International Educator - November/December 2014 - 45

VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY

To promote academic success for international students, Virginia Commonwealth University has implemented a holistic plan since August 2013.

different ways and the student was trying to navigate the
process so she could contribute and disagree without offending others. "If left unaddressed, these issues often lead
to a sense of isolation and lack of group participation by
international students," Grassi explains.
Lack of basic English skills can hamper international
students from speaking up in class or doing well in their
academic courses. At UST all international students have
met English proficiency requirements. But at VCU about
25 percent first spend one to four semesters in the English Language Program (ELP). Hill reports the majority
of these students do graduate. International students who
apply directly to JMU must be proficient in English, Jonathan Kratz, assistant director of international students
and scholars services, says. But they can opt to first enroll
in a pathway program that provides first-year academic
coursework along with English language skills. Tulsa
recently upped its TOEFL requirement from 60 to 80 to recruit students with stronger English language proficiency.
Terminology that faculty use in the classroom can often be confusing to international students. References to
popular culture icons readily recognized by U.S. students
don't register; sarcasm and slang are often taken literally.
Friedman encourages teachers to be careful about the

words and phrases they use so everyone understands what
they're saying. Hill says her department works with faculty
to explain and modify cultural references that are not native or readily understandable to international students.
Since most university instructors are not schooled in
teaching writing in their subject areas, outside sources
are employed. At TU writing support is given to international students both pre- and postmatriculation. A new
graduate-level course there focuses on professional and
technical writing.

Solutions for Faculty
Although most instructors enjoy having international
students in their classrooms, they need support from
their institutions. Otherwise, they could feel alone and
overwhelmed.
So, what is higher education doing about this challenge? New faculty orientations and department meetings
spell out expectations, challenges, and solutions.
At St. Thomas, scenarios are used to help faculty explore difficult situations. One example: "Two first-year
students are sitting in a faculty member's office. The
professor has discovered they turned in identical papers.
The students are roommates, one an international stuN O V + D E C .14 INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR

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