STRATEGIC PLANNING

5. Expand International Connections

Six years ago, Kurnia Foe arrived in the United States from his native Indonesia with a dream of doing postgraduate work in electrical and computer engineering. It was a difficult transition. While living near his first school, he literally looked in dumpsters for furniture for his young family’s apartment.

Now a doctoral student at Old Dominion University, Foe has made it his mission to help ease the transition for other international students. He founded Global Student Friendship last year, a group that organizes furniture drives for new foreign students, with the help of Norfolk Tabernacle Church, and holds several welcoming events – tours, cookouts and theme dinners – where international students can experience other cultures and share their own.

Looking around a late summer cookout on campus – co-sponsored by the Office of President Broderick, the Division of Student Affairs’ Office of Intercultural Relations and Global Student Friendship – Foe smiled at the friendly and familiar faces, and remarked how much more welcoming ODU has become for internationals.

“This is a very wonderful event where people can just come after class, and just enjoy the wonderful season, the wonderful weather, and hang out and meet a lot of new friends that they haven’t met before,” he said.

The cookout is just one of many events that are part of ODU’s commitment to expand its international connections.

In his State of the University address in August, Broderick said that ODU has one of the largest groups of international students of any school in Virginia, more than 1,400. “We intend to nurture our global connections and partnerships, and foster opportunities for travel, study and intercultural curriculum development for both students and faculty,” he said.

Broderick said the university will strive to be the best host it can be, so that a single student from a faraway country becomes three the following year, and even more the year after that.

ODU students already represent 106 countries from every corner of the globe, but the university hopes to expand its global reach through targeted recruitment and follow-up mentoring, to ensure retention of high-achieving individuals from underrepresented national and cultural backgrounds.

That helps with one of ODU’s overarching goals – creating a profoundly multicultural community.

For its students from the United States, who maybe haven’t ever left home soil, the university wants to broaden minds by increasing international curricula and study abroad opportunities. ODU’s Strategic Plan calls for incentives for faculty members to enhance the international component of their curricula and to expand existing study abroad arrangements.

Currently, approximately 275 ODU students study abroad each year. Steve Bell, interim executive director of the Office of International Programs, said the university is adding resources to the office with the goal of increasing the number of study abroad students by 5 percent.

“The marketplace for today’s student is international,” Bell said. “I think the university is on the right track in providing these opportunities.”

AN INTERNATIONAL CURRICULUM

The ODU faculty already has a global reach, with tenured professors who hail from outside the continent teaching and conducting research in each of the university’s six colleges. American faculty members also have done an excellent job of outreach, bringing ODU’s expertise to the world.

Katharine Kersey, professor of early childhood education, has worked with students from Thailand to help make her early childhood instructional method, called “101’s: A Guide to Positive Discipline,” into an international curriculum.

Michele Darby, eminent scholar and University Professor in the School of Dental Hygiene, spent the first seven months of this year on a Fulbright Scholarship at the Jordan University of Science and Technology. “It was the fastest seven months of my life,” she said. “It was an opportunity for me to really be part of a culture and a university that was, before January, totally foreign to me.” Now she’s encouraging her brightest students to apply for student Fulbrights.

“I think our students here at the university don’t tend to be very worldly themselves. They frequently haven’t traveled. But once they do travel, they get hooked. I think that this is a real opportunity, not only in dental hygiene, but in every program at ODU,” Darby said.