Fall 2010 Michigan Tech Magazine

From Mozambique to Mongolia

By Marcia Goodrich

Grad programs in business and humanities draw international students

Many international graduate students are attracted to the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math. So, the last place you might expect to find them at Michigan Tech would be the humanities department. And yet humanities chair Ron Strickland is hell-bent on upping their numbers.

"It lets us draw top-notch students from a much larger pool," he explains. "You can recruit well- prepared students from many different countries, particularly from Eastern Europe and Africa. They have excellent educational preparation."

With their emphasis on cross-cultural communication, the humanities programs have a vested interest in global diversity. "We need a breadth of perspective, so it makes sense for us to recruit globally," says Strickland. "It's important to cultivate a climate of intellectual diversity that enriches everyone's experience."

This year, he hopes to lure students from Germany, Poland, and Ghana. It takes work. "In the humanities, you have to actively recruit them and not wait for them to come to you," he says.

Economics professor Gary Campbell directs the master's program in applied natural resource economics in the School of Business and Economics. He has found that international students invigorate the classroom experience. "Our foreign students bring different perspectives on resources," he says. "If you have students from Venezuela, America, and Mozambique in class, you get more insights." Students from socialist countries, for example, will have vastly different points of view on privately owned mineral rights than their Americans counterparts.

These same students also bring strengths in science and engineering. "We've had three students from Mongolia who have received a good education in technical issues but came here for economics and finance," says Campbell. "So, with their tech background, they are comfortable here. They feel that they fit in."

Strickland came to Michigan Tech from Illinois State University, where he was the graduate director for his department. There, he boosted the number of international grad students from eleven to fifty, largely by recruiting from West Africa, Europe, and Southeast Asia. With so many new and different faces in the halls, the community became more comfortable for everyone, something that he hopes will happen at Michigan Tech.

"One thing that happens when you have a wide variety of students is that diversity becomes the norm," he says. "Even if you have a number of African American or Latino students, they can feel isolated. But if everybody's different, nobody's different."