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Deborah Alm, Study Western Massachusetts, USA

As director of the Duggett International Center at Springfield College which is part of Study Western Massachusetts, Deborah speaks with the PIE about working with other schools in the region to attract foreign students and the benefits of having a small international student population.

The PIE: Tell me about Study Western Massachusetts.

DeborahAlm2

DA: It’s a consortium of private and public institutions and also one English language institute, the International Language Institute (ILI), and we’ve been working together for a few years cooperatively to try to attract students to a destination outside of Boston. A lot of students feel that Boston is the main destination in Massachusetts but we have an area that’s full of students and really great opportunities for international students to have a more authentic American experience in many ways. It’s less expensive and we’re really happy to support one another.

The PIE: Do you find some of the students who come to you want to study and then move on to Boston afterwards?

DA: Not particularly. I think the retention of international students in the valley is pretty high. We have a lot of offerings, there is a big public university if that’s what you’re looking for, there are small private schools that have the American campus feel that people see in the movies, with the activities and the residential life.

“A lot of students feel that Boston is the main destination in Massachusetts but we have an area that’s full of really great opportunities for international students”

The PIE: What do you find students appreciate the most about the region?

DA: The academics are really strong there and they have access to Boston, it’s only 90 minutes from the Springfield area. And also to New York City. You can get where you need to go because we’re serviced by a regional airport. We’re not really as isolated as they might think.

The PIE: How many members are involved?

DA: We now have 10 members. We’ve just expanded to include a school that’s a bridge between a prep school and college that offers an associate’s degree. It’s added an extra dimension to who we are.

The PIE: How have you all found working together?

DA: It means that if one of us travels we’re representing all of us. We have such different programmes and specialties that we’re able to not really be in competition for the same students. And to have the English programme as a feeder we have a cooperative agreement where we can give conditional acceptances as part of the condition they enrol in the language classes at the ILI and then we stay connected with our students who are there. They know who we are and they can come in without the TOEFL, study there and move back to our campuses. The ILI knows what we need in terms of academic preparation for those students. They know what kind of support services are on the ground in different campuses so they know when a student is ready. It’s really valuable for us to have that kind of relationship with them.

“We have such different programmes and specialties that we’re able to not really be in competition for the same students”

The PIE: Marketing wise, do you ever go represent as a group or is it only as individuals?

DA: Right now we’ve been individuals representing everyone else. My school for example doesn’t have a big recruiting budget for international recruitment so we’re really helped out by schools who do

The PIE: What about your domestic student population, how do they feel about the international student element on their campus? [More>>]

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