In her undergraduate years at the University of Minnesota-Morris, international student Hanna Sun said she witnessed international and domestic students, staff and faculty struggle to communicate effectively.
Sun, who is now a graduate student on the Twin Cities campus, is one of 10 students on the International Student Advisory Board — a consultative body that focuses on international student issues. Last month, the University’s International Student and Scholar Services selected its new board members.
Each year, the board selects a main theme to focus on by developing projects and initiatives to better serve international students. The themes are often identified by looking at University data collected about international student satisfaction in a variety of categories. The current ISAB will likely select a theme to address later in October. In previous years, the board has focused its efforts on campus climate and career services.
In addition to developing its own projects, the advisory board is consulted by several departments and offices to review new events, workshops or other resources that serve international students. This can involve gathering international student perspectives and sharing their input in meetings.
Although the theme for this year has not yet been identified, Sun said she wants to make promoting the board and its work a priority.
“I hope to reach out to more international students to let them know that this exists, and that if they’re interested in being a part of this, they should consider this,” Sun said.
Before joining the advisory board, Sun advocated for international student issues on the Morris campus. Her experiences with cultural and language barriers inspired her to pursue a graduate degree in comparative and international development education.
“I saw a lot of struggles between international students and staff and faculty and other domestic students,” Sun said. “I could see how people were not communicating well, and there were a lot of issues coming from that miscommunication.”
For many board members, both new and old, serving on the advisory board is about giving a voice to international students and letting their experiences be heard.
“I believe that the International Student Advisory Board would give me the opportunity to deliver a lot of voices for people who are international or specifically people who are from my country who wouldn’t have the chance to express their own feelings or opinions,” said board member and first-year student Rawan Algahtani.
This year the board will be using a Campus Climate Micro-Grant to collect qualitative data to gauge how current policies, such as visa restrictions, are affecting international students, said advisory board member Sophronia Cheung. The members will work to interview international students and report findings to International Student and Scholar Services.
“There’s a lot of issues international students face, and they’re not addressed,” Cheung said. “For something like the advisory board, it really does connect you with actual administrators at the U, and that can give you a direct contact ... with people that can actually make an impact.”