for the Office of International Programs to operate due to the broad nature of its duties.
Given the importance Millard Fillmore University places on increasing international enrollment and retention in the next five years, which, by the way, is directly related to the successful operation of the Office of International Programs including Study Abroad, International student and scholar activities and programs, The English Language Center, it is essential that the Office of International Programs operates as an independent unit from Student Affairs directly reporting to the provost. This will ensure the narrow specialization of the work of the Office of International Programs that will be geared towards reaching the strategic goals of campus internationalization expressly declared by the Board and the President. Such specialization and clearer division of labor will also ensure the effectiveness of the services provided.
Additionally, in the attempt to further specialize the work a new office should be created within the Office of International Programs; one that will be responsible for the coordination of all International student activities and programs after their admission to the University. This measure will eliminate doubling of responsibilities among different units scattered in different divisions of the University. Additionally, concentrating the international student related offices under the same umbrella will make it easier to coordinate roles and responsibilities among these offices, as well as make them conveniently accessible for international students and scholars, and study abroad program participants. The above mentioned measures will further strengthen the Office of International Programs as one of the principal units of the University.
Increasing the International Enrollment
Office of International Programs in cooperation with the Admissions Office should employ more aggressive strategies to reach out to prospective students who reside outside the United States. Publishing better quality, well-organized and informative promotional materials will be a good start in this direction. This should be accompanied by visits to the prospective source countries where the Admissions office staff should organize information sessions for the interested audience.
Office of International Programs should come up with suggestions to the Office of Admissions to establish partnerships with other pre-determined higher educational institutions, possibly signing the memorandums of understanding with them. Cooperation can be intensified with recruiting agencies around the world. This measure is going to ensure a steady flow of international students. While it is true that challenges the prospective international students face when applying for visas and the present immigration policies in the US present a hurdle to international enrollment, the Admissions Office should employ all the possible tools to increase recruiting efforts and reach out to prospective students overseas.
Millard Fillmore University should consider modification of English proficiency requirements, which is usually determined by the satisfactory Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score for undergraduates and both TOEFL and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for graduate students. A model can be designed where even if a prospective undergraduate student lacks a certain number of scores to satisfy the required minimum s/he is offered an option to enroll in the English Language Center to get to the required proficiency level. After successfully completing the English Language training these students will be able to pursue the desired major.
In some instances this kind of a conditional admission will allow a student to enroll in both English language courses and academic courses at the same time for a number of semesters until they meet a specific level. After successfully accomplishing the English language training they will not have to take TOEFL or any other test.
Increasing the International Retention Rates
In order to identify the reasons for international student drop-out fact-finding meetings should be conducted with currently existing international student groups that will identify the challenges confronting the international student population. The information gathered from these meetings will be used in part to assist in the construction of the survey instrument for international students that will help acquire specific qualitative and quantitative data. The survey that will guarantee anonymity and confidentiality will yield important data, the careful analysis of which will give a clear picture of the present state of international students at Millard Fillmore University. Based on this analysis the Office of International Programs will outline strategies for improvement.
One of the possible reasons for high attrition rates of international students at Millard Fillmore University may be poorly planned student orientations. The countries the students come from may not have the library services, especially electronic libraries, they can and should take advantage of in the United States. Therefore, international students should be informed of the existence of various learning facilities, possibilities and tools to aid their study and academic growth from day one.
While generally orientations are a good way to provide students with important information and useful tips, the clear design of presentations and real examples can make a real difference for students. At the orientation international students also meet old internationals. Many of them have been confronted with the same problems. This enables them to share their experiences and possibly find quick solutions to their problems. Thus, facilitating the conversation among old and new international students should be the primary goal of the orientation.
One of the ways to increase the international student retention rates is securing graduate assistantships or teaching assistantships for them. By immersing students in work related to their interests, assistantships “aim to increase student engagement and promote skills and knowledge needed for achieving life, career, and civic goals” (Levine, 2010, p. 46). While students are keen on receiving high-quality education, they find it even more rewarding to have an on campus job which can be both a learning experience and a source of covering tuition fees.
International Programs staff, in cooperation with other student affairs professionals, Office of Residence Life and Housing, the faculty, American students, and community volunteers, must work together to create a welcoming environment for international students and their dependants. “Providing quality programs and services for international students is the cornerstone of any initiative to increase the numbers of international students and to retain those presently enrolled. Colleges and universities with good academic programs and well-trained staff who provide courteous, accurate, timely service and informative programs to international students will reap great benefits from their investments. Satisfied international students and alumni recruit relatives, friends, coworkers, and others to U.S. schools. There is no quick fix for international success. All faculty and staff must work together on behalf of all students, including international students. Without this commitment, they could incorrectly assume that international students with problems are mainly the responsibility of the international student office” (Peterson, et al., 1999, p. 70).
One more important measure to boost international student retention rate is internationalizing curricula. In the majority of cases the curricula for various disciplines and courses is based on the data, cases, history, and realities of the United States only. Responding effectively to the geographic and cultural diversity of foreign students is extremely important to motivate international students and make the courses offered engaging.
Curriculum committees can be powerful agents of internationalization. They can review the international dimensions of institutional offerings department by department and course by course. They can question, where appropriate, the absence of international content in existing and proposed courses and challenge faculty members to justify syllabi that focus only on the United States (Tonkin and Edwards, 1990, p. 16). Making these curriculum modifications will ensure that teaching and research in particular disciplines go beyond nationally and geographically limited and limiting frames of references.
Mark Shay, Director of IDP Education, the world's largest student placement firm, recommends that universities should guarantee student housing, offer on-campus work, and let students participate in activities to increase enrollment, they should also come up with ways to manage international students' homesickness. It is also necessary to ascertain place of worship for various religions. Institutions should encourage international students' involvement in social activities and on-campus work opportunities (How Student Services Can Help Increase International Enrollment, 2009).
Increasing the number of international students at Millard Fillmore University is one component of diversifying student population. Both in-state as well as international students benefit from having multiple student populations. But the lack of coherent policy at Millard Fillmore University constituted a barrier towards increasing international enrollment and retention. Implementing the suggested organizational changes and measures for enrollment and retention will greatly help Millard Fillmore University in attaining its ambitious goals.
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