SAU Increasingly Turning Into A Global Campus
Southern Arkansas University continues to grow its academic reputation on a global scale as this year the University is home to not only students from 73 of 75 counties in Arkansas, but also from 40 states and 41 countries around the world.
“Our increased international student population and geographic diversity make SAU a truly global campus,” SAU President Dr. Trey Berry said. “Our students, American and international, are receiving a greater perspective and understanding of rich cultures.”
According to a press release, SAU has long been known as a global campus, but has expanded its reach into several more countries. Nhut An Tran, a freshman computer science major, comes to SAU from Vietnam. He learned about SAU through a Facebook group that shared information about scholarship opportunities abroad. “Since my family can only afford so much on tuition, food and accommodations, SAU was the most viable option,” Tran said. He received a Presidential Scholarship from SAU. Tran chose Computer Science because he has always been proficient in technology. “In Vietnam, I joined the Programming Club and enjoyed it. I pursued (computer science) in grades 11-12, and have chosen it for my major.” Tran has joined SAU’s Math and Chess Clubs and enjoys the atmosphere of Magnolia. “I expected it to be drastically different than Ho Chi Minh City,” he said.
Temitope Aramide Moshood, a freshman Biology/Pre-nursing major from Ikorodu, Nigeria, first heard about SAU from a family friend who graduated two years ago. “She said that it is a very nice school and helped me do my application online,” Moshood said. The atmosphere of the University appeals to Moshood because she came here wanting a change in her environment. “I come from a large city, but it feels like home here,” she said. “It’s so quiet and I have more time to myself.” She appreciates having students from other countries and cultures at SAU. “I’m learning to speak Spanish here; that’s fun,” she said. “In my dorm, there are students from eight other countries, including England, Portugal and Brazil. We are all learning from each other.”
Serena Gill, a Business Administration major from Wolverhampton, United Kingdom, is a member of the new women’s tennis team. A lifelong resident of the UK, Gill was approached by Coach Greg Owen about SAU tennis. “This made me extremely attracted to SAU as there was a clear desire to excel in the future,” she said. Other universities had approached her before she chose SAU. Gill calls the University “one big family. I couldn’t ask for better teammates or classmates. If anyone is looking for a university that holds great values, ambition and drive to be successful, then SAU is for you. I feel as if I am at a home away from home.”
SAU is also proving an attractive option for students in other states. After hearing about SAU online, Jillian Marotta, a freshman from Smithtown, New York, said she chose to attend SAU because it is a beautiful, safe campus. “It is affordable as well as a great educational opportunity!” Her declared major is biology: pre-health, but she is also interested in Spanish and history.
Marotta was born and raised in New York, having lived in Manhattan for two and a half years. Her family now lives on Long Island, about 40 minutes from New York City. Her first impression of Magnolia was that “it was so calm and peaceful. It has a nice, small-town feel.” Marotta said she has had “great experiences” with faculty and staff at SAU. “I’ve made amazing friends and I can’t wait to make more.”
Part of the mission of SAU is to prepare students for the global job market. “Helping them build connections and friendships across the globe is a big part of accomplishing that mission,” Berry said.
SAU is making a more concerted effort to recruit students from around the world. Members of SAU’s International Office have made trips overseas, visiting high schools and making contacts in a dozen countries “to help work with us on a personal level,” Berry said. He and Dr. Katherine Berry are also exploring the possibility of taking recruitment trips next year to Japan, China and South Korea. Kansai University in Japan will be a focus of one of those trips. SAU is also developing its student exchange programs, particularly with England and Spain. It is vital for the University to have a strong international presence. “It expands our American students’ education as well as our international students’ education to build relationships with people from various backgrounds, cultures and diversity,” Berry said.
Jason Martisek, associate director of international services and admissions, said SAU has a lot to offer students from overseas, and the University continues to reach out to potential students. Recent international recruitment efforts have focused on South Korea. Lorinda Crump, assistant director of international student development, recently returned from a trip to South Korea where she toured English as a Second Language (ESL) high schools and spread the word about SAU as a higher education option. “I’m hopeful the counselors I met and spoke with at those schools will direct students to SAU,” Crump said.
SAU has historically had a high number of international students, though numbers have decreased over the past year, particularly among students from India. However, the University continues to enjoy a high rate of diversity. This semester, Martisek said, SAU has more than 300 international students enrolled. “We are doing extremely well,” he said of diversity at SAU.
Petr Kandidatov, director of the ESL program at SAU, said there are currently nine international students in his ESL program. “They come from quite diverse backgrounds,” Kandidatov said, “including Cameroon, India, Japan and Vietnam.” The program emphasizes the low student/teacher ratio at SAU, which provides for more personalized feedback from professors and a feels-like-home, anxiety-free environment that facilitates learning and adjustment to U.S. culture.