Vickie Morgan and Terese Pratt, University of Utah
Higher education in the United States is going global. U.S. colleges and universities are eager to increase their involvement in international education and many exciting new programs have sprung up at institutions across the country. These programs serve as access points for an increasing number of interested students from abroad. 671,616 international students studied in the U.S. last year, and the number of new international students (those studying in the U.S. for the first time) went up 16% from the previous year (Witherell and Soman, 2009).
U.S. institutions have many reasons to be responsive to international student interest. International students add diversity to our campuses and provide a global perspective in our classrooms. These students contribute valuable economic resources to schools and the surrounding communities. The Institute of International Education calculates the net contribution to the U.S. economy by foreign students in 2007/08 was over $15.5 Billion (Witherell, Soman and Gardner, 2009).
Advisors can play an important role in the success of international students, and the long-term success of international education, well before students arrive on our campuses. Many schools have international recruiters who promote their institutions to students across the globe. These recruiters often are part of an international center or an international admissions office. They usually have in-depth knowledge of admissions, immigration, and ESL resources and can speak confidently about their institutions. These recruiters usually are not accustomed to providing detailed advice about specific programs and requirements or to sitting down with individual students to discuss major options, envision future class schedules, discover involvement opportunities, or help students see the connections between their upcoming educational experiences and their future lives. These tasks are left to advisors who do not begin their work with international students until they arrive on campus. Yet, this kind of in-depth information is just what these students need as they decide which U.S. institution is their best choice. Why not get advisors involved with students before they arrive at our schools?
We began thinking about the value of advising in the early stages of students’ international educational experiences because of a newly created international bridge program in which our school, the University of Utah, is involved. The U of U became part of a consortium of four U.S. institutions working in a program called the US-Sino Pathways Program (USPP). Students participating in this three-semester program begin their college studies in one of eight centers in China. They take rigorous courses including English, math, science, and general education classes. Students receive college credit from a consortium university for the classes taken in China. During their second semester, students must select one of four consortium schools at which they will complete their bachelor’s degree. The third semester of the program consists of a summer bridge experience in America, after which students are off to finish their final requirements at their chosen schools.
In the program’s initial year, representatives from consortium schools participated in a recruiting tour in China. A second recruiting tour was planned after the first student cohort had completed their initial semester of classes. This was when students made their final decision about which school to attend. At our institution, there was discussion about who to send on the second tour. Given that these students would have three semesters of transfer credit by the time they entered their chosen institution, and that the students were headed into a number of different majors, it was important that our representatives were equipped to evaluate what had been completed and offer an in-depth look at what would be left for each student. Many students were unsure of their majors and needed help exploring possibilities. The tour format included sessions where school representatives met with students individually to discuss their specific situations. None of the services needed were things our recruiters were accustomed to providing, but of course, it is what we as advisors do on a daily basis. Four advisors from University College Advising and the Transfer Center were sent as the U’s representatives on the second USPP tour.
Between two advising teams, we visited eight cities in China and advised 160 students. In addition to working individually with the students already in the program, we participated in public fairs promoting USPP to interested students and their parents. In both situations, our in-depth knowledge of curriculum, majors, involvement opportunities, and resources was invaluable. Even at the information tables, parents and students spent 20-30 minutes talking to school representatives. The decision about which school to attend and what major to pursue is important; of course, the more information students and parents could collect, the better their choice.
Advisors have much to offer prospective international students. Our academic knowledge and experiences providing developmental interactions with students make us valuable team players in our schools’ international programs. The challenges that international students face are great. The U.S. academic system is often completely new to them and their knowledge of specific U.S. schools can be limited. The cost of attending school in the U.S. is high, and the international admissions process is long and involved. Much rests on each student’s institutional choice; their initial decision should be as solid as possible. Advisors can provide in-depth information, and lots of it, in an individualized and personal way. This information can help students make their decisions, arrive prepared to have a great experience, and successfully reach their educational goals.
Advisors, get out your maps and suitcases! Approach deans and vice-presidents with ways advisors can help international students succeed in your educational programs.
Assistant Director, Transfer Center
University College Advising and the Transfer Center
University of Utah
Coordinator of Campus-Wide Advisor Development
University College Advising
University of Utah
Witherell, S. and Soman, S. (2009, November). Record Numbers of International Students in U.S. Higher Education. Retrieved from Institute of International Education, www.iie.org/en/Who-We-Are/News-and-Events/Press-Center/Press-Releases/2009/2009-11-16-Open-Doors-2009-International-Students-in-the-US
Witherell, S., Soman, S. and Gardner, D. (2009, November). Institute of International Education:Open Doors 2009 Fast Facts. Retrieved from www.iie.org/en/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors
Cite this article using APA style as: Morgan, V. & Pratt, T. (2011, June). Advisors on location: Expanding advisors' role in international education. Academic Advising Today, 34
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