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International student initative creates culture of understanding

October 1, 2009

Macedonia. Indonesia. Taiwan. These are only a few places where international students on campus have traveled from.

About 1 percent of students are international students this semester at UW- River Falls. This percent is part of a little known initiative in the Global Connections Office, called “Living the Promise.” The goal of this initiative is to make the UWRF campus 5 percent international by the year 2012.

“We have very intentionally set out to grow the international student body,” Global Connections Director Brent Greene said.

The plan includes getting the University’s colleges to recruit international students as well.

“We’ve made it a part of our policy to have an international campus. That gives the colleges the license to support, put pressure [on] and grow the global campus,” Greene said.

This initiative was started by former Chancellor Don Betz and Greene in 2007. The goal was to raise awareness of international cultures, as well as to simulate the real world after college, and it seems their plan may be working.

“You can feel it—the difference it makes on campus,” senior Ashley Burbul said.

This semester alone, the program has grown by twelve students, and continues to grow every year.

“When students have had a good experience, it brings in more and more [students],” International Student and Study Abroad Advisor Katie Oenga said.

Oenga’s views mirror the feeling students get on campus.

“I had five choices, I wanted to go to a cold place and my friends said it was great here,” Mexican exchange student Veronica Sanchez said.

She’s not the only one. Jennifer Jakab, an exchange student from Frankfurt, Germany, came to UWRF after hearing good things from her peers.

“I like everything—the people, the campus, the town; there’s nothing I don’t like,” she said.

The initiative contains ten goals that include creating a culture of understanding, modeling sustainability principles and expanding global literacy and engagement. Each one of these goals have sub-goals, or initiatives, of their own that the campus is hoping to accomplish.

“If UWRF were to do nothing over the next several years, we would change because of the forces impacting our future,” Betz said in the “Living the Promise” pamphlet. “But we have an opportunity to mold that change. A key will be to execute this plan.”

The mission statement of “Living the Promise” reads “to help students learn so that they are successful as productive, creative, ethical, engaged citizens and leaders with an informed global perspective.”

Oenga said she understands this statement as a greater mission with a greater purpose.

“I’ve traveled the world myself and understand the importance,” she said. “Cultural understanding – it’s the key to world peace.”

For more information about “Living the Promise,” visit the Global Connections Office located in Hagestad Hall.