Education Experts Discuss Ways to Improve International Student Integration in HEIs

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Higher education experts recently convened in the first-ever online “Think-In” event organized by M Square Media (MSM), titled “Integrating International Students Into the Classroom: Opportunities and Best Practices for the Next Normal.” 

The webinar was held last September 29 and had as guest speakers Dr. Dawn Sherman, the founding dean at the School of Continuing Education at Post University; Dr. Dan Lesho, the Admission Recruitment Specialist at Notre Dame de Namur University and the president of the English Language Testing Society; and Dr. Paul Milan Foster Jr., the Executive Director for International Studies, Montana State University Billings. 

May Arthur, vice-president of MSM for its Global Marketing Office in the United States, moderated the discussion.

It was an insightful panel discussion that enlightened participants on the challenges that beset international students and which affect their persistence through graduation. According to May, new approaches must be adopted to improve student retention.

“More than focusing on bolstering recruitment numbers to hit targets, we should exert as much effort in ensuring that our global learners will remain in their degree programs until their graduation,” May said.

Dawn supported May’s pronouncements and stated that part of a successful student integration starts pre-arrival. Initially, Dawn recalled, her team would provide week-long orientations for the foreign students to help them acclimate but eventually realized that these were not enough.

“We started working with our agents and our recruiters and they started to do some sophisticated pre-arrival orientations and webinars to get students ready,” Dawn explained.

Meanwhile, Dan underscored effective training approaches in engaging faculty and staff in the endeavor of helping foreign students acclimate to the culture of their overseas study destination.

“When you do have an opportunity to have an orientation session or training, make it very hands-on, very practical, very authentic so that you are almost role-playing scenarios and situations with faculty,” Dan shared and added that faculty must also be aware of the early warning signs of students who are at risk so they can better help them.

For his part, Paul, using Montana State University Billings as a use case, talked about off-campus support that has been helpful in their successful student integration strategies. According to him, a volunteer member of the community will meet the international students upon arrival and will drive them to their dormitories. These volunteers also serve as host families of the international students who can be their support system away from home.

“They really complement what we do on-campus,” Paul said. “Those connections to the community are really important outside just purely academic affairs inside the classroom.”

The very first “Think-In” also touched on other crucial topics such as best practices in addressing language gaps and providing mental health support for foreign students. 

In closing, May emphasized that it is inspiring for international students to pursue overseas studies amid a challenging era and added, “This is why it is crucial for us to be deliberate in our efforts at integrating our international students into the classroom, especially as we start educating them in the next normal.”

The whole Think-In event can be viewed on-demand through this link:

The next MSM International Education Think-In will be held in October.

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