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   A Memorial University of Newfoundland Publication

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June 30, 2004
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Retention is in the delivery


Memorial’s International Student Advisor’s Office (ISA) is on the right track for retaining international students. The simple, yet highly intensive plan does not involve numbers or clever strategies, rather genuine concern for the well-being and contentment levels of the international students attending Memorial, explained Sonja Knutson, international student programmer, ISA.

“Some of the most important programs and services we offer are the ones that occur when international students first arrive,” said Ms. Knutson. Using the free airport pick-up service as an example, she explained that immediate contact between a new student and a staff member or student from the ISA office helps to evoke an early positive feeling. “For this reason, we believe the welcome is really important. The first few months are extremely difficult as new students try to adapt. If we can help get them get them off to a positive start they will get to know our office and begin to come to us for help.”

ISA has introduced many new programs since 2003 including on-campus/off-campus housing assistance, emergency overnight accommodations for late night student arrivals, and academic, career related or personal counselling services. On a social scale, new initiatives include matching students with families on Thanksgiving, the international film club, and the friendship club where Canadians and International students are given the opportunity to learn about the other culture while enjoying activities together.

Ms. Knutson is also excited about the ISA’s newest initiative, the Buddy Program, which is similar to the friendship club, but requires a higher level of involvement. “This program is aimed at integrating Canadian students with international students for mutual benefits of cultural awareness, learning, and of course, friendship.” Students can expect to see this program in place for fall 2004 under its new title, the MUN Amigo club.

These new initiatives are in addition to an already outstanding array of programs and services already offered by ISA. The tax program which assists students in filling out their income tax return is one of the most popular. Ms. Knutson says in March 2003 the program was accessed by more than 150 graduate and undergraduate students. Help is also provided regarding health insurance requirements, not to mention student authorization and visa requirements and ensuring all official documentation is in order, among countless other services. Ms. Knutson is proud of the way international students respond to Memorial’s ISA office. “It is not uncommon to hear praise from students once they have something to compare us to,” she explained. “Those who have gone on to continue their studies at other institutions have been amazed by the difference in the reception they have received.”

Between fall 2000 and 2004, 268 international students entered degree programs at Memorial. Of this number 218 are still registered students and 11 have graduated, yielding an impressive 85.4 per cent overall retention rate. Broken down over all four years, the increasing success rate is obvious, rising steadily from 76 per cent in 2000-01 to 96 per cent in 2003-04. “Our goal is simple,” says Ms. Knutson. “We want our international students to be happy and remain at Memorial until they have completed their degree. Then we help them with whatever they decide to do next.”

The International Student Advisors Office operates with three full-time staff, one part-time member, an intern and 10 MUCEP positions.


 


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Next issue: July 22, 2004

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