Campus News

Task force recommends ways to improve environment for international students

International and domestics students walking together.

All members of the UB community are responsible for making international students feel included and engaged in university life, according to findings of a special task force.

By CHARLES ANZALONE

Published November 23, 2016

Stephen Dunnett.
“Faculty, staff and students from across the university have a role in fostering the kind of campus climate in which everyone in our richly diverse community can flourish and all can benefit from one another’s distinctive contributions.”
Stephen Dunnett, professor and vice provost for international education

UB must continue to foster an environment of “inclusion and engagement,” one that makes the integration of international students the responsibility of all university departments, faculty, staff and students, according to the findings of a UB task force formed to study the campus environment.

“The concepts of integration, inclusion and engagement must be infused into the entire ethos of the institution,” states the report, prepared by the Provost’s Task Force on International Student Inclusion and Engagement. “The data clearly show that UB is a truly global university and a top destination for international students.”

Given the increasing enrollment of international students and the continuing trends toward UB becoming an international university, improving the environment and services for international students must be a clear priority for the university, the report states.

And while the two-year study clearly acknowledges the positive changes that have come about since the international student population has grown so significantly, it also recommends new approaches.

“The entire UB community is challenged to provide a welcoming and supportive environment for all of our students, and particularly those who must deal with adjusting to a new language, culture and academic system,” said Stephen C. Dunnett, professor and vice provost for international education, who submitted the final report. “Faculty, staff and students from across the university have a role in fostering the kind of campus climate in which everyone in our richly diverse community can flourish and all can benefit from one another’s distinctive contributions.”

The report was provided to Provost Charles F. Zukoski for review and consideration of its recommendations.

“We are proud that so many international students choose to attend UB to take advantage of our excellent academic programs,” said Zukoski. “We are committed to fostering an inclusive and vibrant campus environment for all of our students, and we are pleased that this report will help our campus be even more welcoming and supportive for our international population.”

At the center of the report are the dramatically increasing numbers of international students attending UB. Undergraduate international students at UB increased by more than 500 percent in 18 years, from around 300 in the fall of 1996 to 1,820 in the fall of 2014, according to the report. UB’s total international enrollment exceeds 5,000, not counting students on Optional Practical Training, which students undertake following graduation.

“Providing more robust and responsive support is critical to our university’s enrollment and retention plans, particularly in light of our goal of growing overall enrollment by 2,000 students by 2020,” Dunnett said.

The task force’s 159-page report includes numerous examples of strategies and best practices from UB departments that provide a welcoming environment for international students.

“There are many programs and efforts in UB decanal units, departments and student services offices that promote the inclusion and engagement of international students,” the report states. “If replicated in other campus units, such programs could go a long way in bringing together international and domestic students in a meaningful way.”

Among the report’s recommendations:

  • “University leadership should communicate that international students are valued and supported at the University at Buffalo.
  • All UB units should include internationalization efforts as part of their strategic plans.
  • Where appropriate, departments and faculty should identify opportunities in their curricula and teaching to facilitate cross-cultural learning in the classroom.
  • “Communication strategies” are needed at different levels of the university to encourage development of more meaningful relationships between domestic and international students, beginning with a joint orientation program and including the organization of extracurricular activities for diverse groups of students.

Peter F. Biehl, professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology who chaired the International Student Inclusion Task Force, said competition to enroll international students is intensifying throughout the country. The competition may never have been greater than now, Biehl said.

“The recommendations of the campus-wide task force offer a unique chance for UB to become a national leader in inclusion and engagement of international students, and to develop into a truly global campus,” said Biehl, who also is chair of the Council on International Studies and Programs, or CISP.

“This will have lifelong benefits for our domestic students, as well. It will make them more tolerant, more adaptable and more marketable on a world stage.”