Ngafeeson (left) with Cameroon's Prime Minister (holding the plaque)
Ngafeeson (center) talking about NMU on a Cameroon TV program
President Fritz Erickson has recently said efforts to increase international enrollment include “building off relationships so many of us have with individual countries.” He mentioned NMU Board of Trustees Chair Sook Wilkinson’s ties to South Korea. He also referenced faculty serving as “country specialists” who research enrollment potential and lead recruiting trips. A recent example was a trip by professor Madison Ngafeeson from the College of Business and biology major/pre-med student Rebecca Nyinawabeza to their home countries of Cameroon and Rwanda, respectively.
Ngafeeson said there is great potential in Africa. According to 2015 World Education News & Reviews, African countries are ranked among the top four markets for international recruitment. And the World Bank’s 2016 Global Economics Prospects indicates five African nations are now featured in the 13 fastest-growing economies in the world.
The NMU representatives explored potential collaborations with African universities, hosted three recruiting fairs and met with government officials.
“A major highlight was the official audience we had with Cameroon’s Prime Minister, His Excellency Philemon Yang,” Ngafeeson wrote in his final report. “This led to a special invitation for me to address more than 30 dignitaries, including senators, government ministers, higher education administrators and the like at the Prime Minister’s Cabinet. I gave the keynote presentation centered around my teaching and research area, health informatics. This address helped to open up more doors to connect NMU with public universities in Cameroon.”
Ngafeeson and Nyinawabeza also met with U.S. Embassy officials in both countries representing both the EducationUSA programs and the consular service, which serves as a gateway for international students going to the United States.
They hosted two recruiting fairs in Cameroon and one in Rwanda. More than 600 prospective students attended and provided their names and contact information.
“We shared our stories as international students at U.S. universities, discussed NMU’s program offerings and relative affordability, explained the application process and expounded on NMU’s commitment to diversity,” reported Ngafeeson. “Our message was favorably received by many who said they plan to apply to NMU within the next two years.”
Nyinawabeza left Rwanda for the United States in 2009 and enrolled at NMU five years later. She said there are many potential students in both countries who have the financial means to study in the United States, but are disadvantaged by a lack of guidance from family and friends to navigate the rigorous process.
“There are not many people from these two countries who live in the U.S. and can provide advice,” she said. “So we are reaching out to them to give them information on how to become NMU students. NMU offers many advantages. It is a medium-sized school with professors who are helpful, a calm environment great for studying, a low crime rate and flat-rate tuition, which can be very helpful in reducing their costs. They do not need convincing to pursue higher education at a U.S. university, but we are trying to convince them NMU is one of the best schools.
“I am grateful for the opportunity of returning to my home country, but also the opportunity to help young people who can become anything in the future. As a young African woman, I believe this is one way of changing our countries’ and our continent’s story.”
Ngafeeson and Nyinawabeza presented these follow-up suggestions in their report:
1. If NMU created a tuition incentive program—perhaps tagged as “scholarship certificates”—that would waive the out-of-state tuition for international students, it would favorably differentiate NMU from competing institutions.
2. A follow-up activity in Cameroon and Rwanda would consolidate relationships and widen horizons in the countries.
3. NMU could extend its reach by targeting a new African country each year.
4. By pursuing current student and university leads achieved during the trip, NMU can evaluate whether this recruitment model could be sustainable.
5. Many prospective graduate students in these countries prefer to study from home rather than quit their jobs and displace their families, yet a reputable U.S. degree can elevate them professionally, so NMU should strongly pursue online program offerings at the graduate level.
Erickson has reported on other recent international trips. Last fall’s trip to China, coordinated by Yan Ciupak of the Sociology and Anthropology Department, included visits to six universities and signed Memoranda of Understanding with three of them. It also resulted in a faculty exchange. A visiting Chinese scholar is at NMU this fall while English professor Lesley Larkin is teaching in China.
Board of Trustees Chair Sook Wilkinson accompanied an NMU delegation to South Korea. Erickson said the trip resulted in meetings with seven universities and the potential to grow NMU’s English Language Institute programs. He also said Michael Broadway, who recently stepped down as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, will assume an increased role in international recruitment.