Southeast Missouri State University hopes to boost enrollment of international students

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Southeast Missouri State University has restructured its international programs in hopes of doubling enrollment of foreign students within two years, school officials said Monday.

Southeast currently has 202 international students taking undergraduate, graduate and intensive English classes. School officials want to boost that number to about 400, officials said.

The university will hire a new executive director, replacing Dr. Adelaide Parsons who is stepping down next week. Parsons will direct the Teachers of English for Speakers of Other Languages program through the rest of the calendar year.

Parsons then will retire, ending a 22-year involvement with international programs at Southeast. She's served as director of international programs for seven years.

"It's time to move on," Parsons said.

She wants to pursue her interest in United Methodist lay ministry and in serving the growing number of Hispanic congregations.

Meanwhile, she said she'll help with the transition to a new director.

Dr. Gerald McDougall, dean of the Harrison College of Business, will expand his duties to include serving as dean of international programs.

School president Dr. Ken Dobbins said it's important to put international programs on the same administrative level as other key divisions of the university.

The national search for a new director is underway. The new director will report to the dean. "I am not going to micro-manage," McDougall said.

The director will manage the day-to-day operations of the international programs.

Southeast hopes to hire the director by sometime this summer, McDougall said.

"We definitely will further internationalize the university," he said.

To do so, the university plans to expand its student and faculty exchanges as well as boosting enrollment of international students.

The university will look at ways to increase its budget for international programs, McDougall said. He said the school may seek more grants, reallocate existing funds and try to increase enrollment in the intensive English classes which generate fee revenue to help fund international programs.

Enrollment suffered after the terrorist attacks of September 2001. "Students were afraid to come," said Parsons.

The United States became more restrictive on issuing student visas, adding to recruitment difficulties, she said.

Southeast had nearly 250 international students five years ago. By last year the number had dipped to 167, she said.

But Parsons said international enrollment has rebounded thanks in part to new agreements with Chinese universities, the attraction of Saudi students through recruitment efforts aided by Saudi Arabia's decision to fund scholarships for students to study abroad and increased recruitment of Japanese students.

"We are seeing the tide turn," she said. Enrollment, which

Parsons said her office has worked to recruit more students from Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.

"We have visited embassies in the Washington, D.C., area and we have participated in key recruiting trips," she said.

The university also has quickened its response time in completing applications needed for students to secure visas, Parsons said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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