While Northern State University wants to continue to attract students from across the globe, the university also hopes to send more students out into the world.
Northern continues to expand its international reach through increased partnerships, recruitment efforts and promotion of international academic opportunities such as the Fulbright Scholar Program. The goal is to draw international students as well as encourage current students to study abroad.
It’s important for students to understand what life is like outside of South Dakota and the United States, said Dr. Connie Ruhl-Smith, director of international programs.
“We have to make an aggressive case to our students that they need to know about the broader world,” said Dr. Steven Usitalo, Fulbright Scholar and associate professor of history at NSU.
Numerous international opportunities exist. Through organizations such as Education USA, Magellan Exchange and GlobaLinks, Northern has exchange programs with universities worldwide. A majority of Northern’s partnerships are with Asian institutions, but working with Magellan and GlobaLinks has allowed expanded offerings, including Australia, Ruhl-Smith said.
Work continues to expand those offerings further. Ruhl-Smith and other members of Northern’s International Programs Department – International Student Advisor Stacey Schmidt, English as a Second Language/Intensive English Program Director Brendan Carson, and newly hired International Recruiter/Academic Advisor Richard O’Rourke – attend international fairs and forums aimed at recruiting students from around the world. Ruhl-Smith traveled to India with President Dr. Jim Smith and School of Business Dean Dr. Bill Broucek for a recruitment trip in January. Carson traveled to Asia on a recruiting trip abroad and has also created an international virtual fair, where students from around the world could log in and get information about NSU.
Faculty-led trips are another international option at Northern, and one that is especially encouraged. Ruhl-Smith said these trips are a good way to expose students to international travel because there is a higher comfort level – students travel with Northern professors and other NSU students rather than on their own. Upcoming trips include a summer art trip to Italy led by Northern art professors Sara Christensen Blair and Greg Blair, and a literary tour of England, Ireland and Wales led by English professor Dr. Elizabeth Haller. Other faculty members are exploring the possibility of leading trips to countries such as Canada, India and Israel.
In mid-April, the university hosted Fulbright Ambassador Dr. George Munro, who discussed his experiences as a Fulbright Scholar to Russia. Faculty and staff who attended Munro’s presentation were encouraged after learning that the application process is not such a daunting task to complete. Munro stressed the importance of starting to think about the process of applying – and where you would want to go – four to five years out, Ruhl-Smith said.
Usitalo said he learned from Munro’s presentation that people in South Dakota don’t apply for the program as much as they should. Usitalo himself spent the 2011-12 academic year in Armenia after receiving a year-long Fulbright Research and Teaching Award. He said the experience gave him a chance to test teaching to a different type of audience. He can use what he learned from teaching there in classes here – it livens up his teaching and makes it more relevant.
Usitalo said fellow NSU Fulbright Scholar Dr. A.S. Elkhader, professor of mathematics, told an audience during Dr. Munro’s visit that the experience was one of the highlights of his academic career. Usitalo agrees.
“For me, it was a fantastic experience,” he said.
The hope is that more faculty and students will follow in Usitalo’s footsteps and take advantage of the Fulbright option – or one of NSU’s other international offerings.
After all, Northern has the Center of Excellence in International Business, and yet many students who graduate with an international business degree have never been out of the country, Ruhl-Smith pointed out. Some have never even been out of the state.
“They need to understand how much they gain getting to know what life in another country is like,” she said.