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International Center Steps Up to Students’ Needs

BIG RAPIDS - Would you care to take a guess as to how many countries are represented among the university’s student population? Or, why don’t you take a stab at the number of students from Ferris studying away?

For Ferris’ new International Center these questions are a snap.

Take a stroll to the fourth floor of FLITE for a visit to the center that’s located in Room 408. You’re sure to meet an international student or two, and maybe even find a study away opportunity that strikes your fancy.

The center may be in its infancy, only bringing the offices of International Advising, International Recruiting and Admissions, and Study Away together in July of 2008, but a wealth of information awaits.

Did you know that there are students from more than 35 countries currently attending Ferris State University? Or, are you aware more than 120 students, passport in tow, studied at foreign institutions during the 2007-08 academic year?

The Study Away Program offers students options for semester-long study at 15 partner institutions, program Coordinator Tara Benzing says, adding she’s in the process of coordinating 18 short-term study away options for the 2009 academic year.

While short-term study away options change year-to-year, the two-week courses taught by a wide variety of Ferris faculty also provide excellent opportunities for students to broaden their educational perspective.

Ferris’ campus also is a great place for international students to experience a different educational environment, Coordinator of International Student Recruiting Luzia Tartari says, noting there currently are about 160 international students enrolled at Ferris.

Those students are keeping International Student Advisor Janel Lockwood busy as she plans student mentor programs, exploration trips to Chicago and Detroit, dinners, shopping and even sessions on immigration.

But, despite all the action, the International Center is a seamless operation that will only continue to grow.

“One of the greatest aspects of each of our offices coming together to create the International Center is that we’re in an easily recognizable location on campus,” Benzing says. “Here, I run into students everyday and can ask them how they’re doing, and if they need help; in my old office, I wouldn’t run into students everyday and have the opportunity to make sure they have what they need.”

Lockwood agrees. “The International Center has made campus more friendly for international students. They have an area to hang out; with summer orientation, we had a lot of positive response to offering each of our services in one location.”

Tartari notes the center has been on her radar for several years, but the idea gathered steam in August of 2007. The center is part of the university’s Diversity Plan, and according to a survey of international students in spring 2007, is what students wanted.

“It was awkward having our offices in different campus locations,” Tartari notes. “The center gets rid of that disconnection and creates a synergy…an international feeling among students.”

The International Center engages students, the trio adds. International students are meeting other international students, and American students are getting to know their foreign counterparts.

Creating such good will is key for students who are away from home and all that is familiar to them, Tartari said. Students can be our best recruiters, so it’s their perceptions that can influence other students considering attending Ferris.

Or vice versa, Benzing added. American students want to know what’s available at the partner institution they’ll be studying at for a semester. The International Center allows each of us to be more in tune with students’ needs.

“For example, if Luzia is on an Admissions trip, I may have her visit one of our partner institutions and take pictures of the bathrooms, classrooms, etc.,” Benzing says, noting these are just some of the things students want to know.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, they say. The International Center’s success will continue to blossom, and hopefully increase student and faculty opportunities for a better international experience. More information about the International Center is available at