OISS and Navitas
Bringing the World to UNH
Today, when you walk around campus or get a bite to eat at the Memorial Union Building, you can’t help but notice the international presence at UNH. In 2011, there are almost 500 students and scholars from 70 countries at the University, and you can see the flags of most of their nations hanging in the MUB! The Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) helps bring these internationals to UNH, and it is OISS staff who help them adjust to studying and working here in the U.S.
The vast majority of OISS activity concerns undergraduate and graduate students. Staff begin their outreach from the point of admission, then process immigration paperwork and stay connected with those they serve while they are enrolled at UNH, and in many cases, beyond graduation. Once on campus in late August, internationals enjoy a three-day orientation designed to build community and introduce them to the campus, staff and services of UNH before everyone else has arrived. Easing students' cultural transition is the heart of OISS’ work, and this is ongoing throughout the semester. Accomplishing this takes creative programing (such as International Student and Scholar Circle on Thursdays and Cultural Connections on Fridays), regular check-ins to create a relationship with each student to remind them of deadlines and opportunities, and adept problem-solving and crisis management. To help foster effective communication and inclusiveness, OISS also responds to departmental requests for cross-cultural training.
Of the 96 international undergraduate students on campus this year, 53 came to UNH through the Navitas Pathway program. OISS works closely with Navitas (see below) to offer students key services from immigration to orientation, and support them on matters including obtaining a driver’s license, finding on-campus employment, getting additional academic support, and dealing with a broad spectrum of more personal issues.
Navitas and the Pathway Program
Navitas is an Australian company that partners with universities worldwide to recruit and support international students. Their International University Transfer Program (Pathway) at UNH, which began this past May, offers international students a smooth transition, or “pathway,” into the American university system. Navitas has three staff members dedicated to visiting countries around the world to recruit students, in addition to an admissions officer on campus who screens and evaluates international applications. Navitas also has a dedicated international student advisor who works with students prior to arrival, oversees their orientation program, provides transitional support as they settle in, and serves as their academic counselor at UNH. In the initial stage of its contract, Navitas has brought students from China, India, Korea, Mongolia, Taiwan, Turkey and Vietnam to campus. Of the 53 Navitas students, Chinese students are by far the largest group. The number of UNH Navitas students is expected to grow in coming semesters, with approximately 20-30 new students coming to campus this spring.
Once students arrive on campus, the Pathway program is designed to help them adjust to the cultural shock of moving to the U.S., as well as providing additional English and academic support to ensure that they are well prepared to be successful students. “Everyone is helpful at Navitas,” says Batu Doyran, a Turkish student who comes to UNH through the Pathway program. “They meet with us to talk about our courses and support us in many ways that make life easier.”
All of the Pathway courses are taught by UNH faculty and follow the university curriculum. Students have small class sizes, extra time in the classroom, tutorials, activities and student/faculty office hours. Navitas’ track record shows that this kind of preparation will better equip international students to join classes with the rest of the UNH student body. Upon completing the Pathway program, students seamlessly continue their studies at UNH as long as they meet two criteria: a minimum GPA of 2.5 (varies for each college) and a 6.5 or better on the IELT exam, which assesses students’ English language capabilities.
Even though Navitas students have separate classes, they are UNH students from day one (conditionally accepted as undergraduates when they arrive at UNH, their continuation beyond the first year is dependent upon meeting the above criteria). They pay the same tuition and fees as other out-of-state students and have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities. Like all freshmen, students in the Pathway program live in the dorms, eat in the dining halls, exercise in Hamel Rec Center, and take part in athletics and student organizations. They take required Discovery courses, and are on track to potentially graduate in four years. Navitas international students are an integral part of the UNH community, a welcome presence, and a significant boost to the ongoing effort to internationalize our campus.