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Wright State works to boost international recruitment after years of decline

Wright State UCIE office / Photograph: Emily Linker / WSU Guardian

Wright State UCIE office | Photograph: Emily Linker | WSU Guardian

After nearly five years of decline in international enrollment, Wright State is working on new ways of recruiting students to bring diversity from all over the world.

In 2015, Wright State became the center of a federal investigation for the misuse of H-1B visas. In a report by the Dayton Daily News, the institution sponsored 19 foreign workers who came to the U.S. to do work for a local information technology company.

However, the workers were paid less than what local graduates make in similar lines of work. The investigation ultimately ended in the school settling with the federal government $1 million.

Although the visas handled for the investigation come from a different office altogether than the office that handles student visas, the decline in enrollment falls in line with the investigation.

In a 2017 interview with the Dayton Daily News, Bill Holmes, associate vice provost for international affairs said the visa investigation could be one of the many reasons for the decline.

A big change in international recruitment

“Technically there was no recruitment process beforehand,” said Holmes. “I say that facetiously, but that’s pretty much true.”

According to Holmes, data showed that the rest of the world was a great potential market for WSU, but nobody knew that the university existed.

Previously, WSU had a small focus on international recruitment and only reached a couple countries. They were falling behind in the recruitment process, but are planning to expand. Now the university is branching out in a much more effective and cost-efficient way.

Within the last couple years, Wright State has been developing a system of recruiting international students. It allows recruiters to be employed through contracts with companies based in India and Turkey and remain in the areas of recruitment 365 days of the year.

Keeping recruiters overseas

Having a recruiter in the area of focus is crucial in the process of convincing students to come to WSU. Building connections and relationships is the first step.

“Because a student can be easily overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data, it is important to be in market and accessible so that a student can correspond with an actual person that can give them tailored information,” said Recruiter Carl Holtman. “When you are able to answer a query almost instantly, it helps to create a solid connection.”

Having a recruiter that knows the regional languages, the culture and is available 24/7 to answer questions in real time is a huge improvement from flying employed WSU recruiters out of the U.S. for short periods of time.

“The world is filled with bazaar cultures, meaning not bizarre but bazaar, as in people go to the bazaar to buy things and at the bazaar, they’re seeing the same person that they’ve known for years and years and years,” said Holmes. “If you are not there and making a relationship, nobody is going to buy your stuff, and ultimately that is what it comes down to.”

A cheaper alternative

This new form of international recruitment is going to save WSU money for years to come. With the financial troubles the university has had, an affordable and effective recruitment process is key.

Holmes has a colleague who is a full-time enrollment manager at another university. According to Holmes, this colleague spends close to $400,000 on a travel budget for one recruiting unit. This budget keeps people in the field for about 40-50 percent of their workload.

“We’re not even close to that [budget], and we have 100 percent 365 days of the year coverage,” said Holmes.

Right now, the university has a small budget, but it is enough to allow WSU to be nimble and take advantage of opportunities to be represented in other countries.

Internationality on campus

With successful international recruitment, students can expect to see a lot more diversity and internationality on campus.

“We have 597 total international students on campus with 59 different countries being represented,” said Michelle Streeter-Ferrari, director of the University Center for International Education.

So far, WSU has already recruited students from Azerbaijan and Ukraine and have interested students from India, Turkey and many other countries from around the globe.

“It was very slow to get going, but ultimately I think it’s going to be the best thing that we could’ve done when we look back three years from now,” said Holmes. “This is a fantastic way for us to learn about other people and for other people to learn about us.”