Service to International Students

As a result of conversations with international students, particularly graduate students, Kim Goff Crews, Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students in the University in 2008 initiated a process to improve service to international students in the University. She charged a committee consisting of University faculty, students and staff to study the experience of international students and make recommendations for improved support.  The International Student Experience Committee submitted its final report in November 2009, making three over-arching recommendations:

1. Centralize services and programs for international students

Create a central administrative office, dedicated to the life of international students, to reduce redundancy in programming and service-provision, and ease the complexity of navigating our decentralized University structure.  This office would be responsible for immigration advising, orientation, English language support, and social/cultural programming.

2. Create an international student center

Dedicate a physical location for all activities related to the support of international students.  International House (I-House) was overwhelmingly identified as the logical location for such a center.  International House already provides housing for international students as well as space for the current Office of International Affairs (OIA); however, currently the House does not play a central role in the daily life of international students.

3. Improve communication with and among international students

Enhance systems that facilitate reciprocal communication between international students and the University, as well as encourage peer-to-peer support.  These communication enhancements would be implemented and sustained by the central office dedicated to the life of international students.

View the report here

Since the report was submitted, Campus and Student Life and the Office of International Affairs (OIA) have taken a number of steps to implement these recommendations. 

1. Centralize services and programs for international students 

Services and programs for international students are being centralized in OIA. The office has expanded its programming for international students to provide more extensive orientation, acculturation, informational and social/cultural events.  The autumn orientation program has been customized to the University’s academic areas and introduces international students to immigration matters, safety and security, and health and wellness.  It will be offered multiple times to allow for maximum participation particularly for graduate and professional school students and is paired with major social events for new international students.

Programming then continues year-round (12 months) with monthly and quarterly cultural and social events. These include the Monthly Coffee Hour and monthly workshops on topics of interest to international students.  Faculty, staff and students present and lead discussions on concerns as wide-ranging as making friends with Americans, academic integrity, and managing a lease when living off-campus.  They also include a large social event every quarter: the International Ice Cream Social in October , the International Ice Skating Party in January, the International Spring Fest in May, and the International Summer Picnic in July/August.

This year, OIA is also rolling out IMPACT, the International Mentor Program for Academic and Cultural Transitions, with the goal of providing a peer mentor to at least twenty international Ph.D. students newly arriving in the University.  Mentors will commence their support before the new student arrives on campus and remain available for at least one academic year, mentoring the new student along guidelines developed by OIA.  IMPACT is expected to grow to include more Ph.D. students as well as other micro-populations.

Informational/cultural/social events for the International Spouses and Partners Group commence before the beginning of the autumn quarter and now include events offered for domestic and international spouses and partners in collaboration with the Office of Graduate Student Affairs.  OIA is also working with this and other groups to develop greater support for populations from specific nationalities, such as African and Caribbean students and spouses.

To address the need for additional English language support highlighted in the committee’s report, Campus and Student Life convened a Committee on English as a Second Language to study English language-related needs of international students in-depth and to determine how to best meet those needs. View the committee's report. It provides the foundation for next steps as the work towards the best possible English language support for our international students continues.

2. Create an international student center

The space study initiated by Campus and Student Life and currently under way includes consideration of space for an international student center, i.e. a location where international students can freely congregate and where they regularly find events and services relevant to their needs.  In the meantime, OIA works primarily with the Office of Event Services to obtain space in International House and Ida Noyes Hall on a case-by-case basis for those events that do not require a specific location elsewhere.

3. Improve communication with and among international students

Towards developing the means for effective communication with and among international students, OIA has created two new structures:  the quarterly International Student Forum (Forum), which takes place in week two of every quarter, twice on the same day to allow for maximum participation, and the International Student Advisory Board (ISAB), which is programmatically and geographically diverse and consists of fifteen to eighteen international students (undergraduate and graduate).  The close interaction with students in Forum and ISAB forges important connections between international students and OIA and provides important insights into international student needs and specific ways to address them.  The ISAB is also taking on a role in creating content for OIA’s website and Facebook page.

OIA is in the process of creating a new web portal with features such as student and staff blogs, a comprehensive events calendar, designated space for specific populations, such as international students and scholars, spouses and partners, and third culture kids, and initiatives like the IMPACT program and a celebration of International Women’s Day.  The site will connect to OIA’s Facebook page and students will be able to access a wide range of resources of a cultural, social and informational nature through these features.  These new tools will also enable our international students to interact with each other more easily and help foster a sense of community.

The work to build ever better support for our international students continues and updates will be posted to this and related sites as they become available.