By Mackenzie Rossero, For The Miami Student
In their attempt to improve the academic experience of international students at Miami, The Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) is offering workshops to university faculty to foster positive relationships with the increasing numbers of international students attending Miami.
The workshops offered include “Chinese Names,” “Understanding Chinese Students at Miami” and “Best Intercultural Classroom Practices.” Many of these workshops are presented as a Q&A, with a panel of international students answering questions from Miami faculty.
These panels allow international students to explain the many nuances of their educational experience including misunderstandings regarding plagiarism policies and their reluctance to speak up in class, a trait originating in foreign cultures that don’t welcome commentary or participation in school.
The panels are increasingly relevant. As of 2013, Chinese students make up 28.7 percent of the 819,644 international students studying in the United States, according to the latest available data from the Institute of International Education. At Miami, university data shows Chinese students made up 75.8 percent of the 1,324 international students in 2013.
The university’s international student population has grown from 840 enrolled in fall 2010 to 2,374 enrolled in fall 2015. In the last five years, Miami’s international student population has grown by 182.62 percent.
The oldest of the workshops, the “Chinese Names” program, has been offered for nearly a decade. In this hour-long workshop, Chinese students guide Miami faculty through their class rosters and coach them in the pronunciation of the Chinese names.
Minjie Wang, a third-year business student from China, said professors’ efforts to pronounce international names do not go unnoticed.
“During classes, every time one of the teachers is trying to record attendance, the professor always tries their best to pronounce our names,” said Wang. “It shows that Miami people do care about international students’ lives.”
The workshops offered by CTE are primarily need-based, created as a response to university faculty members requesting tools to improve their understanding of international students.
Gregg Wentzell, assistant director of CTE, said most of these workshops have been developed in recent years and are typically offered once an academic year.
“CTE is trying to do our part to support faculty and, in turn, to support [international] students so they feel that they have the best possible learning experience while they’re here,” said Wentzell.
CTE works with other Miami programs and departments, including International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), the Confucius Institute and the American Culture and English Program (ACE), to facilitate these workshops.
CTE’s other contributions to Miami faculty include its Faculty Learning Communities which group faculty members into teams to enable the effective sharing of teaching techniques. Additionally, CTE offers faculty consulting to develop effective teaching plans and supports The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, a movement advocating for advances in post-secondary education. This support extends to Miami’s hosting of the Lilly Conference on College Teaching.
The Lilly Conference has grown since its establishment in 1981 to become a four-day conference on presenting insights and research on college teaching. The Lilly Conference is held at Miami University and the 36th Original Lilly Conference will be held from
Nov. 17 to 20.
Miami is also working to improve international students’ experience with a new Journalism 101 course that is half domestic and half international students. In this class, the students are able to exchange information on the different types of media and the restrictions on that media in the United States and abroad.
The course is being offered for the first time this semester, but it’s yet to be determined if the course will be offered again in the future.
“I thought it would be fascinating,” said Cheryl Gibbs, one of the professors teaching the course, “to have discussions like we have in Journalism 101 about the purpose of the media and democracy with students who come from countries that may not be democracies.”
However, some faculty feel that Miami’s efforts to better international students’ academic experience are not adequate.
“It’s a small band-aid on a bigger problem,” said Molly Heidemann, assistant director of ISSS. “It’s not far-reaching enough. I’m hoping this is the start of some more robust training and education for campus.”
CTE’s next workshop on international students is “International Students’ Perspectives on Academic Integrity” and will be held at 2:30 p.m. on April 20 in 320 Laws Hall. Register online before April 19 to attend.