EMU celebrates International Week, aims to broaden cultural awareness
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
Her sister, living in the village of Manchester in southwest Washtenaw County, recommended looking into Eastern Michigan University. Nakata took her advice and found the school fit her needs. So she packed her bags and is now only six months from a degree.
The 22-year old reports an entirely positive and rewarding experience.
She said EMU has been attentive to her needs and helped her succeed. When she has a question regarding her visa, internship or an immigration related issue, she can turn to graduate assistants, Office of International Students or campus counselors to resolve her issue.
“They’re really helpful here,” she said. “Eastern itself, they really pay attention to international students, and get everyone involved in school activities and school events.”
EMU and other schools nationwide will celebrate and promote the learning experience from which Nakata and other international students have benefited during International Week Nov. 15 through 19. The event, a celebration in its 10th year, has taken on additional significance at EMU this year as officials have undertaken an effort to “internationalize” the university.
“We’d like our student body to become, in general, more aware and appreciative of differences and similarities that exist in other cultures,” said Betsy Morgan, director of international initiatives for the college of arts and sciences, said.
International Week is the most visible annual activity. This year’s schedule includes a variety of entertainment and educational options. There will be music from Iran and India, an academic discussion led by Provost Jack Kay on using the term “internationalization” instead of “globalization”, a Russian cinema day; the making of an “international student flag” featuring pictures of EMU’s international students’ faces and much more.
A traditional Japanese “1,000 crane sculpture,” made of origami paper cranes, symbolizes wishes for harmony and balance, Lesner said, and when the weather dissolves the cranes those wishes are released.
While International Week aims to raise awareness of the benefits of studying abroad or hosting students from overseas, it is only a small part of the larger effort to “internationalize” EMU. Officials said that effort involves expanding international studies programs and adding an "international context" to the curriculum.
More than 1,000 international students from 81 countries are enrolled at the university, while approximately 300 students from here are studying in 21 countries. School officials would like to see those numbers grow and the study abroad programs expand.
But EMU has no single office coordinating international studies or promoting the idea of internationalization. To that end, the university hired Dr. Stephen Burwood as director of international studies to organize and orchestrate the disparate groups involved in international education efforts.
Burwood started in August and said he found “an incredible” amount of initiatives, groups and ideas campus-wide that related to studying abroad or hosting international students. He said the goal is not yet to establish a single office devoted to international programs, but take small organizational steps and “harness people’s enthusiasm and leverage it so we can get a better bang for our buck.”
“We think this is an important priority for the university as a whole,” he said. “It’s clear no one can any longer expect to go to college, then enter the workforce and not be increasingly impacted by things and people international. The kinds of skills international involvement can give a student is important to every graduate program.”
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
Through a partnership with the South Korean government, 30 senior EMU education students are involved in a program placing them in a Korean school where they teach or help English teachers. Because the South Korean government is eager to have English speakers in its school systems, the semester to yearlong program is inexpensive.
This winter, 30 more students will depart for South Korea.
At home, officials hope to weave an international component into the general curriculum. Burwood explained that can mean something subtle, such as exploring the contributions of international scientists in science classes, or examining how other countries have influenced America’s development, and vice versa, in American history.
Burwood said more colleges within EMU are developing international committees, and the dean of the college of technology recently returned from a trip to China, where he helped move along proposed partnerships with universities there.
EMU’s College of Business particularly has seen success in attracting international students. This year, 35 percent of those in its master’s program are international students.
Burwood said the business school has been particularly successful for several reasons. It made Princeton Review’s list of university’s offering the nation’s top master’s degree business programs for the last three years.
It has also developed strong ties with undergraduate programs abroad that advise students to consider EMU and helps funnel them into the College of Business.
The school’s reputation is what attracted Amit Tatapudi from his native India. A friend of his who attended EMU to obtain his MBA gave the program high marks, and Tatapudi read about the school in the Princeton Review.
He was sold. Tatapudi said he has quickly adapted to life at EMU. Living in an off-campus apartment, he has made friends through campus-sponsored events, found a theater that shows Indian Cinema in Novi and hangs out regularly at the Tower Inn Cafe.
He holds a job at the Office of International studies and is working toward his master's degree in information systems. Once Tatapudi earns that degree, he plans to continue working in the United States. But if he must returns to India, it’s always good to have an American degree, he explained.
Tatapudi said the experience of studying abroad helps because he meets and networks with so many people from the United States and other countries through EMU. That, he says, helps prepare him for an international job market.
“Almost every day you have something going and you have a good chance to meet other Americans and other international students,” he said. “I can learn from them and teach them something, and that helps me.”