Recruitment partnership brings international experience without ever leaving the campus
HUNTINGTON — Without setting foot on foreign soil, college students at Marshall University are having more globalized college experiences than ever before, and by their presence at the school, they in turn are providing an international experience for a group of students who are discovering Marshall and the United States for the first time.
Marshall partnered with INTO University Partnerships in 2012 to establish INTO Marshall, a joint venture that provides the university with exposure to tens of thousands of students and parents throughout the world, said Eric Martinez-Fry, director of the INTO center on campus, housed in East Hall, which was renovated in 2013 to accommodate the center.
INTO recruitment officers often visit and are familiar with Marshall, and they help international high school, college and graduate students determine if the university academically and personally is a good fit for them.
“Students want a degree that matters, and Marshall University provides the academic credentials that international students find valuable,” Martinez-Fry said. “Of course, many universities provide solid degrees. We’ve found that INTO Marshall University students also want to study in a safe, inviting environment with rich traditions that enhance their American experience. Finally, Marshall University is Goldilocks sized — Not too big, not too small...just right.”
The aspiration to attract more international students to campus was outlined in Marshall’s Strategic Initiatives plan crafted in 2010, and it since has been updated to reflect, among many other things, the implementation of INTO on campus.
The plan notes the projected 11 percent decline of high school graduates in West Virginia through 2025, and university officials sought to offset the decline in local graduates by further incorporating international students into the university.
The goal outlined by the plan is for international students to comprise up to 15 percent of Marshall’s student population, which translates to between 1,800 and 2,000 students.
The plan also outlines how such a partnership opens doors that would link Marshall to partnership opportunities with foreign government sponsored programs and joint degree programs with other INTO partner universities, which include Oregon State University, Colorado State University, University of South Florida and George Mason University in the United States. INTO also has partnerships with universities in China and the United Kingdom.
The opportunities abroad and at home are expansive, said President Stephen Kopp.
“It’s a great learning laboratory for faculty, students and the community,” Kopp said. “When you look at the fact that the Huntington community has been so welcoming to international students for decades with things like the International Fair, it’s a reflection of how we value people. It’s not just about benefiting Marshall University. It’s a much larger issue, and the benefits come from the opportunity to interact with people in your community from other parts of the world. It literally becomes a global landscape we’re building here.”
The university began the process of establishing an international recruitment partnership in late 2009 with the creation of the Campus Internationalization Committee, which was chaired by Joe Wyatt, a psychology professor, who spent several years teaching in Europe.
“I was interested in advancing internationalization at Marshall,” Wyatt said. “The president put together a campus-wide committee of faculty and other representatives to review companies that are in the business of recruiting students internationally to universities.”
After a thorough bidding and interview process involving eight student-recruitment companies, Wyatt said the committee selected INTO in May 2011.
Marshall’s first class of INTO students arrived on campus in August 2013 for fall semester, and, including spring semester enrollment, there are more than 270 INTO students at Marshall from 26 countries.
Once on campus, INTO staff work to incorporate students into American culture from airport pick-ups, shopping trips and orientation, opening bank accounts and even signing up for phone service, Martinez-Fry said.
Beyond that, INTO provides students with tertiary services focused on academic success and student engagement, he said.
Some students come to Marshall to learn how to speak English, Martinez-Fry said, and those students are placed in appropriate level English-speaking courses to help them obtain the skills they need to succeed in an academic setting.
Other students are placed in INTO’s Pathways programs. Those students split their time between English classes and their regular classes for their undergraduate or graduate academic majors, he said.
All of the students, regardless of their class schedule, are Marshall University students, he said.
As those students seek to internationally enrich their life paths through Marshall, they are doing the very same thing for domestic students and Huntington alike, Wyatt said.
“The world grows smaller every day, and it’s important for students to be ready for a global economy,” Wyatt said. “Global thinking is quite important, but they are not going to lose that hometown touch. They will be more aware and ready for what happens during the next 40 years of their lives. When Marshall University students get to be around people who have traveled internationally to be here, and get to talk to them, they understand there are more ways of looking at things than just what we’ve got in the United States and West Virginia. It helps make a difference for all people.”
Follow Reporter Lacie Pierson on Twitter, @LaciePiersonHD.