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By Jennifer Batten

Many students from countries such as China, Iran and Nigeria come to Memorial for a specific program of study; others come for the opportunity to conduct research with a world-renowned expert in their chosen field.

It could be said that top quality graduate student supports aren’t likely to be among the first reasons why students make the move from abroad. However, favourable results from recent student surveys and inspiring stories of success from international students at Memorial indicate that these supports play a crucial role in student success.

No. 1 in support

Memorial University was ranked first among universities across Canada in the category of support from the School of Graduate Studies in the International Student Barometer (ISB) survey (autumn wave 2015), the global benchmark for the international student experience.

“Memorial is committed to ensuring our graduate students have the best possible experience and are well prepared for further studies or meaningful roles in the labour market.” — Dr. Aimée Surprenant

The survey was completed by international undergraduate and graduate students at Memorial in late 2015. These results indicate that 95 per cent of the graduate students surveyed are satisfied with the support offered by Memorial’s School of Graduate Studies. The outcomes are consistent with the finding of the 2013 Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey, which also suggested the experiences of international graduate students at Memorial were excellent.

“The International Student Barometer results speak to the quality and breadth of supports offered by faculty and staff both in the School of Graduate Studies and our academic units,” said Dr. Aimée Surprenant, dean of the school. “Memorial is committed to ensuring our graduate students have the best possible experience and are well prepared for further studies or meaningful roles in the labour market.”

Continued growth

Graduate student enrolment at Memorial has increased significantly in recent years, and international graduate students account for a significant part of the overall increase. International graduate enrolment grew by almost 14 per cent from fall 2014 to fall 2015 and by more than 81 per cent from fall 2011 to fall 2015; that growth has continued so far through 2016. As of fall 2015 there were 1,178 international graduate students studying at Memorial, a notable increase of 191 per cent since 2008.

In acknowledgement of this growing cultural diversity and in concert with academic and service units across all campuses, the School of Graduate Studies has developed a number of programs including a comprehensive graduate orientation, improved communications, academic workshops, career development workshops, an entrepreneurship training program and a thesis writing retreat.

Assess and improve

Memorial’s Internationalization Office has also provided direct support to international graduate students and their families arriving in Canada for many years. The School of Graduate Studies and the Centre for Institutional Analysis and Planning conduct exit surveys and participate in national/international surveys such as the International Student Barometer and the Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey to assess and improve its service delivery to graduate students.

“With the increase in international graduate students comes the need to increase supports available, from both the academic and non-academic perspectives,” said Sonja Knutson, director of the Internationalization Office. “Memorial has increasingly focused on ensuring international graduate students have not only the right supports in place to succeed in their programs, but also everything they need to live comfortably and happily in our local community.”

A testimonial

Kshama Roy, a PhD candidate in the Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and pictured above, specializes in pipeline geotechnics. He has been living, studying and working in St. John’s for several years and holds a master of engineering degree in civil engineering from Memorial.

“There are so many supports for international students at Memorial and there is so much opportunity to be involved here.” — Kshama Roy

He came to Newfoundland and Labrador from Bangladesh—where he completed an undergraduate degree at the country’s top engineering university, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology—to complete his graduate studies. While he was able to select the right graduate program for him, he wasn’t sure what to expect from the university or the city. He says he was pleasantly surprised by what Memorial had to offer him beyond his academic program.

“I came to Memorial because it offered the program I was looking for and gave me access to world-class resources and people in the pipeline industry,” said Mr. Roy. “I took the opportunity to experience a significant number of student support services offered by Memorial University and I can honestly say I have been very satisfied with my experience.

“I have worked and volunteered at Memorial as the president of the teaching assistants’ union and engineering graduate students’ society, as director with the graduate students’ union, a MUN mentor for other international students and I have helped organize graduate student orientation. There are so many supports for international students at Memorial and there is so much opportunity to be involved here.”

Key components

Attracting global talent, including exceptional international graduate students, is a key component of Memorial’s Strategic Internationalization Plan 2020, its Strategic Research Intensity Plan and its Enrolment Plan. Memorial continues its work to fulfil the goals of these plans and position Memorial’s graduate students for global success.

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