In sports, colleges and universities keep their strategies under lock and key. But when it comes to delivering an exceptional experience for international students, the playbooks are wide open.
That was the spirit in mind this past spring when leaders from colleges and universities gathered at UW–Madison for two events, the Seminar on Recruiting and Hosting International Students and the Big Ten Academic Alliance Summit on Integration. Both were held in collaboration with EducationUSA—an office of the U.S. Department of State, giving university staff and leadership opportunities to engage senior-level government officials.“International students bring tremendous academic, social, cultural, and economic benefits to our campuses and communities,” said Guido Podestá, vice provost and dean of the UW–Madison International Division. “These meetings allow higher education and government institutions to more effectively engage students from across the globe.”
Recruiting and hosting
The Seminar on Recruiting and Hosting International Students, held in January, drew attendees from throughout the Midwest to share best practices with one another, learn about U.S. government resources for promoting U.S. colleges and universities to students overseas, and discuss ways to build networks for both student recruitment and student support.
EducationUSA hosted the event in collaboration with UW–Madison, providing a forum for college and university leaders, international experts, and government officials to discuss challenges in welcoming international students to campus, as well as the many benefits they bring.
“Diversity of experience, thought, and perspective is crucial in preparing the next generation of leaders,” said Emilie Dickson, associate director, UW–Madison Office of Admissions and Recruitment. “In our globalized world, international students are an important component of diversity on U.S. campuses.”
Alfred (Fred) Boll, EducationUSA Branch Chief, lauded the numerous benefits of hosting a strong population of international students. He received his JD and a master’s in Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies from UW–Madison.
He noted that since many domestic students do not have the opportunity to study abroad, meeting and studying alongside international students gives them an opportunity to gain a global perspective, while international students are able to learn more about the U.S.
“International students benefit the U.S. in many ways,” Boll said. “They bring perspectives that make U.S. students more competitive in our global market.”
The benefits campuses receive from hosting international students have made recruiting international students more competitive. The competition is not just occurring among U.S. schools—rather institutions around the globe are working to bring these high-achieving students to their own campuses.
Including federal and state entities such as EducationUSA in conversations helps develop solutions to make U.S. institutions appealing to the next generation of international students.
“The global higher education market has become more competitive as other countries launch country-wide recruitment efforts and put resources into building their brands,” said Dickson. “Among this competition it is important for our own federal and state entities to promote study in the U.S. in general and to work with colleges and universities to promote the theme abroad, furthering the reach of U.S. higher education.”
Integration into the campus community
Recruiting international students to U.S. institutions like UW–Madison is only one piece of the puzzle. Successful integration is vital to ensuring they get the most out of their university experience.
The Big Ten Academic Alliance Summit on Integration, held over three days in April, gave colleagues from Big Ten universities the opportunity to explore and share ideas around the issues of global student engagement. The summit showcased recent years of best practices, models, and collaborative research performed by the invited institutions.
Sessions focused on best practices for key issues such as student safety and well-being, pre-arrival in country orientation, and integrating students into the local community.
“Recruitment isn’t enough if not accompanied by successful integration,” said Boll. “We want international students to strike up positive lifelong relationships with the U.S. in a way that benefits them and the U.S. as well.”
“The entire campus has a role in supporting the retention and success of international students,” said Roopa Rawjee, assistant dean and director of International Student Services. “Once the students arrive on our campus, we need to keep working to engage them and to teach them strategies for success. International students come to our campus for the whole experience, which extends beyond the classroom. It is important to recognize this and to develop positive partnerships with faculty and other campus providers.”
Caroline Casagrande, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (DAS) for Academic Affairs, attended the summit and delivered the keynote presentation, “Promoting U.S. Higher Education Abroad and the importance of International Student Integration.” According to Casagrande, the impact of international students to the U.S. is vast. In 2017, the U.S. hosted almost 1.1 million students from around the world. These students had an economic impact of $42 billion and created more than 450,000 jobs.
Wisconsin sees a significant benefit as well. According to a 2019 NAFSA report, the presence of 12,951 international students in Wisconsin resulted in a financial contribution of $406.7 million and over 5,000 jobs.
With the impact so profound, declining enrollments of U.S. students at U.S. institutions require a strong response from U.S. educational institutions. Casagrande encouraged attendees to grow strategic partnerships domestically and abroad, develop and maintain strong alumni networks, and promote opportunities for on-campus employment and professional practical training.
“We are grateful to UW–Madison for facilitating DAS Casagrande’s engagement with the BTAA,” said Boll. “We want schools to come together and share best practices. That will give international students the best possible experience in the United States, which creates benefits that will last for lifetimes.”
The Division of Continuing Studies at UW–Madison will host the EducationUSA Academy in summer 2019. The EducationUSA Academy is a pre-college academic enrichment program for international high school students offering specialized college preparatory content, college-level writing workshops, campus visits, and cultural activities. Learn more about the program and participants at edusa.wisc.edu.