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President's Blog: From the Heart

Amazing and Brave

By Eric F. Spina

The aroma of chicken shawarma and spicy aloo gobi wafted through the Kennedy Union Ballroom as I entered to offer a personal welcome to new international students.

Before me, I saw eager faces from India, Kuwait, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Vietnam, Ukraine, Oman, Australia, and Saudi Arabia, all anxious to start degree programs in fields from computer science and entrepreneurship to finance and engineering. Almost two-thirds are enrolled in graduate programs.

I think we would all agree with Andrea Stiefvater, managing director of UDayton Global, that these students — who make up one of the largest classes of international students to ever enroll at UD during the spring semester — are “amazing” and “brave,” as the vast majority had never stepped foot in the U.S. before arriving for orientation.

 Andrea and the UDayton Global team of 10 are working hand in hand with the Center for International Programs, our enrollment management staff, and staff from the College and our professional schools to boost and diversify enrollment during a period of instability in international higher education. The focus is on ensuring that each student receives an excellent experience from recruitment through coursework and student life to graduation and beyond.

And it's working.

 Through an innovative partnership with Shorelight Education, we've created an International Accelerator Program that combines intensive English-language instruction with courses, programs, and additional support to help international students adjust academically and socially to UD and their new country. With Shorelight's presence in 150 cities — and robust digital marketing experience — we are starting to attract more top international students from all over the globe.

In the fall, we welcomed 230 international students. As we begin the spring semester, an additional 200 are expected to join our community. These numbers far exceed many expectations, as new international enrollment fell 6.6 percent at American universities in 2017 and continued to decline in the fall, according to the annual Open Doors survey.

At the welcome luncheon, a group of new students from India marveled at seeing snowflakes for the first time, commented on how polite people in Ohio are to newcomers, and chatted about what drew them to UD's campus.

"The U.S. offers more practical application than India," said Naveen Kumar Paka. "The technology is very advanced here."

While we pride ourselves on being a welcoming community, these new students are also happy to see others from their homeland studying here, too. "Since we see so many students from the same place, we're relaxed," said Varun Reddy Ega.

That was my message to these students, too. We want you to feel relaxed and welcomed. We want you to know we will support you every step of the way on your academic journey.

By your very presence, I told them, you have made us better. You've raised the bar by adding an important element of diversity to our campus. We value you and your gifts.

Before the students scattered to meet with their academic advisers and brave the unseasonably cold January day to take a shopping trip to The Greene, I left them with a challenge.

It's the same one I give all of our students: You will receive a world-class education — one that you can use to make the world a better place.

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