University Reaches Across Borders for Diversity
By COLLEEN HUBER
The Office of Admissions, the Center for International Education (CIE) at the University of Mary Washington and the English Language Centers (ELS) are working hard to attract more international students to the campus.
“We really think that we are a good fit for international students because of the small class sizes and the private feel,” said Rita Thompson, the senior assistant dean of admissions.
UMW is working to identify the best practices in the field to attract international students, according to Jose Sainz, director of the Center for International Education (CIE), with the main goal of diversifying the campus.
One of the steps towards this goal is partnering with ELS, who trains students with English skills and provides them with the opportunity to have an academic career in the U.S., according to Sainz.
According to Thompson, ELS took residence in Eagle Village last November to begin working with UMW.
ELS requires international students to complete up to level 112, English for Academic Purposes, which proves that they have the necessary skills to study at a university in the U.S. before they are able to apply to UMW.
According to the ELS pamphlet, the ELS language centers have been preparing international students to study at American universities for over 50 years. ELS helps international students from more than 140 countries learn English and apply their skills to studying at U.S. universities.
Admissions is also working diligently to attract more international students. Thompson went to Southeast Asia last spring 2012 to attend college fairs and visit schools to raise awareness among students in other countries.
According to Thompson, admissions works with Radek Coufal who is based in London, England. Coufal plays a large role in the recruitment of students by following up with students after they apply and attending college fairs in Europe.
“Our approach is as personalized as it can be regarding the distance involved,” said Carol Descak, associate provost of admissions.
After students apply, the follow-up process is very important in keeping the interest of international students.
“The more you stay in contact and connect with them, it is easier for them to make an informed decision,” said Thompson.
Thompson and Descak hope that future, international students will be able to visit the campus before they are admitted.
“Mary Washington is open and inviting to diversity, and the international element enhances that,” said Descak.
According to Descak, UMW is tapping into the alumni resources abroad to recruit more students and get the UMW name out.
“It is very exciting that we are breaking into this market,” said Thompson. “It is a group effort here in this office.”
The CIE works more with overseeing students coming from abroad and UMW students who are going to study abroad.
“They come into our radar once they have been admitted,” said Sainz.
Currently, UMW has 33 international students enrolled, according to Thompson.
“Most I don’t meet until they get their visas and arrive,” said Cheryl Mason, assistant director of international students and scholars.
The largest exchange program is with Korea, but UMW also has students from Sweden, Peru, Afghanistan, France, Germany, Italy and Myanmar among others.
According to Sainz and Mason, it is always the goal of any university to increase diversity on campus.
“It is a commitment on the part of the admissions and the provost to increase the number of international students,” said Mason.
What attracts the international students to UMW is similar to what attracts domestic students.
“The small campus and the small class size is what international students seek,” said Sainz.
The Writing Center is involved in assisting the international students in writing and communication.
“We are not involved in recruiting the students but we make ourselves available to help international students with writing, communication and retention,” said Hale.
Thirteen of the international students are girls coming from an all-female university in Korea with the Korean Exchange Program, according to Hale.
“The really cool part they are doing now is the Korean students are coming two weeks before school to get them acclimated,” said Hale.
Hale encourages the international students to come to her and the Writing Center whenever they need help; she wants the students to know that it is a friendly place for them.
For many of the international students, academics are difficult for them because of the language barrier.
“Imagine having to learn these difficult topics in a different language and make sense of it,” said Hale.
At the Writing Center, international students are tutored like any other UMW student, but with a better understanding of their other language. Sometimes they need a little more assistance, according to Hale.
The Writing Center tries to equip their tutors with a variety of cultures and languages, according to Hale.
The Writing Center has 14 tutors, who are all UMW students. They come from all different majors.
“I have heard such positive comments from the students,” said Mason, speaking of the international students. “They get a more intimate American experience.”