A Roaring Start for Global Gateway
- By Jeffrey R. Wakefield
Among the crowd of faculty, students and staff packed into the Marsh-Austin-Tupper residence hall for the grand opening of UVM’s new Global Gateway program Monday afternoon was a group of five nattily dressed young professionals who seemed to hang on every word a cast of VIP speakers delivered.
The rapt faces belonged to a team of recruitment managers from Study Group, the global education and recruitment firm the university is partnering with in the Global Gateway program, who were visiting the university on a “familiarization tour” from their home countries – China, Mexico, India, Hong Kong and Singapore.
“It’s amazing,” says Coco Rue Chan, recruitment manager for China, of the tour. She and the nine recruiting agents she brought with her were “very impressed” with everything about UVM, from its historic buildings, to the studious atmosphere of finals week, to the friendliness of students, even to Vermont’s blue skies, which are “becoming a luxury in China,” she said.
Chan’s and the agents’ reaction to UVM is a microcosm of the reception Global Gateway is receiving overseas, one that has exceeded the most ambitious hopes of the program’s developers.
When international recruiters “hear about the differences in the UVM program,” says Chris Lucier, vice president for enrollment management, “how totally integrated our Global Gateway program is into the fabric of the university academically and socially, and add that to the fact that we are a nationally ranked, high-prestige university in a beautiful place, their eyes light up,” he said.
And their enthusiasm translates to action.
UVM has received more than 450 applications for fall 2014. With the deadline still two months away, UVM is on track to easily surpass its target goal of about 60 new Global Gateway students. That’s good news, since Global Gateway is the principal tool UVM is using to reach an ambitious institutional goal set forth by President Tom Sullivan in his 2012 Strategic Action Plan : international enrollment of five to seven percent in 2018, up from two percent in the fall of 2013.
For the first 38 students in the program, who arrived at UVM in the middle of a snowstorm on Jan. 6, the reality of UVM has lived up to the marketing promises.
“I'm so busy with my studies and my social life and my friends and with my projects,” says Victoria Khamidova, from Volagda, Russia. “I can say that I'm a happy person at UVM.”
Pathway to success
Global Gateway is a two- or three-semester program for international students with strong academic credentials whose English language skills fall just below what’s required to be directly admitted to the university as a standard first-year student.
Students with slightly lower English language proficiency take a semester of non-credit ESL courses, which prepares them to enter the two-semester for-credit pathway. The for-credit portion of the program consists of two semesters of four courses each that mix subject area coursework, such as Math or Science, with English for Academic Purposes courses that teach students how to use English for university level academic work -- to write research papers, to do formal academic presentation, or to document sources, for instance.
When the pathway program is completed, students enter the university as sophomores.
The appeal of the Global Gateway in the marketplace, and the feedback of students like Khamidova, are music to the ears of associate provost Gayle Nunley, academic director of Global Gateway and one of the program’s architects. After gathering information via public forums at UVM and site visits to pathway programs at other schools, Nunley and a team of colleagues set out to create a program that was distinct from the competition that also fit UVM's culture.
A chief difference: unlike most pathways, UVM delivers the educational component of the program itself, relying on its partner, Study Group – which has a team of representatives in 130 countries in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa and a vast network of counselors in host countries -- only for recruitment. In most pathways, the recruitment partner also delivers the education via a separate educational enterprise.
Global Gateway’s access to UVM faculty, combined with the clever design of the two-semester program -- the curriculum is built in large part around distribution requirement categories that are shared by many different majors -- make possible one of the key advantages of UVM’s program: students can choose to major in any of the 100 courses of study offered by the university. Many pathway programs offer only two or three tracks, business and engineering, for instance.
The program’s disciplinary diversity is “very appealing” to prospective students, says Study Group’s Chan.
Another advantage of the program is that it is socially as well as academically integrated. Students live in a centrally located residence hall -- Marsh-Austin-Tupper (MAT) -- with domestic American students; half of Global Gateway students have American roommates.
The integrated UVM model hits home for Khamidova, who spent a semester at a large university in Vancouver before transferring to UVM. Students in the Vancouver program can’t “call themselves freshman at the university,” she says. “They even have different ID's and different student benefits. They are really separate. They have their own life. The thing is that when they transfer to (the main) university they have a lot of difficulties. “
Study Group, which has a staff of four stationed in offices on the ground floor of MAT, works hard to ensure that integration of the Global Gateway students happens in more than name only.
Margaret Coan, Study Group’s student success manager, has rotated representatives from each of UVM’s academic units and from offices like the ALANA Center for a weekly community hour of presentations and Q&A. She also meets individually with students on everything from what to do when they’re sick to how to deal with a noisy roommate to why students need to take so many courses outside their major.
For Khamidova, the success of the Global Gateway program is measurable. When she was in school in Vancouver, she made an anxious call to her mother every day. At UVM, she says, “I maybe talk with her twice a week.”