University expands international efforts

The University joined 20 schools to recruit international students.

Hailey Colwell

The University of Minnesota recently teamed up with 20 other schools to promote the state as a destination for international students.

Study Minnesota, a volunteer-run nonprofit, was established earlier this month so member schools could pool their resources to increase numbers of international student applicants.

The consortium is made up of 21 colleges, universities, English language programs and private high schools, and is supported in part by the U.S. Commercial Service — part of the U.S. Department of Commerce — and its state counterpart, the Minnesota Trade Office.

“What we found is, if we can have all the schools work together to advertise the state as a whole as an educational destination, it’s a better benefit for the schools as a whole,” said David Edmiston, senior international trade specialist for the Minneapolis office of the U.S. Commercial Service.

Study Minnesota is receiving federal support because international students are considered an export, Edmiston said — they contribute to the economy by paying for tuition, housing, food and other goods and services.

In the 2011-12 academic year, international students contributed $319.2 million to the state’s economy, according to the U.S. Department of State.

About half of U.S. states have groups like Study Minnesota, Edmiston said.

Having a Minnesota-specific website and basic marketing materials will help the 21 schools spread the word about Study Minnesota when they’re recruiting students abroad, he said.

Increasing on-campus resources

Human resource development junior Rawnaq al-Gheithy said she never saw the University represented when she went to international recruitment fairs as a high school student in her native Oman.

She said it will be beneficial to students to see the University at recruitment fairs in the future.

Al-Gheithy said she chose the University because she got a scholarship, which is the case for many international students.

The University is always looking to diversify its student body and its international student body, said Leah Brink, coordinator for the University’s Global Opportunities Minnesota program, which offers short-term international student study programs.

Joining with Study Minnesota could help recruit a larger, higher-quality international student applicant pool with more varied academic interests, she said.

“We have amazing international students currently on campus, and we have lots of international applications every year,” she said, “But we can always focus on getting the best and the brightest here as well, so it’s just one more avenue for us to do that.”

Because the University has multiple programs that could benefit from a relationship with Study Minnesota — like the Minnesota English Language Program and the Graduate School — several people at the University will work with the group, Brink said.

Minnesota International Student Association officer Suji Jin said she likes the idea of the consortium. The University is a good place for international students, she said, because of resources like MISA and International Student and Scholar Services.

Though international students help the economy and the University, Jin said, she wishes cultural education was the main reason for attracting international students.

“We get to hear a lot of stories from around the world,” she said. “We get to learn their cultures.”

For al-Gheithy, the biggest benefit of having international students at the University is that they help “round out the minds” on campus.

“Just one per classroom can really change the discussion atmosphere,” she said.