The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Professors aim to help international students

Coming from China last year, the one thing sophomore Ji Ma wishes he had had was some help choosing a major. In Ma’s case, it was a tossup between business and math.

Ma took the business route, but he now wonders if it was the right choice. He would have liked more comprehensive advice on choosing a major, he said.

Such difficulties are what the UI Task Force on Internationalization and Diversity could address. The group, made up of professors, met Monday to take suggestions on how to improve life for international students.

Tips from Monday will help officials draft a document to give to Provost Wallace Loh, identifying opportunities to increase diversity at the university by offering policy changes and more international-student resources. Loh expects a final draft by Dec. 1.

“This is going to help us produce a more welcoming and sustaining environment for these students,” said Shelton Stromquist, the task force’s co-chairman.

The hour-long meeting identified some important issues that often affect international students.

UI Associate Professor John Wadsworth said some international students are unfairly treated because if they don’t score high enough on the Test of English as a Foreign Language, they are then required to pass the Iowa Intensive English Program as a condition of enrollment. But many might be great speakers who just didn’t do well on tests, he said.

“They speak good English but are required to prove it,” he added.

Students in the intensive program have to receive 20 hours of instruction per week in addition to individual work in the language laboratory.

Another issue is even just getting the international students to campus. But that may be easier now, said Downing Thomas, the UI associate provost for International Programs.

President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February, which, in part, helps fund recruiting overseas.

“We’ve been able to recruit aggressively abroad more this year,” Thomas said.

In May, UI officials said they received double the number of international-student applications compared with the previous year. More than 2,000 international students come to Iowa each year.

In fall 2008, 1,680 of the total 2,191 international students came from Asia. The second-largest group hailed from Europe, with 243.

Stromquist said the team is not yet committed to certain implementations for Loh’s final draft, so the group will consider requests from UI faculty.

“We need to figure out how we can strategically allocate funds to make [diversity] grow,” he said.

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