If you’re a parent, or a Cub Scout den mother, then you may have a similar experience to working in a one-person international office. It’s like being a mother to a dozen confused kids who you have to shepherd to graduation. That means getting 11 pm phone call about the injury on the soccer field. You help them do homework, work on goal setting and intercede when something bad has happened. It also means developing such close relationships you tear up when they leave. You feel their joys and pains. It also leads to amazing retention rates all on a shoestring budget that most would not believe!
The hardest part of running a one-person office is that there is no margin for error or inefficiency. You must recruit, process admissions, tend to international visa and federal regulations and develop programming. This is all while providing intense student services to a usually loving and needy group, by yourself. Oh yes, let’s also not forget the constant budget shortages most colleges face which lead to time and programs cuts. It certainly isn’t for the meek of heart. But on the other side of that coin is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.
Here are some insights that have helped me in making the one-person office not only survive, but grow in a time of budget cuts and economic crisis.
Cornerstone insights to developing a Community College International Program.
1. Show the students the international program is a school priority
Resources can be limited, so you work best with what you have. Recently, we did a makeover of the international office. International had been neatly tucked away in the corner of admissions, leaving many students with the question: Do we have an international office? Using a higher traffic office space that had been recently abandoned, we created a higher profile space. We used furniture cast off by the college to create a more comfy “home like” office. The new space has helped students to see they are a valued part of the college.
2. Illustrate your potential to the administration
Navigating a one-person office is treacherous. Illustrate to the administration your competency and the potential benefits to the college including diversity and tuition.
International students (and their families) are all too happy to pay out of state tuition for a community college versus the 4-year options. You are one person who can single handedly provide dozens of out of state tuitions.
3. Illustrate your potential to recruiters and student candidates
– Low tuition
– Small class size
– Tutoring programs
– High levels of faculty support
– High levels of personal support
– Transfer agreements with many top colleges
If you’ve got it, you need to flaunt it!
4. Build up the campus wide excitement
In a rural community college, your students are the diversity superstars! Get the other students involved with them and watch with excitement as other students not only grow and learn, but are often prompted to study abroad. The more our students interact, the more our programs grow and the more our true value to the college is recognized.
This post is part of our #SAinternational series. We will hear from #SApros who work in international student related services. We’ll also hear from those those who have had the fortunate opportunity to work overseas or have a global perspective to higher education. For more info, please see Kim Irland’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Melissa Boles on Academic Advising in a Community College Setting