On Friday, Oct. 3, Associate Provost for International Programs Daniel Norton spoke at a Faculty Senate meeting to discuss the plight of prospective international students at Southern Miss.
Standing alongside Provost Denis Wiesenburg, Norton spoke out about the self-inflicted deterrents to international enrollment at USM and clarified the shrinking state of the international program.
“We’re down to almost 83 international undergrads,” he said. “They’re almost all athletes or musicians with full rides. We’ve done no work internationally.”
Wiesenburg was quick to assure faculty that something would be done about the shrinking international population, stating that all the program needed was a plan. He explained that the focus in recent years has been in the study abroad program and attracting international graduate students.
However, there is a current initiative to aid in international recruiting. “One thing (they’ll) propose is realigning that office area to have an area of international admissions,” he said. “(This section) focuses only on international recruiting and admissions.”
According to Wiesenburg in a later interview, he said an international recruiter would soon be joining the ranks of the Southern Miss staff. There is currently a short list of people being brought on campus for interviews for the soon-to-be filled position. Wiesenburg stressed the difference between recruiting within the United States and recruiting abroad.
“They might take a trip to China for a month to talk to schools and cities, (in order) to make people aware of Southern Miss,” he said.
Norton also addressed the issue of recruitment as well as “self-inflicted obstacles” in a later interview, chalking low international enrollment to three main deterrents for potential students: ACT or SAT score requirements, the lack of an online application and lack of housing during holiday breaks.
In the recent past, all international students were required to send in scores for the ACT or SAT in order to apply, a fact with which Norton disagreed.
“That’s not what that exam is created to test. It’s really for native speakers,” he said.
While that obstacle was removed, another issue for prospective international undergraduates was the nonexistence of an
“We still have a paper-based application,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, and then put it in an envelope and mail it. Students nowadays want a more timely response (and) a quicker acceptance. (The mail) slows down
One of the largest obstacles facing prospective international students is the lack of break housing.
According to Residence Life policy, during breaks such as Christmas and Spring Break, the halls are closed and no students are allowed to stay. For international students this is problematic, considering that many of them cannot return to their home country for the breaks.
“This is why there are almost no international students living on campus,” he said.
Leanne Zöe, a former international student from Edinburgh, Scotland, said while she had no problems with the program itself, she felt that it left some students high and dry.
“I was lucky because I had a car and got to the (United) States two weeks before class started, so I could get all my stuff together,” she said. “But the others were sort of just dropped at USM with (nothing) and, I don’t think, any way to get anywhere.”
There are current explorations into creating break housing, which would set aside a specific residence hall building during the breaks to be used for international students. The students would move out of their usual rooms and into this temporary building for a small fee per night to pay for the residence
Norton states that he thinks that this fix, however progressive, is still not ideal for the students. “That’s not the solution when students have to leave their rooms and go to another dorm that they don’t know. “
He said he recognizes that the current budget cuts could make progress with break housing difficult. “That’s going to be additional staffing and additional costs, and this is a difficult time to talk about that,” he said.
Despite these setbacks, Norton is confident about the potential of the international program at Southern Miss.
“I really think this is the right direction for Southern Miss,” he said. “I think there are a lot of students that would have a great experience,” Norton said.