Once an international student himself, Derrick Alex, director of international recruitment and admissions has firsthand experience with some of the struggles international students may come across when studying at a university outside of their home country.
According to Alex, before a student even sets foot on a foreign campus there are several aspects of a college campus that students take into account. Some examples of these are the admission criteria, cost of attending the university, whether or not a student feels safe on campus or if they will be able to meet a certain level of proficiency in the English language that certain universities require.
In order to put Pacific on the list of universities an international student would include in this decision-making process, Alex said that Pacific still needs to “establish ourselves as a brand in the international market.” The International Recruitment and Admissions Department is taking steps to achieve that.
When it comes to the recruiting process, International Admissions has had to remember that although the U.S. may be the top choice for international students currently, there is still competition for Pacific at the state level, nationwide and in other countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.
In order to remain competitive against other institutions, Alex said that often events and activities that reach out to prospective international students is not always enough, so there is a need for different kinds of print and internet media that will reach the prospective students more effectively. Alex referred to these simply as, “Pieces that would appeal to an international student.”
One strategy is developing electronic brochures and translating them into multiple languages to attract students from Pacific’s key markets. The translation is important to not only the students as Alex added that many students will rely on their parents in making their decision and many of those parents do not speak English.
International Admissions plans to reach out to more than parents in this revamping process as well. Alex said that he wants to develop a closer bond with embassies and government agencies in Washington D.C. that sponsor students to study overseas. This will make it simpler to give these sponsoring nations and their students a better idea of Pacific’s mission and what they hope to provide for international students.
Another important global network that Alex mentioned was Education USA. The program has more than 400 advising centers around the globe that helps student find an ideal place to study that fits their criteria and then connects them with that institution.
Initiating international student recruitment activities in both domestic and international recruitment markets is important according to Alex. It is even more helpful if there is a connection in that area to an International Alumni of Pacific, said Alex.
Perhaps the most important part of re-constructing International Recruitment and Admissions is the role that faculty and staff must play, Alex said. In order to make the international application more personalized to each student, Alex has reached out to faculty to be more involved. Through the partnership and getting to know staff members, Alex hopes that he can utilize their expertise and knowledge in different fields to learn more about students’ cultures, what they may be looking for in terms of education and how they may need help through their application process.
Alex emphasized that although Pacific may have a lot to offer prospective international students, they have just as much to return to the university. Above all, these new students give those around them an opportunity “to respect and understand other cultures,” Alex said. And on a localized note, international students contributed $273,623,000 to Oregon’s economy alone last year.
Alex said changes would be necessary in order to make life easier for these students far away from home. For example, a Muslim student may need the proper accommodations for ritual prayer. If the student were female, they would require entirely female living arrangements. Another issue in Alex’s eyes is transportation. Very rarely do international students have a car or means of exploring the local area. Some sort of shuttle that allowed exploration off-campus would be very beneficial for all students, really Alex said.
While changes in outreach style may be the first step that International Recruitment and Admissions is taking to draw more students to Pacific, Alex said that team effort would make overall improvements possible because the process is “not one person’s job. Every single faculty and staff member needs to be involved and contribute in order for us to recruit, retain and ensure success for these students.”