Enrollment for international graduate students at Grand Valley has increased by 60 percent during the past five years. In fall 2012, international graduate student enrollment was at 96 students; in fall 2016, enrollment was at 162 students.
Jeff Potteiger, dean of The Graduate School, said the importance of international students to Grand Valley cannot be underestimated.
"International students bring a unique cultural life experience and personal history to Grand Valley that enriches the environment for everyone," said Potteiger. "These students have a good experience at Grand Valley and tell their friends about us; we also do a lot of recruiting and outreach in other countries."
Shinian Wu, professor and director of the graduate program for applied linguistics, said eight of the 15 graduate students in the applied linguistics program are international students from countries like China, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.
"Word about the quality and rigor of our program travels fast," said Wu. "Our alumni and new students are sharing their experiences with family and friends and that is a very powerful recruiting tool."
Oyekanmi Oyebanji came to Grand Valley from Nigeria after learning about the university through a friend already attending Grand Valley.
"After talking with my friend, I did some online research about Grand Valley and its programs," said Oyebanji, 30. "I could see the applied linguistics program would be a good fit for me."
Oyebanji began graduate courses at Grand Valley in fall 2016, after receiving a bachelor's degree in linguistics from Ekiti State University in Nigeria. He said the professors at Grand Valley are more approachable.
"My professors are very understanding and offer guidance academically and socially," he said. "The program here is rigorous and it helps to have professors who create a supportive environment."
He said his adjustment to West Michigan has been a smooth one. "It is wonderful to be part of a community that appreciates inclusion and diversity. It makes me feel at home," he said.
Yikua Xu learned about Grand Valley's graduate program in applied linguistics after Wu was a guest lecturer at Xi'an International Studies University in China, where Xu earned a bachelor's degree in English. She started Grand Valley's graduate program in fall 2016.
"The professors are very good and the university has a very welcoming atmosphere," said Xu, 23. "There are a lot of activities and opportunities to be involved with. I joined the Asian Student Union and have made a lot of new friends."
In March 2016, President Thomas J. Haas visited Xi'an International Studies University while in China for two alumni events — the other was held in Shanghai at East China Normal University, a longtime Grand Valley partner institution.
At the Xi’an event, Haas hand-delivered admissions letters to three students; all three began degrees at Grand Valley in fall 2016.
"Trips like this by the president, or by faculty who make presentations and hand out information about Grand Valley are very impactful," said Wu. "When some alumni in China heard President Haas would be in town, they flew in for the weekend just to meet him."