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University to boost undergraduate international enrollment

By Catherine Doss

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 13 - November 20, 1997

Virginia Tech plans to more than double undergraduate international enrollment over the next five years. That goal was discussed at a recent meeting of the University Council for International Programs (UCIP). Currently, the university's full-time undergraduate international student enrollment is approximately 1 percent of its total enrollment. Virginia Tech ranks 22nd out of its 25 peer institutions in total undergraduate enrollment of international students.
"Although Virginia Tech does well overall in the international diversity of its student body, we are not giving our undergraduate students much opportunity for interaction with students of other cultures," said Lyn Gray, director of international exchange programs in the University Office of International Programs (UOIP). "Internationalizing the university experience is a key strategy in Virginia Tech's Academic Agenda. Creating a balanced presence of international students at all levels is one way of achieving that goal."
Full-time graduate-student enrollment at Virginia Tech is approximately 25 percent of total graduate enrollment, placing Tech ninth out of its 25 peer institutions. In total combined graduate and undergraduate enrollment, the university ranks 17th.
One strategy to attract more international students is the Hokies Abroad program, an initiative founded in 1995 by Lee Drowne, assistant director of Undergraduate Admissions. This initiative has enabled Virginia Tech to have a physical presence in more countries than would normally be possible. Hokies Abroad is a volunteer recruiting program where alumni living outside the United States offer their assistance and knowledge of the university to guidance counselors, students, and parents.
"Currently, more than 130 alumni, living in 57 countries, participate in the program," said Debbie Shelton, director of alumni relations for the Virginia Tech Alumni Association. She said two receptions were held last year for potential international students, one in China and one in Singapore.
In a new twist, the Alumni Association, in collaboration with Undergraduate Admissions and UOIP, has created a "Hokies Abroad II" program that seeks to involve Tech faculty members traveling internationally in meeting groups of alumni for informational and recruiting purposes. During the first year of operation, more than 80 faculty members volunteered to distribute information while overseas.
Darlene Grega, director of the Cranwell International Center, reported on a number of efforts to ensure international students have a smooth transition from home to the university, including a student-organized pick-up service at Roanoke Regional Airport, a comprehensive three-day orientation, and a complimentary $5 telephone charge card.
Patrick Carlton, interim director of international education, reported that 130 faculty members have, during the past 17 months, received international conference travel assistance amounting to $109,000 through the Office of the Associate Provost for Program Development, Research and Graduate Studies headed by Gene Brown.
Gray reported that last year 397 Virginia Tech students studied abroad by taking part in special short programs, summer sessions, or semesters overseas. The goal of UOIP is to increase that number to 1,000 students by academic year 2000-01.
This year Provost Peggy S. Meszaros is serving as chair of the council--a diverse multidisciplinary group charged with identifying significant international issues on campus and developing appropriate strategies to address them.
"Virginia Tech has recognized the need to incorporate an international dimension into the education of its graduates and has included this strategy in its Academic Agenda," Meszaros said. "One important objective is to examine ways to ensure that the various curricula address students' needs to be prepared to live and work in a global society. Inherent within this objective is providing faculty members with development opportunities to enable them to implement any necessary changes."