Global enrollment continues to grow thanks to university’s outreach program

Denush Vidanapathirana

Lidenia Clarke, Spanish junior, shakes her chest for the camera during the Caribfest Parade that looped from Dillard to Jesse Rogers Promenade Sept. 30. Photo by Rachel Johnson

The wall and shelves of Randy Glean, director of the Office of International Student Services, are filled with pictures of smiling students, the result of his 20 years spent bringing in students from 46 countries to the university.

“I got to travel the world, see more than 3,000 students come through, and see the program grow. It’s interesting,” Glean said.

The university has 561 international students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs, with a total of 9.6 percent of international student enrollment. 51.9 percent of the international student population is from the Caribbean, making it the largest from a single country. China and India both tied for second place 8.9 percent. Nigeria, with 30 students, comes in third at 5.3 percent.

Glean said the cost of attendance played a huge role in bringing international students to Wichita Falls.

“Everyone is going to pick what’s best for them. Students pick MSU because the cost is reasonable, because there is a message coming to them in their home country and the message is that it is a safe school, it’s a strong program. There’s lots of care and that’s why they choose it,” Glean said.

Yujin Yoshimura, a computer science and math junior and a native of Japan, said the affordability played a key role in his decision to come to the university.

“The main reason was the cheap tuition. My family lives here and they choose to live in Wichita falls because the cost of living is so low,” Yoshimura said.

According to Glean, the outreach program the university conducts is also a factor in influencing students to come here.

“We make sure the students’ expectations are not grounded in promises. So, we make sure that whatever we promise, we deliver,” Glean said.

Calvert Aeron, mechanical engineering senior and president of the Caribbean Student Organization, said the international students’ office is helpful in regards to the on-campus activities for students.

“They are doing a pretty good job being the face for international students on campus. I know that with events like Caribfest, they help us advertise and spread the word around campus,” Aeron said.

Yoshimura said the tuition and cost of living was not the only reason he chose to come here.

“I like the community. The people have been very friendly,” Yoshimura said.

Selvin Peters, mechanical engineering sophomore, said the Caribbean Student Organization helped his initial experience.

“I came here for school. But I also came here for the experience. I was on a scholarship, so I decided to come here,” Peters said. “My transition was a bit easier because CSO showed me the roots.”

Peters said he came to the university with the expectation that he would have to start from scratch. He said he was grateful for the help he received from organizations such as CSO, who ensured he had a place to stay and helped him get settled in as fast as possible.

“Coming here, the biggest thing was coming into an organization, the Caribbean Student Organization. I had their support and they have been my family away from my family,” Peters said.

Aeron said CSO tries to create a welcoming atmosphere for incoming students.

“They expect to come and be in a college setting and go to school. But once they get here, it’s pretty different. CSO tries to create an atmosphere where they feel at home. We try to create a bond. Friendship, family. So that when they come here, they feel comfortable,” Aeron said.

Aeron said university officials were helpful when it came to reaching out to students after the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma.

“They were one of the fronts when it came to our relief. They got the word out throughout the organization,” Aeron said.

Shehan Karunarathne, accounting senior and vice president of the Sri Lankan Students Organization, said organizations such as CSO, SLSO, Midwestern Indian Student Association and other such student organizations are important in getting incoming international students integrated into life in the United States.

“Before (new students) come, they expect to come into a society that’s pretty much diverse. They expect to come and mix in with other cultures,” Karunarathne said.

Yoshimura said the universities diversity is an important part of why international students continue to come here.

“For an incoming student, I’d say MSU is a great place and it is very connected to the community. The diversity is very important to the school,” Yoshimura said. “It’s important that people from different backgrounds are part of the same community. They don’t feel isolated. They feel connected and that’s very important.”