International enrollment, study abroad increases

Upward trajectory has risen over the last four years, director says



Christine Oakley, director for the Global Learning Department, discusses the benefits of studying abroad on Friday at Bryan Hall. The goal of the department is to work toward the “Drive to 25.”

GEORGE ERALIL, Evergreen reporter

An increased participation in study abroad programs and international enrollment becomes more apparent as the university embarks on its “Drive to 25” initiative with a greater focus on internationalization and building diversity.

Asif Chaudhry, vice president for WSU International Programs, said a total of 744 students participated in study abroad programs that offered academic credit during the 2018-19 academic year.

“We have seen an increase over the last three to four years — significant enough that we are now happy to see this upward trajectory, and we are putting more effort into taking it to the next level,” Chaudhry said.

He said the university engages in many creative measures to send students abroad. Edward R. Murrow College of Communication’s “Backpack Journalism” program is one measure, in which students enrolled in the program go to places like Nepal and Africa to cover stories and events.

The Global Leadership Certificate is another program that encourages study abroad participation, Chaudhry said.

Christine Oakley, director of the Office of International Programs’ Global Learning Department, also talked about the Carson College of Business’ incorporation of an international education requirement into their curriculum.

Oakley said the college sends about 35 percent of the total number of WSU students going abroad.

She said students participating in study abroad programs have a range of scholarships they can apply for. While the Office of International Programs has multiple donors who want to see students going abroad, the different colleges in the university also have specified scholarships that can help ease students’ financial load, Oakley said.

She added that students also have the option to earmark funds received from the all university general scholarship for study abroad programs.

Oakley said WSU has about 25 partner universities for exchange programs and has about 500 study abroad programs in different countries to select from.

“We had a student one year that said, ‘I want to go where no other Coug went before,’ ” Oakley said. “So, we said, ‘How about Antarctica?’ ”

In addition to increased participation in study abroad programs, Chaudhry said they also saw a significant increase in international student enrollment. About seven to eight percent of the total student population at WSU are international students, Chaudhry said, and they aim to grow to about 15 percent.

Chaudhry said their growth persists despite a national decline in international enrollment.

“The reason [for the increase] is we’ve been aggressive in making sure that we maintain it,” Chaudhry said.

When the political climate in the country changed and the number of students enrolling as freshmen or transfer students declined, the university partnered with INTO University Partnerships (IUP). Together, they created pathways for students that require additional assistance to make the transition to WSU, Chaudhry said.

Students that choose this path take classes at WSU and spend a semester or two, gain the knowledge required and then register to become WSU students, Chaudhry said.

During the 2018-19 academic year, about 150 students enrolled through this program, he said. About 230 international students enrolled as direct-entry freshmen or transfer students during the same period.

Chaudhry intends for the growth in international enrollment to contribute toward enriching the student experience at WSU and building the diversity profile of the university.