Students experience wide world of Kent

Natalie Pillsbury

Diversity varies in graduate programs

Graduate programs across campus want to attract international students, but the percentages of American and foreign students vary from program to program.

Some programs have launched more aggressive recruitment efforts than others.

In the past three years, Kent State has attracted about 600 international graduate students. This is about 10 percent of the total number of graduate students attending Kent State each year, said Debra Lyons, immigration assistant in the Center for International and Comparative Programs.

Although the numbers of international graduate students have not risen significantly in recent years, there are efforts being made to attract students from abroad in some graduate programs.

Lyons said the university is interested in making connections with other countries, and a program through the education department has done so in the past year.

The program through the Center for International and Intercultural Education has connections with several countries such as Cyprus, Libya, Turkey, Kenya and Chile, according to

“The project splits the earth into five geographic regions,” Lyons said. “We look at ways we can make connections. For example, if a professor has connections or background in Costa Rica, we use that as an opportunity to connect the university with that region. It’s kind of a grass roots effort.”

While programs such as this have been successful in attracting international graduate students, Lyons said most recruitment of graduate students from any background is done by word of mouth.

She said a student will show interest in Kent State if a relative or friend had a good experience.

Lyons said the most popular graduate programs are computer science and those in the college of Arts and Sciences.

She said that more than half of all graduate students are in the College of Arts and Sciences, which includes physics, chemistry and biomedical research.

These science majors, such as physics, typically attract more international graduate students than other majors such as humanities, said George Fai, graduate coordinator in the school of physics.

Fai said since 1991, the international students have comprised approximately two-thirds of graduate students in the physics program.

Fai said he thinks this uneven distribution happens naturally. There is no special effort to attract international students to the graduate physics program.

“We bend over backwards to attract American students,” Fai said. “The problem is that not very many American students are interested in the sciences. You have to be very dedicated to go into science. It is not a money maker.”

Fai also said top American science students are often attracted to more prestigious schools such as Harvard or Yale.

He said the graduate physics program recently went through a review, and two changes were decided upon to attract more American graduate students.

Fai said the program will raise stipends for graduate students, which will be difficult considering the tight budget they are already restricted by.

He also said graduate physics program will mount a recruiting effort through requiring students take the GRE before they are admitted into the program.

Currently, only about 50 percent of students in the program have taken the GRE, Fai said.

Physics programs that do require the GRE are viewed as more credible and rigorous, and thus, they attract better students.

Fai said international students generally perform better in the program than American students.

“It’s difficult to say though. There are some aspects where American student performance is better,” Fai said. “Americans are better in tune with the American way of life. Sometimes this gives them an advantage.”

Fai said the program does not distinguish students based on race, especially after they are admitted. All students are given equal opportunity, he said.

Contact general assignment reporter Natalie Pillsbury at [email protected].