The world comes to RIT
Perhaps it's a small world after all. But
RIT's world is getting bigger. A growing population of students
from other countries enriches the RIT community with expanded
opportunities for cultural interaction, exchange of ideas and
|Members of RIT's Asian Deaf Club, which includes international
students and Asian-Americans, performed in "Motion Poetry"
at Convocation in May, and later appeared at a fundraiser
for Rochester's Seneca Park Zoo.
"Exposure to other cultures gives our students an advantage,"
says Stanley McKenzie, provost and vice president for academic
affairs. "Our graduates are going to be living and working in
an international economy."
RIT's student body today includes students from 90 countries.
During the last school year, 1,125 international students were
enrolled in the university's academic courses, out of a total
enrollment of about 14,000 students. That's up 77 percent from
1994, when RIT's Strategic Plan established a goal of increasing
the number of international students. RIT ranks 13th in the nation
in the number of international students among universities offering
master's degrees, according to figures from the Institute of International
"These are significant numbers," says James Miller, vice president
for enrollment management and career services, "and they're growing."
This year, RIT received more than 2,000 applications from international
students seeking admission to RIT's undergraduate and graduate
Students come from every continent except Antarctica, with the
top five countries in terms of numbers of students being India,
China, Taiwan, Canada, and South Korea. The programs they choose
are diverse, but information technology and computer science,
engineering, and business administration are among the most popular.
Like students from the United States, the international students
are attracted to RIT because of the career-oriented thrust of
the programs, says Miller. "Our programs are on target with the
needs of the global economy."
That certainly was true for Rakesh Gajwani, a third-year information
technology student from Taiwan who knew he wanted to pursue a
career in some area of computer technology. Rocky, as he is called,
attended an international high school and is fluent in English,
Hindi, and Mandarin. He participated in the Peer Advisory Leader
program through the International Student Services office in the
Center for Student Transition and Support, and has made many friends
among the international and American students at RIT. For some
students ¨ international and American ¨ interacting with someone
from another culture may be a new experience. "But both parties
end up learning," Gajwani believes.
Being half a world away from home and "a more structured life"
hasn't always been easy. "It took a year to adjust," he admits.
"But now I really like the place."
Nicolas Rubio also faced major challenges during his first year
at RIT. He had won the chance to study in the U.S. through the Venezuelan
government's highly competitive Galileo Scholar program. But to
qualify for admission, he had less than five months to improve his
English language skills. Through his own persistence and the help
of RIT's English Language Center, Rubio earned admission to the
College of Business in 1995.
|Nicol·s Rubio's parents, Nicol·s Rubio Vargas and Mari·
G. Del Carmen Borrero de Rubio, traveled from Venezuela to
see their son receive his M.B.A. degree in May.
Over the succeeding years, he won numerous RIT awards and became
a popular student leader. Rubio was founder and first president
of Global Union, the university's largest multicultural student
organization, and served as a senator of RIT Student Government,
as a voting member of the RIT Institute Council, and as vice president,
president, chairman and chief executive officer of the RIT Graduate
Management Association. He also founded the Venezuelan Student
Association and IberoAmerica Today.
Rubio received a B.S. in international business in 1999, and
an M.B.A. in May 2001.
"For me and my friends, RIT has been a very welcoming place,"
says Rubio. "But we didn't stay in our little group. You cannot
wait for everyone to come to you. You are not the center of the
Students from other countries face the same anxieties and adjustments
of anyone starting college. But they must deal with a few additional
issues. First, they must qualify for a student visa from the U.S.
government, and comply with U.S. Immigration and Naturalization
Service regulations. RIT's International Student Services office
is where international students go for help.
"People come with all kinds of questions," says Jeffrey Cox,
associate director. The office organizes a quarterly orientation
program, on-going support for adjustment to life in the U.S. and
at RIT, and help with work and travel questions.
When Venkat Purushotham arrived at RIT in 1978, there was no
such office to aid the handful of international students. "We
felt like pioneers," says Purushotham. "It was not always easy
to be different."
That small group of international students became very active
on campus, organizing sometimes controversial forums such as a
discussion of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeni. "We felt we had to have
opportunities to explore world events," Purushotham says. They
won recognition and, with the help of the RIT administration,
the students were instrumental in the creation of the International
Student Services office.
