WMU's global engagement growth reflects national trends

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More international students enrolled this fall

KALAMAZOO—Western Michigan University saw double-digit growth in international enrollment this fall and has expanded its global engagement efforts with new partnerships in Iraq, Turkey and Brazil.

Compared to the last academic year, WMU's international student enrollment grew by 12.9 percent, raising the total to 1,575 international students representing 95 countries on campus this fall. Meanwhile, the University saw its largest study abroad enrollment in a decade—588 additional students—over the 2011-12 academic year total.

Enrollment in WMU's Center for English Language and Culture for International Students—CELCIS—grew as well, increasing by nearly 60 percent to 254 full-time students in fall 2012, as compared to the fall 2011 enrollment of 159 students. Historically, more than 90 percent of CELCIS graduates become degree-seeking students at WMU.

The increases are all a reflection of national trends noted in an annual report released Nov. 12 by the Institute of International Education with support from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The new report, "Open Doors 2012," represents data collected from the 2011-12 and 2010-11 academic years. It shows that the number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities increased by 6 percent to a record high of 764,495 in 2011-12, and the number of U.S. students who engage in study abroad opportunities increased by 1 percent to a record total of 273,996 in 2010-11.

Dr. Bassam Harik, interim vice provost of WMU's Haenicke Institute for Global Education, says pivotal to WMU’s increase in international enrollment this fall have been students coming from China, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Brazil and Iraq. The University welcomed 71 new students from China (269 total), 60 from Saudi Arabia (333 total), 41 from Japan (93 total), 26 from Brazil (31 total) and 16 from Iraq (23 total).

Harik anticipates increasing enrollment of students from Brazil will continue through WMU’s participation as one of 14 U.S. institutions of higher education recently selected to participate in the Institute of International Education's 2013 Brazil initiative, part of its International Academic Partnership Program.

WMU's international enrollment will also benefit from scholarship programs offered through the government of Iraq, Harik says. The country has earmarked funds to send 10,000 students abroad between 2008 and 2018. Sixteen new graduate students from the region enrolled at WMU this fall, boosting enrollment from Iraq to 23 graduate students.

In addition to this year's growth in students studying English through WMU's CELCIS program, the University continues to expand that program's scope by developing customized special programs for WMU's partner institutions, such as Ritsumeikan University in Japan, and Kyung Hee University in South Korea. CELCIS developed customized programs for nine partner institutions over the 2011-12 academic year enrolling 121 students, up from 74 students from six partner institutions during the previous year.

A new dual degree agreement with Anadolu University in Eskiehir, Turkey will allow its undergraduate students majoring in civil engineering and industrial engineering to transfer to WMU after completing two years of study at home to earn a degree from both institutions. The first two students transferred to WMU in fall 2012.

New study abroad opportunities for WMU students in Argentina and 20 short-term, faculty-led courses are helping boost WMU's study abroad enrollment. The University sent 505 students overseas during the 2010-2011 academic year, as reported in Open Doors 2012. The top five countries attracting WMU students followed national trends: Czech Republic (78), Germany (56), United Kingdom (52), Spain (51) and China (33). WMU’s exchange programs with institutions in Germany, Japan, France and the Netherlands continue to be popular with students.

WMU awarded nearly $500,000 in student scholarships for study abroad during the 2011-12 academic year, with $400,000 coming from University sources. WMU’s President's Grant for Study Abroad and the Haenicke Institute for Global Education Scholarship for Study Abroad have been particularly influential in spurring the growth in study abroad enrollment. Twenty faculty-led programs are planned for the 2013 Summer I and Summer II sessions. Additionally, WMU reported hosting or employing 94 international scholars for the Open Doors International Scholars Survey covering the fiscal year July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012. The scholars represented international tenure-track and visiting faculty, research staff and visitors.