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Office of International Education Seeks to Strengthen International Experiences for Students

pictureBIG RAPIDS – Piram Prakasam sees a bright future ahead for international relations at Ferris State University, and he’s excited to foster change first-hand in his new role as director of the university’s Office of International Education.

“The international experience is a key component of college life,” Prakasam said. “Through the Office of International Education, we can provide educational opportunities to expand students’ horizons and better prepare them for the workforce after college.

“One of my goals is to provide more international education opportunities for students,” he added.

Prakasam explained the Office of International Education operates under three main objectives: 1) coordinate study away opportunities for Ferris students, ranging from two-week to semester-long programs; 2) recruit international students and provide a support network for them while they attend Ferris; and 3) help international students with the transition from college life into the workforce.

The focus of the office is on education, he stressed. Previously known as the International Center, Prakasam added the change in name reflects how the office’s functions are strengthened through university-wide collaboration.

“Working together, we can engage students in the educational opportunities provided through the study away programs offered at Ferris,” he said. “We also can study how to be more effective at international recruitment and fostering campus discussion on international topics.”

Such programs in discussion to be implemented through the Office of International Education are creating a calendar of running events that include hosting a specific activity each week of the month, Prakasam explained. These activities include inviting high school students to interact with Ferris’ international students; and developing sessions related to cultural communication, international current affairs, and philosophy and religion.

“I am delighted to see our Office of International Education re-energized for the benefit of all students who take advantage of international education opportunities,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Fritz Erickson said. “The office, through the leadership and efforts of Vice President Don Green, Director Piram Prakasam and staff, will indeed continue to grow and evolve through collaboration with the Ferris community.
“I am excited to know that these collaborative efforts will create even more possibilities in the areas of international relationships, recruitment and especially in students’ international experiences – both for international students attending Ferris and for local students who broaden their educational experience by studying away.”

Other measures implemented by the office to foster international education at Ferris include the Globalization Initiative, developed in 2009; and recent work in creating articulation agreements with The Polytechnic, Ibadan in Nigeria, and Dankook University in Yongin, South Korea.

The Globalization Initiative was organized to capitalize on the knowledge of faculty, staff and students at Ferris. The initiative includes several facets, including Global Reflections – a monthly series of discussions designed to open dialog on the challenges and opportunities of globalization; a bi-annual speaker series, Critical Encounters with Globalization; creation of a Directory of Resources for Globalization; and compilation of a White Paper.

The partnership with Ibadan will allow its graduates who meet eligibility requirements to enroll at Ferris. Through the Dankook partnership, Ferris and Dankook students will be able to study at each institution respectively. This summer, three Ferris students are spending seven weeks at Dankook. Next year, the partnership may provide the opportunity for up to 12 Ferris students and six Dankook students to study away.

The unique aspect of the Dankook partnership for Ferris students is three weeks of their study away experience is a paid internship that helps cover travel and living expenses, Prakasam said. The other four weeks they are studying to earn six credit hours of academic course work.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for Ferris students to experience a culture completely different from Western culture,” he added. “And, it gets them outside their comfort zone, which is part of the international experience.”