ISO utitlizes research in recruitment process

Tommy Sullivan

Although not every WKU student is able to study abroad, each student still has the opportunity to connect with people around the world.

Approximately 1,400 international students who hail from over 70 different countries call WKU home.

Most international students are undergraduates, according to Raza Tiwana, who has been WKU’s chief international officer for the last 12 years.

Tiwana said the process for international students has similar characteristics to domestic recruitment. He said the staff of the International Student office, ISO, meets with high-school counselors, students and parents and attends college fairs.

However, there are some differences in logistics.

“Instead of going to four counties per week, we go to four countries per week,” said Tiwana.

When international recruiters leave Bowling Green on a trip, they leave more than just the campus behind.

Recruiters have to adjust to a new time zone, new food and new climate while sometimes spending no more than a night or two in the area.

International recruiters travel to one region at a time. The days are long—usually 12-14 hours.

Most ISO recruiters spend their days in four to five different schools and in college fairs. Recruiters then end their days catching up on emails and attending virtual staff meetings.

Advertising an American university to an international student can be a tough sell, said Barnabas Kim, a sophomore from Ulsan, South Korea.

“You can never go back [to your home country], unless you have money,” Kim said. “You can’t see someone … you love.”

It’s difficult to convince parents to send their 17-year-old child to live halfway around the world for four years, Tiwana said.

While the Office of Admissions passes domestic students to different colleges and advisors once they are enrolled, ISO stays with international students until graduation.

“Recruitment is 15-20 percent of what we do,” said Tiwana. He called ISO a “one-stop shop” for everything that an international student would need.

This builds great relationships between ISO staff and the foreign students, Tiwana said. Tiwana said he often has coffee or goes to lunch with students.

ISO also offers highly subsidized trips—for example, to Mammoth Cave—so international students can see the city, state and country and acclimate to the cultural change.

Tiwana said ISO thoroughly researches its international market. The office knows which country’s students have been searching WKU the most.

Tiwana said that based on data ISO has researched, more international students will make the journey to WKU from Latin America and Eastern Europe in the coming years.

Students from Saudi Arabia and China accounted for over 60 percent of all international enrollment in 2013, according to the 2014 WKU Fact Book.

ISO also keeps up on education policies in different countries to know where they can recruit effectively.

For example, the Brazilian government has a new program that facilitates studying in the U.S., said Tiwana. WKU has worked with the U.S. State Department and Brazil.

Word-of-mouth advertising and brand building are two of the most effective tools for ISO.

“We’re also looking for new opportunities,” said Tiwana.

For domestic WKU students, ISO is “bringing the world into the classroom and the campus,” said Tiwana.