Greg Domin: Educating the world

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerFebruary 8, 2013 

The influx of international students wanting to study at institutions of higher learning here in the United States continues to grow. More and more students, especially from India, China, South Korea, Canada, Nigeria, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and Colombia, are seeking admission into U.S. colleges.

For years, stereotypes existed that international students only sought admission into Ivy League or top research universities. The converse is true. International students seek admissions into community colleges, small liberal arts institutions, and public universities at large.

In this competitive global economy, international students are highly sought after as they help diversify student communities, internationalize campuses, further the mission-goals of an institution, and contribute to the economy of the local community. According to a recent NAFSA (National Association of Foreign Student Advisors) study, more than $18 billion was contributed to the U.S. economy in 2009-2010 by international students and their families. Clearly, recruiting and retaining international students can pay big dividends for a host institution such as Columbus State University, or a system like the University System of Georgia (USG).

International students come here seeking an education - or an experience - that may not be readily available in their home country. They are looking for opportunities in higher education that prepare them to meet the needs of today's ever-increasing globalized world. According to Adam Johnson, assistant director for the Center of International Education at Columbus State University, "these students seek the skills, experience, and knowledge that come from interacting with, and learning about, diverse cultures first hand."

Realizing the important roles that international students can play on a campus, institutions are placing ever more emphasis, effort and resources on effective strategies of recruitment and retention of international students. Many institutions, such as Columbus State University, use institutional partnerships and agreements, participation in recruitment fairs and events, and print and online publications to reach an international audience. Why? Increasing the number of international students increases the global perspective on campus and enhances fiscal growth while providing a first-rate education to such students.

There are a number of barriers and obstacles these students face that require specific support mechanisms to help them make the necessary cultural adjustments to insure academic success. Such programs include orientation, English language programs, bridge programs, and a number of informal activities, workshops, etc., that create an inviting culture of success on campus.

According to Johnson, the bottom line for an institution like Columbus State, or the USG as a whole, "is to remain competitive and strengthen its position" in recruiting more international students in the years to come. "By not expanding our role in this area we are hamstringing our own students and institution" and the community in which we live.

Fortunately, the Columbus community has proven to be hospitable to the international students who have found their way here as CSU students. We should always remember the impressions we leave on these students could impact the way we are viewed in different pockets throughout the world. Or, as Johnson suggests, "otherwise, we risk being passed by; relegated to second best, second choice."

Gregory Domin, associate provost for graduate education, distance learning, and international affairs, Columbus State University.

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