A group of four students sits around a table in the library wearing face masks and using their laptops

ACI team plays key role in developing technology to assist international students with transcript delivery

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It’s technology Chinaka Njoku could have used more than a decade ago when he tried to enroll in college — and later, start the U.S. citizenship process — only to discover how difficult it was to get an official transcript.

Born in Nigeria, Njoku moved to the U.S. 20 years ago and eventually settled in the metro Detroit area. When a college registrar’s office requested his academic transcripts, Njoku learned his Nigerian school only had paper copies and did not have the resources to send him an electronic version.

“The same thing happened again when I applied for financial aid,” he said. “I have heard similar stories from other people and started taking initiative to start the technology to solve this problem.”

Njoku earned a grant from the Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County, a SmartZone in Port Huron, to establish his business, Tasen Inc., located at the Velocity Center in Sterling Heights.

Yet his startup needed software developers. He was referred to Grand Valley’s Applied Computer Institute and during the Fall 2021 semester had a team of three computer science students researching and developing a platform that can assist students from international schools with getting transcripts and other information to North American colleges and universities.

The platform will benefit students and academic institutions in the United States and abroad, Njoku said. Meagan Treadway, Grand Valley associate registrar, agreed.

“It is common for course descriptions to be difficult to find, so the responsibility then falls on the students to provide syllabi so the faculty can assess the courses for credit.”

Meagan Treadway, associate registrar

Treadway said it’s sometimes difficult on international transcripts to convert grades and complete evaluations of transfer credit. “It is common for course descriptions to be difficult to find, so the responsibility then falls on the students to provide syllabi so the faculty can assess the courses for credit,” she said.

Standardized delivery of certified transcripts would help international students, admissions and registrar offices, Treadway said.

Tyler West was one of the students who worked on the project as part of a senior capstone class. West, who will graduate in April, said it was a very real-world experience. “We were given this project, had to learn as fast as possible and then do the best we could to produce something at the end of the semester,” he said.

Work on the platform has been steady, and Njoku said the GVSU student team did a great job to get it to a spot for future development. Jonathan Englesma, professor of computing and director of ACI, said it’s a perfect case study about why ACI was established and how it benefits industry partners like Njoku and students. Nearly 100 students are involved in senior capstone projects annually.

Industry partners pay a fee to ACI after their proposal is approved, and partners supervise the work. Englesma said partners have a good understanding of the skills computer science students accumulate at the end of their undergraduate years, while faculty members are able to keep a pulse on industry trends. It provides students with an authentic experience, he said.

“They get to learn experientially about aspects of software development, such as eliciting and managing rapidly changing client requirements, accurately estimating effort, testing and many other activities in software development that are difficult to reproduce with real-world fidelity within the confines of the classroom,” Englesma said.