In a report to the Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees at its Dec. 12 meeting, Provost Susan Koch outlined Northern’s efforts to increase the number of international students on campus, calling the current figure “extraordinarily small” for an institution of this type and size.

“There are 66 international students here and that number hasn’t changed much over the years,” Koch said. “To put it in perspective, I can tell you that my previous employer [the University of Northern Iowa], which is comparable to Northern, has about 450 international students this year. We need to create a ‘critical mass’ of international students here to facilitate recruitment of more students. By anyone’s definition, 66 is not a critical mass.”

Canada is the country of origin of about one-third of the international students at Northern. It ranks fifth among foreign nations in sending students to the United States, but Koch said NMU has not yet tapped the full recruiting potential of other countries at the top of the list: India, China, South Korea and Japan. She added that Marcelo Siles, director of International Programs, and Z.Z. Lehmberg, professor of English, are in China to reinforce existing partnerships, explore new collaborations and recruit students.

With the recent hire of Siles, along with other investments and activities related to the “Road Map to 2015” strategic plan’s focus on internationalization, Koch conservatively estimates that Northern could achieve an international enrollment of about 250 in eight years. The university has taken steps toward that goal by developing an international recruitment plan. One element, beginning next semester, is admitting students from Saudi Arabia.

“The Saudi government is paying the full cost for thousands of its students to attend college in the United States,” she said. “In early November, we sat down with a representative at the Saudi Arabia Cultural Mission in Washington, D.C., to discuss what would be necessary for us to be part of the initiative. It was determined they could send us up to 60 students eventually, but we will start with a relatively small number to ensure that those students have a successful experience. They are English-speaking students, but we want to start small and increase gradually.”

Statistics provided by the “Open Doors” 2008 report indicate that most international students pursue business/management or engineering degrees. Koch said Northern’s MBA program, scheduled to launch in fall 2009, will be a recruiting draw. NMU also is participating in recruiting tours with other universities in Canada, Latin America, Arab Gulf States, Asia and Turkey. Other efforts—in progress or recommended—include signing memoranda of understanding with universities abroad, submitting grant applications to fund faculty and student exchanges, establishing articulation agreements with domestic community colleges that enroll high numbers of international students and advertising on the Internet and with multilingual print materials.

“Global engagement is one of the hallmarks of the Road Map and increasing international enrollment is one part of global engagement that will benefit Northern students because the contact will engage them with the rest of the world,” Koch concluded. “Northern may never be the top choice for 1,000 international students, but I see no reason why it could not be the top choice of about 350 each year.”

The remaining portion of the board’s focus discussion revolved around preliminary graduation rate data on NMU students pursuing “less than baccalaureate degrees”—diplomas, certificates and associate degrees.

In other action, the board:

▪Approved the revised negotiated agreement between NMU and its technical and office professionals union, UAW Local 1950, which runs through June 30, 2011.

▪Approved the appointment of Kimberly Champion to the board of the Walton Public School Academy, which is chartered by NMU.

▪Accepted $2.5 million in external grants and $6,180 in gifts.

▪Granted emeritus status to the following retired professors: Meredith Kulisheck, mathematics and computer science; Robert Kulisheck, political science/public administration; and Robert Myers, mathematics and computer science.

▪Received a report that the Superior Dome turf is in need of replacement, based on testing conducted earlier this year by Astroturf Inc. and visual/functional signs of wear. The turf was installed in 1991 and has exceeded its original life expectancy of 10-12 years. 

▪Recognized three departing trustees: Samuel Benedict and chair Mary Lukens, whose terms are scheduled to expire Dec. 31; and Alan Ackerman, who submitted his resignation for personal reasons. The governor will appoint new trustees at a later date.

Prepared By
Kristi Evans
News Director