CINCINNATI — Two and half years ago, Tarushi Ravindra made what she describes today as the best decision of her life.
Ravindra, 20, went to a recruitment event held by the University of Cincinnati in New Delhi, India, and subsequently decided to pick the college to pursue an undergraduate degree in industrial management.
“If you have an eye for what you want to do with four years in terms of course work, co-op programs, this is the place to be, because it’s filled with amazing opportunities,” she said.
Ha Dinh, a sophomore who was recruited from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, agreed.
“Advisors at this college really work hard to make sure that you use co-op programs. It’s not enough to do well in your classes. You have to get experience in the corporate world and do research,” said Dinh, 20, who is majoring in marketing and business economics.
“And then you start thinking about study-abroad programs and graduate school because your professors encourage, inspire and motivate you. You just want to do more.”
Said Ravindra: “There is no limit. UC makes you believe in that.”
Ravindra and Dinh are exactly the kind of students UC seeks to attract with its global outreach. In fact, this has been a huge part of the university’s “aggressive, innovative recruitment strategy,” said Ron Cushing, director, International Services.
“From my standpoint, we have the highest number of international students today, and our numbers have dramatically increased through the years,” he said.
In 2006, UC had 1,800 international students; in fall 2015, the number was 3,373. There are currently 1,063 students from India, 1,109 from China and 164 from South Korea. The rest are from more than 100 other countries.
The Institute of International Education, the world’s largest nonprofit leader in policy, research and data collection about international students, said in its annual report that there were 974,926 international students in the United States during the academic year of 2014-15.
Ohio had 35,761 international students, a 10 percent increase from last year, and total income received from them was just over $1 billion.
The IIE figures include the total number of students enrolled full time and those on optional, authorized practical training.
When Jonathan Weller, director of international admissions, began to work on recruitment strategies in 2006, he was the only staff member. Today there are 10 full-time employees in Cincinnati and seven full-time recruitment staff around the world – two in Mumbai, India, one in Ho Chi Minh City and four in Beijing.
“For us as a university, our focus has been on quality in diversity (over) quantity. We want a balance between the international and American students,” Weller said.
“We have made a careful, comprehensive and calculated effort to ensure that our students represent our global world today.”
There are signs that the strategy is working. Both Ravindra and Dinh spend time being “ambassadors” of their country and explaining their culture.
“We expose American students to different parts of the world and show them how different cultures thrive,” Ravindra said.
Both say they get the occasional silly, stereotypical questions such as, “Are there elephants walking around the streets in India?” or “Is Vietnam all jungles?” But they do convey to American students that advances in technology and education have made the world a smaller place and students are invested in building a better future in all countries.
For Dinh, who volunteers at a veterans hospital, the conversations often take a serious turn as they discuss the Vietnam War.
“I didn’t know the war in Vietnam was such a big part of American history, and all the vets I talked to say that they have memories of the beauty of my country. Some have married Vietnamese women, and others still have friends there,” Dinh said. She had been aware of UC’s recruitment efforts even before the event in her city.
The dialogue between students and faculty about culture and globalization is an example of how UC is trying to nurture connections at many levels.
The college wants students to strive academically and professionally through its co-op programs, which it founded in 1906. UC was the first college to do so.
Both young women say the co-op programs allowed them to gain valuable perspectives of how companies operate while earning classroom credits.
Ravindra has done a co-op for supermarket giant Kroger, while Dinh did one for GNGF, a national marketing agency for law firms.
Both are heavily invested in campus life. Ravindra is co-director of International Student Affairs, an honors ambassador and a member of Alpha Kappa Psi fraternity, while Dinh spends most of her “free time” helping current and prospective Vietnamese students. She has also created an online user experience analysis for a study abroad information website in Vietnam.
Both plan to finish graduate school at UC because they have found Cincinnati to be a dynamic city filled with potential employers.
Data show once students come to UC, they stay: The retention rate for undergraduate international students is 90 percent, said Caroline Miller, vice provost, enrollment management.
“It’s a feat practically unheard of, and it’s because of the choices we made in our admission selection,” said Miller. “We live in a global world, and the give-and-take relationships between our students is great for us and the world’s economy.”