U looks to the globe to recruit

A University trip to Asia today is part of its efforts to recruit international students.

Elizabeth Giorgi

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1mong the Big Ten schools, the University is second to last in standings for total undergraduate international students.

As a result, the University made a financial commitment in 2004 that would create recurring money for recruitment trips several times a year to strategic locations around the globe to recruit international students.

Today, a recruitment team will head to several high schools and college fairs in Asia to attract potential international students to the University.

The continuing University goal of becoming one of the world’s top-three research institutions initiated the effort to attract more international students.

“The strategic positioning goals that the University community committed to last year were intentionally couched in the international context,” said University President Bob Bruininks.

For many years large public research universities in the United States have been able to attract international students because of the academic reputation of the universities and the reputation of American higher education, he said.

Associate Vice President for International Programs Eugene Allen said the general concern is the need for “the internationalization of the campus.”

The current generation at the University has no idea where they will live and work in their lifetime and because of this, people will have to interact with multiple cultures from all over the world, he said.

The target goal for recruitment is to bring 1,000 additional international undergraduates to the University; which will likely take a decade to achieve, Allen said.

The student body will then have more than 5 percent international undergraduates, he said.

International students at the University bring a new perspective to the classroom by providing new ideas and perspectives from different cultures, Allen said.

But they are an important asset to the community as well, said Carol Engetbretson Byrne, Minnesota International Center president.

“Having international students in our state enriches our state in terms of strong international voices and bringing new perspectives,” she said. “There are things that a person can do that a textbook can never do.”

Besides benefiting the University and area community, bringing international students to the University offers an opportunity for those who may not be able to attend a university in their own country because of limited space.

Allen said Turkey can only seat about 19 percent of college-eligible students into their higher education system, and China can only seat about 19 percent, but it is rapidly expanding, as the Chinese government is building more universities.

Going to Asia

The University is a leader in enrollment for Chinese students, said Wayne Sigler, director of Undergraduate Admissions.

“We have a strong presence in China through our alumni,” he said.

The China Center also helps to reinforce the strong connection the University has with its Chinese alumni, he said.

Sigler said working closely with alumni and the China Center helps to bridge communication between potential students and the University.

International Student and Scholar Services Director Kay Thomas will be heading this week’s trip to several Asian countries, including China, Japan and South Korea.

Thomas said she is very excited for this trip because she will be able to use experience from her previous trip to Beijing as a comparison for what can be done better this time.

Recruiters will be visiting college recruitment fairs, junior colleges and high schools to visit with students, she said. Materials that explain the services and opportunities at the University must be up to date and clear with the languages of the countries, Thomas said.

Thomas said she is particularly excited to visit high schools because that is where the most opportunity to recruit undergraduate students is.

“I think you get (high school students) at the beginning of their quest for thinking about a university,” she said. “And I think we have a lot of quality things to offer them.”

Appeal of the U

The reasons international students choose the University are very different from the reasons a domestic student may choose to attend, Allen said.

“Athletics you have to downplay,” he said. “Academics you have to up-play.”

Allen said many international students are more concerned with the ranking of the school because that helps to determine the quality of the education.

The excellence of the institution, of individual graduate programs and of the faculty members attracts international students, said Graduate Admissions Director Andrea Scott.

Scott said that when she traveled to Turkey earlier this year for a college recruiting fair, many potential students were interested in the University’s rankings.

For instance, if students are interested in chemical engineering, seeing that the University has the highest ranking program in the country impresses them, she said.

Cost of the U

Loans are the typical way for many American students to pay for their college education, Allen said.

But loans are not an option for many international students because they are not commonly used to paying for an education in their country, Allen said. Latin America and Africa are two regions of the world where it will be hard to recruit without significant scholarship support.

Because costs are much higher for international students to come to the University, it began offering 25 $5,000 scholarships for international undergraduates, Allen said.

In addition to scholarships, many potential international students want to know if there will be financial assistance available to them, said Ooi Le., assistant to the director of undergraduate admissions.

It is important to discuss financial aid and scholarships because students are always more interested if there is financial help available, she said.

Kind of by Chicago

Most prospective students have to be told where the University is, said Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions Andrew Lucas.

Most people know where the East and West coasts and Chicago are in the United States, he said. But because the University is not on the coast or near Chicago, it is important to explain where the University is.

“We feel we have to sell the Midwest as a destination a little bit,” said Thomas.

The Mississippi River and the Great Lakes are good ways to indicate the location of Minnesota, she said.

Thomas said one of the more interesting ways of illustrating the location of Minnesota is by referencing the National Basketball Association.

She said since the NBA is very popular all over the world and many people know who the Timberwolves are, that can help to show where the University is in the world.

Internationalizing the U

Avigya Karki came to the Univeristy as an undergraduate from Nepal and is now attending the University as a graduate student studying urban and regional planning.

Karki said he learned from his own experiences at the University, but also from other students.

“International students are definitely an asset to the University for sure,” he said. “It is amazing how many things that I have learned from other international students who are here and interacting with them.”

Diversity among students helps to create the college experience, said Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Craig Swan.

It is important for international students to participate in campus life through clubs and organizations, he said.

Swan said it is important that American students don’t think that the University is looking to recruit only international students.

In looking at demographics, there will be a decline in Minnesota and reciprocity state high school graduates in 2008, he said.

The University can start to fill these potential holes created by decreasing amounts of high school graduates by focusing efforts on recruiting internationally.

It will take time for the University’s recruiting efforts to “mature and expand” to maintain a strong student body for both international and domestic students, Swan said.