NORMAL — Illinois State University is working toward more than doubling the percentage of students who come from other countries to ISU, from the current level of about 2 percent to 5 percent.
There are about 450 international students at ISU out of an enrollment of 21,039.
“Most institutions of our size will have 5 to 10 percent of their student body from other countries,” ISU President Larry Dietz said Tuesday at the first of a series of forums this week on the internationalization of ISU. The forums are part of ISU's celebration of International Education Week.
Although ISU has increased the number of domestic students from traditionally underrepresented groups, “we have not been making many strides on the international scene,” Dietz told a crowd of nearly 100 people in the Old Main Room of the Bone Student Center.
He said increasing international diversity is something “we haven't pursued as aggressively as we should,” and it's time to invest more attention and resources.
Luis Canales, director of ISU's Office of International Studies and Programs, said, “We are currently living in a globalized world” and ISU must teach students “to function effectively in this globalized world.”
The university's strengths include its institutional commitment to diversity, its curriculum and its co-curricular activities, according to Canales.
“We are on the right track,” he said.
But areas needing work include increasing diversity, improving the campus culture and creating a welcoming environment, Canales added.
“It's not just the responsibility of the international office; it is the responsibility of everybody at the university,” said Canales.
Dietz said the increase would be done incrementally.
“We're not going to do that in one year. We're not going to do that in two years,” he said.
Other goals include increasing the diversity of faculty and having more students study abroad.
Students who study abroad “come back forever changed,” Dietz said.
“The university's vision is very simple. How you get there is very complex,” said Dietz.
In his State of the University Address last month, Dietz said ISU would be contracting with a third-party provider to recruit international students. He emphasized at that time that those efforts would not deny access to qualified Illinois students who want to attend ISU.
Pointing to the number of Rotary clubs and sister city relationships in Bloomington-Normal as well as the number of workers from other countries at State Farm, Dietz said Tuesday, “My sense is that there's a welcoming community here now” and that the community is ready for ISU to increase the number of international students it teaches.