Western Michigan University has a long history of and increasing dedication to recruiting international students. WMU's strong graduate programs have helped foster a great reputation across borders and one such program is the Mallinson Institute for Science Education. This research-oriented unit is devoted to science education and the study and improvement of how people teach and learn science.
MISE has recruited students from China, Indonesia, Korea, Malawi, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Uganda and Turkey. According to Dr. Bill Cobern, director, MISE "benefits greatly from having international students because they bring a rich set of experiences that are new to many of our faculty and domestic students." He added, "Our understanding of how science education is practiced is expanded through our conversations with international students about science education in their home countries." He would love to have more students from even more countries study at WMU, but "the limiting factor is funding. We are more likely to have students come from countries that (financially) support their students studying abroad."
When asked what he would tell American students about the value of recruiting international students, Cobern reiterated the importance of learning how science is taught from a global perspective. He also stated the benefit of "citizen-to-citizen diplomacy." He added, "Students coming together from different parts of the globe have a chance to get to know each other in friendship and with respect—even when our political leaders seem unable or unwilling to do the same. Such friendships help all of us."
Five MISE students met to discuss their experiences and perspective on being an international student at WMU. When asked what they found most surprising about life in Kalamazoo Listiani (Listi), Esty Haryani, Fatemah Khalifa, Haifa Alhamazani and Hend Alsharari smiled and nearly in unison responded, "The temperature." Winters in Michigan are a drastic change compared to Listi and Esty's home of Indonesia and the heat and sand storms that Fatemah, Haifa and Hend weather in Saudi Arabia. The cold and snow is not enough to deter them from studying at WMU. All five women expressed that they have had positive experiences in Kalamazoo. Esty stated that her family had concerns about her safety, especially because she would be so far from home, but the friendliness of the faculty and students helped ease both her family's fears, as well as her own. She explained to her family that living in Kalamazoo is nice and "the environment for studying is good."
When asked if Kalamazoo met her expectations, Listi stated that has received more than she expected and has been very excited to learn at WMU. Fatemah has recommended WMU to one of her friends in Saudi Arabia. "People are friendly, it's a small city and it's affordable," she shared. She also told her friend that WMU has lots to study and felt that Dr. Cobern was helpful throughout the process and when she arrived to campus. In addition to the friendly people, all stated that they are actually learning differently at WMU. Their prior educational experiences focused on memorization and limited classroom discussion. It's been a welcome change to engage in classroom discussions and active learning. Another unexpected benefit is their ability to write so well in English without the need for a dictionary.
When asked what advice they would share with their American classmates they shared a similar sentiment. Be open to other cultures and do not be afraid of Muslim people. Listi, Esty, Fatemah, Haifa, Hend and many more students like them are interested in connecting with American students to learn about culture and to practice their English conversational skills.
International student recruiting
As WMU works harder to remain discovery driven, learner centered and globally engaged, more departments are taking a strategic look at their international recruiting efforts. Juan Tavares, director of international admissions and services, says that his office works with all graduate departments. "When we travel for recruitment we promote all programs of study," he said. Many academic departments are engaged in international recruiting, but those looking to start can begin by "implementing a strategy to create promotional materials to highlight programs from a global perspective." Tavares also recommends that departments are more intentional about "highlighting current international students in programs by featuring them on websites." For more information about the Mallinson Institute for Science Education please visit MISE.