SVSU sees greater international student diversity

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SVSU’s Office of International and Advanced Studies has a busy recruiting season ahead.

According to Director of International and Graduate Admissions Jenna Briggs, SVSU is continuing to diversify its international enrollment, which is at just over 300 for the Fall 2017 semester.

“Prior to 2010 and 2011, international enrollments were made up of about 90 percent China and Saudi Arabia,” Briggs said. “It was just those two main countries.”

International Student Recruiter Whitney Cohen is also excited to see SVSU’s international recruitment diversify.

“I’ve been at SVSU for three years, and it’s always been a goal to diversify the international population on campus,” Cohen said. “You may be seeing it more now, but it’s definitely something we’ve been working towards for the last couple years. So, we’re glad you’re able to see this now while you’re meeting more international students.”

Much of the push to diversify came from the fact that many of the countries in which SVSU recruited were beginning to close off their international recruitment efforts, especially Saudi Arabia.

“We could see some of the shifts happening in the Saudi government,” Briggs said. “A majority of our Saudi students are sponsored by the Saudi Arabia Culture Mission. They get full scholarships to come here.”

The shifts in the global economy are largely responsible for such problems. To keep SVSU’s international enrollment up, Briggs made a point of diversifying international recruitment.

“When you have all your chips in one basket, I always say we’re one war, one natural disaster away from having 200 less international students,” Briggs said.

Briggs also points out that, from an admissions standpoint, diversifying makes sense in order to prevent such a loss from happening.

“If the visa system crashes in one country, it doesn’t make as big of an impact,” Briggs said. “We still want students from Saudi Arabia and China. They’re fantastic, but we wanted to diversify. We started changing how we recruit.”

Cohen will be doing most of the traveling for SVSU’s recruitment efforts in a month-long recruitment trip that is already underway.

“I’m starting in Nepal, then going to Bangladesh, and then India, then hopping over to Vietnam, and then up to China,” Cohen said.

While Cohen will be visiting different education fairs in Nepal, Bangladesh will be a quicker visit.

“I’m meeting with some high schools that I’ve met through counselors here in the U.S. and meeting with alumni of Bangladeshi students from U.S. cities and U.S. high schools who had been exchange students for a year and have gone back home to Bangladesh,” Cohen said. “They’ve finished their high school, and now they want to come back and study in the U.S.”

In India, Cohen will again be visiting high schools. In Vietnam, Cohen will be visiting more education fairs. She will end the recruitment trip in China with more high school visits.

Briggs believes Cohen’s travels will help diversify international recruitment and benefit the SVSU community at-large.

“They did a story in 2013-2014, and many (of our American students) had not gone out of the U.S. or even Michigan,” Briggs said. “So, sitting next to an international student in class may be the only international experience they have.”

Briggs believes that SVSU’s American students who have not been abroad will benefit from more diverse classrooms.

“It adds to the richness of the classroom,” Briggs said. “You have more in common than you do different.”