Recruitment holds steady for exchange, international students on campus

Courtesy Photo / Mohamed Azuz
International students get to know eachother at a picnic during orientation

Courtesy Photo / Mohamed Azuz International students get to know eachother at a picnic during orientation

Anya Zentmeyer

Though being a new student in any case can be tough, for the international and exchange students at Grand Valley State University this fall, it’s been pretty easy so far.

“It’s a really enthusiastic group of students,” said Kate Stoetzner, director of international student and scholar services. “They bonded really well to each other quite early on. There’s a new student whose birthday fell on orientation, and the students must have spent 45 minutes singing happy birthday in every language. That was kind of a surprising bonding event.”

Though this years’ crop of 317 total exchange and international students does not boast any increase from last year’s total of 322, Mark Schaub, director of Padnos International Center, said the university has a strategic goal to raise the number of international students on campus to 3 percent of the total student population from where it rests currently at 1 percent.

“The university’s goals are to increase it almost three-fold as part of the target to help the learning environment for all students,” Shaub said.

Chris Hendree, associate director of international recruitment, said though the recruitment process has remained largely the same in the past few years, Admissions is working hard to spread the message.

Hendree and his team have been traveling internationally to meet with students and recruitment partners, as well as recruit international students in Michigan’s own back yard by hosting an International Student Visit Day for local high school students and community colleges.

He said since GVSU is not yet an internationally known institution, it can cause difficulties for recruiting as many students as other more well known universities.

“The number of international students at Grand Valley has more than doubled over the last 10 years, so we are making progress in building our international brand,” Hendree said. “However, since Grand Valley is not a ‘name brand’ university, we sometimes get overlooked or people may not think we offer a quality education. Of course, we know that isn’t true, but we are working hard to change that perception.”

He added that the university is trading in printed materials for more website and online brochures, and like many other organizations, they have started to use social media to reach out to students further away.

“Social media, especially, is playing an important part in our strategy,” Hendree said. “Students around the world are using social media to communicate with each other, so our goal is to use social media to increase awareness of Grand Valley. Our goal to is engage prospective students and create a community for admitted students.”

Hendree said currently the recruitment team has both Facebook and Twitter accounts, and is thinking about adding Flickr and Tumblr accounts in the future.

As for students already on GVSU’s campus, Stoetzner said they are holding up well under the transition, still very much in the ‘honey moon’ period of studying abroad. The most difficult adjustment they must make, she said, is to the radically different structure of education in America versus that of many other countries in the world.

“Obviously the international students are smart enough to be here, it’s just a matter of adapting to a new style,” she said. “So it generally takes through midterms before the students understand how they can effectively study and what exactly it is the faculty is looking for. Then, sort of after midterms, they switch into the gear that you and I are used to.”

With only 5 percent of GVSU’s student body studying abroad, both Shaub and Stoetzner agree it’s crucial for the development of the community to bring more exchange and international students to campus.

“Obviously, the best way for an American student to learn about another country is to go to another country,” Stoetzner said. “That’s not going to happen for all of our Grand Valley students. So one way we can help is to bring a student in to be in your classroom, to be a classmate to be a roommate, to help you see a new worldview or expand your own worldview.

I think the international students bring a really great perspective from all over the world. They’ve lived in very similar conditions, very different conditions, similar political structures, very different, same religions, different religions – and I think that diversity is really critical for growing the community and growing world understanding.”

[email protected]