Grad school to help international students

The Grad School’s strategic plan includes goals to better serve its int’l students.

Christopher Aadland

Originally from Japan, Takehito Kamata faced challenges far greater than simply navigating a new campus when he came to the University of Minnesota for graduate school.

International graduate students must adjust to the American higher education system and academic expectations. And to help those students navigate the University and feel more at home, the Graduate School is taking steps to ensure they are supported.

Kamata, president of the Council of International Graduate Students and a higher education doctoral student, said some of the biggest hurdles international students face are communicating with peers and faculty while working on research and conforming to U.S. research standards.

He pointed to differences in how countries define plagiarism.

“Some countries’ students think copying is an honorable thing; it’s not about the individual idea,” Kamata said. “But because social systems have educated each of us differently … that could be a big challenge.”

The Graduate School’s recently revised strategic plan outlines goals to better support and promote international graduate students and their experiences at the University.

But Barbara Kappler, assistant dean and director of the International Students and Scholar center, said the University could be doing more to support international graduate students, who make up more than 20 percent of all graduate students at the University.

“We want to have this international population here,” she said. “I think we can do more in that area — more in the classroom, more in the co-curricular and research labs — in terms of asking questions and inviting more conversations about people’s perspectives and worldviews.”

Graduate School Associate Dean Melissa Anderson said the experiences of international graduate students have always been a priority, and by including that in the strategic plan, there is more assurance that international graduate students will continue to be supported.

“If you move to another country, there are all kinds of changes in your life,” she said. “One we for sure can address is making sure that students span the differences in academic and research culture.”

Resources currently available to international students range from career development workshops to writing workshops to health care resources, she said.

The University is also analyzing and creating two surveys to gauge the satisfaction and needs of international students, Anderson said.

She said the institution is reviewing the results of the “Student Barometer” for international students and is in rolling out a pilot version of another survey — the Student Experience in the Research University survey — that is specifically for graduate students.

The results of the two surveys could transform how the University supports international students, Anderson said.

Kamata said he and a group of other graduate students formed the Council of International Graduate Students last year to help international graduate students have a voice, find resources and make connections with other international students.

The University is working with CIGS to help inform the campus community about international students’ experiences, he said.

Kamata said the group might also gain voting status on the Graduate Education Council in the coming weeks, which would help make them more influential at the University.

“If the Graduate School will promote internationalization and engagement, it’s nice to include real voices from [international] students and scholars,” he said.

But helping steer University policy on international graduate student concerns isn’t the only thing international students have to offer the campus community, Katama said.

“The University can learn about voices from around the world,” he said. “Internalization will enrich all students.”