By Lauren Ingeno
International students have until this Friday to fill out an online questionnaire about their experiences at the George Washington University, the results of which could have a significant bearing on the types of programs, resources and services offered to them in the future.
The International Student Barometer is an independent feedback project, administered by the International Graduate Insight Group (i-graduate), intended as a tool for institutions to gain insight on international students in order to better accommodate their needs.
The survey asks students how happy they are with a range of indicators, including their arrival, learning, living and support experiences, as well as overall satisfaction. After each question set, there is space for students to provide written comments.
“It is critical for institutions to know which groups get the most out of their experience, what is going well and whether some things need to change,” said Jamie Taylor, director of continuous surveys at i-graduate.
The ISB also allows GW to compare its results with the responses of international students at colleges and universities from around the world. Last year, 161,781 international students from 193 institutions in 14 countries participated.
All survey responders are anonymous, but students indicate details like their year, major and nationality, so the data can be appropriately distributed to various offices and stakeholders around the university.
Because of this, the extensive data are “extremely useful” for making comparisons, said Kristin Williams, associate provost for graduate enrollment management, especially considering that the international student population at GW has risen 94 percent in the past eight years—from 1,835 in 2005 to 3,560 in 2013.
“We value the diversity and perspectives that international students bring to the university community,” Dr. Williams said. “We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to meet their needs and manage their expectations.”
GW participated in the ISB survey for the first time two years ago, and that data provided a “baseline” for the university to grow from, said Dr. Williams. The university decided it would be best to participate in the survey every other year, rather than each year, so the data can be distributed, analyzed and changes can be implemented.
As a result of feedback from the 2011-12 survey, counseling and Career Services staff members have developed events, initatives, resources and workshops geared specifically toward international students.
In addition, the Committee on International Student Success was formed in 2012, which includes members from departments and offices across the university. This year, the committee received a GW Celebration of Excellence Award for an outstanding “collaborative partnership.”
One of the committee’s tasks has been to analyze the ISB findings and develop a white paper detailing the university’s short- and long-term priorities to improve the academic and co-curricular experiences of international students.
Other changes, such as separating undergraduate and graduate international student orientations, have come as a result of ISB data, said Andrew Sonn, assistant vice president for the Division of Student Affairs.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what other themes emerge, because our student population is always changing,” said Dr. Sonn. “The barometer is a good way for us to get a sense both quantitatively and qualitatively about their perceptions.”
International students can access the ISB survey through a link sent to their university email accounts. Participants will be entered to win $1,000 in an i-graduate prize drawing. The university will also be selecting 20 students who take the survey to receive $50 gift certificates to the GW Bookstore.