Purushotham received a B.S. in imaging science in 1981, and a master's
the following year. He went to work for Eastman Kodak Co. in 1981
as a research scientist, and now is president of NexPress, a joint
venture company formed by Kodak and Heidelberger Druckmaschinen
His success is mirrored by many of RIT's growing numbers of international
alumni who have gone on to leadership positions in U.S. companies
and around the world. Another outstanding international alumnus
is Jorge A. G. Rivas '67, president and CEO of Fleming Packaging
de Mexico, who has continued his connection with RIT as a member
of the Board of Trustees since 1981.
How do students from other countries find out about RIT in the
first place? The Division of Enrollment Management and Career
Services (EMCS) has put substantial effort into getting RIT on
the world map. Through connections with international organizations
and foreign governments, RIT's reputation has spread. The Internet
plays an important role, too, in leading students from other countries
With respect to EMCS outreach through travel, a prime example
is Associate Director of Graduate Enrollment Services Sonja Murray's
recruitment trips this year to Asia and the Middle East, a Fulbright
Exchange program in Germany, and visits to international embassies
and agencies that sponsor students.
"It is wonderful to find, as I travel abroad and meet with international
students and advisors, that RIT is so well known," says Murray.
"Students and advisors know about RIT and are very interested
in the academic programs we offer."
"We have, I think, a fairly comprehensive strategy that is not
limited to one part of the world," says Vice President Miller,
who has developed collegial relationships with officials in many
countries. "We've done a lot of proposals and worked with many
organizations. The demand will continue to grow as we become better
known and as we continue to mature as a university."
The unique programs at RIT's National Technical Institute for
the Deaf also attract international students. Currently, about
10 percent of NTID students come from 23 countries.
"Beyond question, international students enrich the experiences
provided to deaf and hard of hearing students attending RIT," says
Robert Davila, vice president for NTID. "International students
are very active within the NTID/RIT community and through their
participation and social contacts create a high degree of awareness
about different cultures, languages and global perspectives."
|RIT's Enrollment Management and Career Services Division
has played a key role in attracting international students.
From left are Diane Ellison, director of graduate enrollment
services, Sonja Murray, associate director of graduate enrollment
services, James Miller, vice president, Enrollment Management
and Career Services, and Michelle Morel, an M.B.A. student
from the Dominican Republic who has worked in the office on
co-op as a graduate assistant.
|Hamad Ghazle, director of the medical sonography program,
came to RIT from Lebanon as a student. With him are Mike Adsit
'01 and Christine Borzilleri, a third-year biology major.
The presence of international students influences campus life
not only at NTID but throughout the university. Organizations
such as OASIS (Organization for the Alliance of Students from
the Indian Subcontinent), Chinese Student and Scholar Association,
Caribbean Student Association, Taiwanese Student Association,
Venezuelan Student Association, Global Union and others arrange
social activities for their own members and other students. The
more than 40 international and American students living in International
House have the opportunity for cultural interaction on a day-to-day
basis. The Quarter Mile and dining halls resonate with a multitude
"I believe RIT is becoming a nest of international culture,"
says Hamad Ghazle, who came to RIT from Lebanon as a student and
is now director of the medical sonography program in the College
of Science. "We've developed a very rich cultural environment.
As people from different countries live and work together, share
their ideas and culture, they learn tolerance and respect. These
things are part of an international community."
There's another very tangible benefit. Approximately half a million
international students are in the United States, and the vast
majority of them finance their education from personal and family
sources, according to the Institute of International Education.
International education contributes $12.3 billion to the U.S.
economy. Universities, including RIT, benefit directly.
A limited number of scholarships funded by private foundations
and individuals are available to international students attending
RIT. Scholarships are awarded to academically qualified students
with great financial need for whom $500 to $3,000 will make a
significant impact. Last year, 33 students from 14 countries received
As is true for all alumni, RIT continues to impact the lives
of the international students long after they leave the campus.
Notes NTID's Davila, "When they graduate, they return to their
countries enriched by their RIT experiences and they create broad
awareness about our American culture, our political and social
systems and the educational opportunities that are not available
anywhere else. The pay-off, of course, is also measured by the
employment opportunities that open up after graduation. Everyone
comes out ahead - international and American students alike."
Alumnus Purushotham believes that his out-of-classroom experiences
benefited him as much as his academic studies. "Learning to deal
with people from all cultures, from diverse backgrounds, is a
key to success."