Branching out

Wright State changes model for recruiting international students

Wright State has expanded its efforts to increase the diversity of its international student population.

Wright State University has expanded its recruiting of international students, a move that promises to increase the diversity of foreign students on campus.

Instead of deploying recruiters from Wright State as was done in the past, the university has partnered with two recruiting organizations — one based in India and one in Turkey.

“When you use recruiters in your office, it requires a massive budget to keep them abroad,” said William Holmes, associate vice provost for international affairs. “You can’t do it very effectively.”

In the past, Wright State had large numbers of students from India and Saudi Arabia. The university is now trying to increase numbers from other countries.

Holmes said that for years Wright State put a majority of eggs in one basket and one college — recruiting students from India to attend the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

“By bringing on a full-time person in India, that gives us an opportunity to focus on different regions of India and different academic areas,” he said. “And Turkey is very centrally located to go anywhere. The recruiters are opening doors for us that we simply could not open ourselves.”

Michelle Streeter-Ferrari, director of the University Center for International Education, said the new recruiting model is a big change from the past.

“It helps us be more aware of trends with international students overseas,” she said. “That is something that is going to be very helpful for us.”

There are 597 international students representing 59 different countries currently attending Wright State. There are 236 students from India, 143 students from Saudi Arabia and 53 students from China.

There are already signs that diversity is on the rise. For the first time, Wright State has a degree-seeking student from Azerbaijan, an undergraduate computer science student from Ukraine and a student from Brunei, a tiny island nation in the southwest Pacific Ocean.

Recruiter Carl Holtman is based in Turkey but responsible for recruiting in every country except India. A major focus is the former Soviet Union, Ukraine, Turkey and central Asia. But he also recruits in the Middle East, North Africa and Japan.

Holtman recruited the first degree-seeking student to Wright State from Azerbaijan, a computer science major.

Holtman often promotes Wright State to students with disabilities since the university is nationally known and ranked for its accessibility. He recruited a student from Turkey who is working on her master’s degree in neuroscience. The student graduated at the top of her class in Turkey but had limited opportunities there to study neuroscience. Turkish media outlets are following the student’s experience at Wright State.

Because of a genetic disease, the student uses a wheelchair to get around, Holtman said. “She wants to pursue neuroscience so she can study that disease and go back to Turkey to help other people,” he said.

Apoorv Singhal recruits for Wright State in India. His strategy is to sell specific Wright State programs such as business and nursing. He has recruited several students who are studying pharmacology and toxicology.

Wright State is also recruiting in new regions of India instead of just the south, where many students are interested in engineering.

“If you recruit in different parts of India, you are going to get more students who are interested in the sciences or business,” said Streeter-Ferrari. “We’re seeing students going into different programs such as some of the sciences that we hadn’t seen before.”

Streeter-Ferrari said a greater diversity of international students ultimately helps Wright State students who don’t study abroad.

“It’s automatically an important part of international education because you are internationalizing the classroom,” she said.

Holtman has been in Turkey for 16 years but spent many years in Cincinnati. He tells potential international students the benefits of Wright State’s location such as its low cost of living and welcoming environment. It is also a good place to learn English because Midwesterners have a neutral accent.

“If potential students are in business and want to study marketing, there is no better place than southwestern Ohio because we are a microcosm of the U.S.,” he said. “This is a test market. You can be right in the middle of the laboratory.”

Holtman also extolls the virtues of the University Honors Program. He says Wright State’s program is arguably better than Ivy League programs because of the individual attention students receive from professors instead of graduate assistants.

Holmes said Wright State is focusing on recruiting undergraduate international students because they will be at the university longer than graduate students and many will live on campus.

“They create an international feel on campus,” he said.

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