Missouri Western is expanding its international student community at a very fast pace.
From last year’s fall semester to this one, the rate attending has almost doubled.
International Student Services Director, Amy Kotwani, explains.
“Last fall, when I started working here, we had 52 international students and scholars,” she said. “And by scholar, I mean we have some faculty, they come and teach courses, but they are here on a visa where they can come and teach for a year. This fall we have 81 international students and scholars and 78 are students and three of them are international professors.”
There are many different reasons why so many international students choose Western, but a lot of it has to do with work that our faculty is doing.
Counselor and International Student Advisor, Steve Potter, explains a few of those reasons.
“You know there are probably a lot of different reasons and I think that all of them play a factor,” he said. “I think one is just Dr. Vartabedian, one of his goals is really to increase international students. I think also, back five or six years ago, Missouri Western finally made the decision to hire a full-time person just to deal with international students and their issues and concerns. Now we have a full-time person that just works on those issues and so I think that helps.”
Potter has been at Western for a long time now, and he knows that we haven’t always been so focused on our international students.
“For many years, I have kind of had my hands in international student stuff,” Potter said. “I’ve been here for 25 years, and to be honest with you, with Dr. Murphy, when she was president, there was no push what-so-ever to grow international students. There were some years we would have, you know, maybe four or five international students. I think the most I ever dealt with was maybe 15. So yeah, now we see that trend going up.”
Western now tries, not only to bring students in, but to make the transition to an American school as accommodating as possible. International students also enjoy many things Western offers over other schools Kotwani explains.
“A plus for Missouri Western is the cost of tuition. Even out-of-state is a lot less than it is at a lot of other schools,” she said. “So a lot of the international students who come here, they like that when they come here they get personal attention, they like that their international office knows them personally, they like the smaller class size. So that is the big plus to come here, that and the cost of living.”
Potter explains that it is in the best interest of, not only Western, but St. Joseph as well, to keep those international student numbers climbing.
“Also, keep in mind to, international students have a good economic impact on the school,” he said. “You know, they are paying out-of-state tuition, right, they are living in housing, and they are going out and buying food and clothes in the community. So as we bring more international students, it’s good for Missouri Western, it’s good economically for us; it’s good economically for St. Joseph.”
One international student from Ecuador, Alejandra Núñez, explains that, despite all those benefits, it was really more chance and timing that she ended up here versus another college.
“I was an exchange student for high school, and they sent me to St. Joseph to Central for high school,” she said. “When I went back to Ecuador, I applied to different universities and this one answered first and so I came here.”
She is currently majoring in biology, and is uncertain what may happen once she does return to her home country.
“I don’t know because what I am studying here they don’t have over there, Núñez said. “But I want to get my masters here before I go back.”