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St. Kate's attracts more international students for upcoming year

St. Kate's students and friends Chi Huynh, from Vietnam, and Fatimata Dianda, Burkina Faso.
St. Kate's students and friends Chi Huynh, from Vietnam, and Fatimata Dianda, Burkina Faso.
Photo by Pauline Oo.

Applications from international students jumped for the 2010–11 academic year, and the surge in international interest in St. Catherine University has yielded students from two countries that have never before been represented in the student body: Tunisia and Lebanon.

Six students, sponsored by the U.S. State Department, are enrolled in universities in their home countries and attending St. Kate’s for a year as part of their education.

Name change, web tools attract students

A factor in the increase in international applicants is the common application. St. Kate's has expanded its admissions process to include this web-based standardized application form.

According to Aimee Thostenson, assistant director of international admissions, St. Kate’s name change in 2009 also helped to overcome a major challenge in attracting international students.

The difference between a "college" and a "university" is more significant in many countries outside the United States, where a college is commonly considered an institution between high school and university.

Thostenson also points to what she calls the “soft diplomacy” of the Obama administration that has encouraged more international students to consider studying in the United States. This philosophy of more openness has allowed St. Kate’s to rekindle relationships with international organizations, resulting in more placements of international-sponsored students.

Students add layers of diversity

The presence of more international students on campus adds new perspectives to the already rich campus atmosphere.

Thostenson says there is no “typical” profile of an international student at St. Kate’s.

“These students are all from different places, from different places in their lives, and they have different goals,” she says. “If there is a common thread, it’s that they are all very academically motivated.”

The most popular fields of study for international students at St. Kate’s are business management and marketing, followed by the health professions and physical sciences.

Current students spread the word

One of the best marketing tools for St. Kate’s among international students is word of mouth. Often family members and friends of current international students also make the decision to attend St. Kate’s.

Chi Huynh, originally from Vietnam, will graduate from St. Catherine University in December 2010. Chi served as a peer mentor to five international students in the previous school year, and she has also worked with Norah Hoff, associate director of International Programs and Services, on orientation activities for international students.

Another international student, Fatimata Dianda, comes from the African nation of Burkina Faso, and is the first student from her country to attend St. Kate’s. The second student from Burkina Faso will start at St. Kate’s in fall 2010 with a Fulbright Scholarship.

Both Chi and Fatimata have been active in the Multicultural and International Programs and Services (MIPS) office during their time at St. Kate’s. When asked whether they would encourage other international students to attend St. Catherine University, both are emphatically positive.

“When I first came here, I was like a little bird,” says Huynh. During her time at St. Kate’s, she has been nurtured and given resources to help her realize her goals. “When you graduate, you have grown up," she adds, "and now you can fly on your own.”

“I would tell an international student that it is a good place to come," says Dianda. "You will never regret it.”

Aug. 18, 2010 by Elizabeth Otto

See also: Students