Josephine Vitta, director of the International Student Services Office at the UT Dallas International Center, provides information to prospective international students and their families during a recent webinar sponsored by the Department of Mathematical Sciences.
While international student enrollment falls at universities across the country due to difficulties presented by COVID-19, faculty and staff in The University of Texas at Dallas graduate programs are pulling out all the stops to ease the worries of prospective students from around the globe.
“We are working to remove all of the obstacles and reduce the uncertainty that international students might have in joining us this fall,” said Dr. Monica Powell, senior associate dean of graduate programs for the Naveen Jindal School of Management.
A recent survey by the Institute of International Education found that 88 percent of colleges expect international enrollment to decrease in the coming year. Of students already enrolled, colleges reported that 92 percent of their current international students likely will remain in the U.S. for fall classes.
“We have been showcasing some of the less-considered benefits that come with joining online from their home countries. … We also have reminded students in certain programs that, just because they begin virtually, it will not limit their ability to obtain internships in summer 2021.”
Dr. Monica Powell, senior associate dean of graduate programs for the Naveen Jindal School of Management
UT Dallas is one of the most popular U.S. destinations for international students. With approximately 5,400 enrolled international students and a number of others who are in internships and work programs, the University has the 12th-highest number of international students in the country among doctorate-granting institutions.
Powell said international students face numerous issues related to COVID-19, and UT Dallas has been developing solutions to counter those challenges.
“We have been showcasing some of the less-considered benefits that come with joining online from their home countries, including their ability to reduce living expenses by staying put, retaining their current job and income, and the advantage of jump-starting or retooling their career in a down economy,” she said. “We also have reminded students in certain programs that, just because they begin virtually, it will not limit their ability to obtain internships in summer 2021.”
Dr. Juan González
Dr. Juan González, dean of graduate education and the Francis S. Johnson Chair of Graduate Education, said a top concern is that the U.S. Department of State temporarily suspended routine visa services at all U.S. embassies and consulates.
“We’re getting a lot of calls and a lot of email traffic in the International Center regarding immigration and visas,” he said. “We’re making sure that the students have their UT Dallas papers in their hands, so as soon as they get an appointment at their country’s U.S. embassy, they can quickly get their visa. Recently one student said they got a visa appointment in India, and that got us excited; others have visa appointments in China for later this month.”
To address the visa issue, and as part of the University’s fall class preparation in response to COVID-19, UT Dallas is offering all of its on-campus courses in a virtual format, so students will be able to take classes in their own countries before coming to campus later in the fall or in a future semester.
In addition to the challenges international students face with immigration, Powell said they are not isolated from other U.S. news that causes concerns, such as the global threat of a second wave of COVID-19 and uncertainty about political issues.
International students share their UTD experiences and why they call UT Dallas home in these YouTube videos. Also, learn more about why international students love UTD and the resources available to them.
The Office of Graduate Education and individual graduate programs have been holding webinars with potential international students to answer questions about the concerns, while providing potential solutions and benefits to attending UT Dallas.
Volunteers from the Dallas office of investment banking company Goldman Sachs Group Inc. recently hosted a webinar to demonstrate that international students will have the support of the local community.
“I was an international student, so I understand that students can feel isolated with no family around. I think what we can do is tell them that we are here to listen if they need someone to talk with. Many of us have been there,” said Yucheng Chen, vice president for commodities sales and trading management and strategy and a member of the Goldman Sachs Asian Employee Resource Group that hosted the webinar.
Despite the recruiting efforts, González said it is likely that international student enrollment this fall will not be as high as it was last year, but he remains optimistic.
“I’m really enthusiastic,” he said. “I recently have been seeing positive signs, and I believe we will have a good solid class this fall.”