By Brittney Dunkins
As the George Washington University expands its presence abroad, the university’s global campus has also taken root right here in Washington. Currently, more than 3,500 international students are a part of a vibrant and expanding community at GW.
“Though historically the university has been host to a large number of students from around the globe, GW has recently seen an increase in enrollment of international students,” said Executive Director of Global and Experiential Education in the School of Business Bryan Andriano.
“The Committee for International Student Success was established by the Division of Student Affairs to evaluate resources available to our international students and leverage existing successful practices on campus. CISS is designed to reinforce the university’s commitment to diversity and globalization as outlined in the strategic plan,” he said.
Dr. Andriano and Assistant Director of International Student Services Jennifer Donaghue are co-chairs of CISS, which was formed in 2012 following the university’s participation in the International Student Barometer. CISS has grown to include 47 representatives from various schools and departments.
The committee comprises four subcommittees that focus on career services, interdepartmental communication, data and analysis, and English language support. The most recent efforts of CISS included a revamped orientation for international graduate students and a customized Colonial Inauguration for international undergraduates that presented an international student panel and addressed topics such as visa procedures and international student career development.
Last month, CISS was recognized at the university’s Celebration of Excellence for outstanding collaboration and for its efforts to enhance the international student experience.
“Winning the Collaborative Partnership Award was a defining moment worthy of celebration, not only for the committee, but also for the university,” Ms. Donaghue said. “Dr. Andriano and I are fortunate to be leading a group of administrators with great energy, expertise and desire to see international students truly succeed. We have set ambitious goals for spring 2014 that will keep us busy, and the award has inspired us to keep our focus.”
Offering a key student voice, Omayra Chuquihuara, the Student Association’s director of international students, has been working closely with CISS. Ms. Chuquihuara, who hails from Lima, Peru, has met with Ms. Donaghue and Dr. Andriano and attended subcommittee meetings. She offers an international student perspective to the proposed initiatives.
“I believe the creation of CISS was a much-needed effort from the university to better serve the community, and I am excited to see how it develops,” Ms. Chuquihuara said.
Anne Scammon, the managing director of career and learning experience in the Center for Career Services, is the chair of the subcommittee on career services. She said the subcommittee is currently focusing on preparing international students for the university’s spring 2014 Career and Internship Fair.
“International students have unique opportunities and challenges related to their career choices and potential U.S. and home country employment,” Ms. Scammon said. “Ultimately, I believe the subcommittee's work will enhance and refine career services for the university’s international students.”
In addition to co-chairing CISS, Ms. Donaghue manages the subcommittee on interdepartmental communication, which seeks to reinforce collaboration between offices and departments.
“Bringing stakeholders from across campus together in one room has allowed us to create an educational forum for staff and faculty that utilizes the resources developed independently by departments and schools,” Ms. Donaghue said.
The subcommittee on data analysis, led by Dr. Andriano, will compile information regarding international student populations to create a comprehensive dashboard of information that will be distributed for use by school and departments.
“The university has already been collecting data from our international student populations through various means,” Dr. Andriano said. “This historical data has been an indispensable resource, and we hope to expand the scope of the data we collect in order to better serve the students.”
The subcommittee on English language support is led by Derek Malone-France, executive director of the University Writing Program. The subcommittee will identify ways to support the development of international students’ English language capabilities through curricular and co-curricular programs.
“The university strategic plan calls for a substantial increase in the number of international students at GW,” Dr. Malone-France said. “This subcommittee will develop proposals that both match the scope of the challenge and make the best, most effective and efficient use of the resources that are available.”
Ms. Chuquihuara believes that the committee’s efforts will speak to the important issues faced by international students and add to the existing support system at GW.
“I think the university has many resources that international students can benefit from,” she said, citing the ISO office relocation from K Street to Old Main at 1922 F Street, which increased access and visibility.
Ms. Chuquihuara also said that the University Counseling Center has created a support group where international students can voice concerns, which has helped international students with homesickness and stress management.
“The creation of this committee shows how committed GW is to providing an outstanding experience for international students,” she said.