Kent State International Mentors program strives to create diversity on campus


Missy Hendrix, a public health major, passes a book to students Baraa Iskandar and Abdullah Almotairi at the Kent State International Student Mentor’s meeting on March 3, 2015. Members of the organization can leave a message in their language in the journal to share with the group.

Taylor Meade

The Kent State International Mentors (KSIM) program has helped international students with English proficiency for the past six years, and in the process has created a community for international and American students to learn from one another.

Eron Memaj, founder and former Koonce Hall director, said KSIM started in Koonce Hall in 2009 because the presence of international students was growing on campus and he wanted to create a community for them.

“Eventually it grew so big that we couldn’t keep it in Koonce,” Memaj said. “I didn’t feel like we could deny anyone to be a part of it.”

Memaj, originally from Albania, said his goal behind the program was a “two-way mentorship” — for international students to benefit from, but also for American students to learn other cultures.

Carrie Circosta, KSIM advisor and graduate student of teaching English as a second language, said KSIM breaks down into two concepts — conversation partners, when an American student helps international students with their English proficiency, and group activities, which include going to the movies, dinner or sporting events in Cleveland.

Students have the option to join KSIM and have a conversation partner, or they can join because they want to learn more about other cultures and share their own, Circosta said.

“People are engaged, and they want to present,” Circosta said. “All the research shows that you (students) feel like a part of a campus community when you’re involved.”

KSIM has grown from 20 to more than 200 members from 36 different countries, Circosta said.

Bahareh Gharehgozlou, KSIM president and faculty part-time semester English teacher, said that KSIM gets a lot of positive feedback from its members.

Gharehgozlou, originally from Iran, said she was attracted to the organization because of how active it was and how it allowed her meet more people when she was new to campus.

“They (most students) find us helpful with their transition, especially for international students to get to know other people from different countries,” Gharehgozlou said.

Students are often shy or find it difficult to communicate when they first join the organization, Gharehgozlou said. KSIM encourages students to find a new person every meeting to talk to, whether they’re American or international.

Circosta said she thinks the overall goal of KSIM is to have students have a better understanding and to be more open to different cultures and people from different countries.

“We’re doing our part in shaping global citizens even after they leave Kent State,” Circosta said. “We want to look at this (KSIM) at a bigger level.”


Contact Taylor Meade at [email protected].