Samford will welcome a record number of international students to campus Friday, Aug. 17, for a special orientation session.Samford Associate Provost Mary Sue Baldwin said 94 international students are returning to campus as another 97 begin their first year. Sixteen new exchange students are from Argentina, the UK, Germany, South Korea, Hong Kong, India and Thailand. The remaining 81 new students are Chinese, reflecting the university’s ongoing outreach in Asia.
Baldwin said most of the Chinese students will be participating in Samford’s new English Language Learner Institute (ELLI), created last year. The Chinese undergraduate students also will be studying in Samford’s computer science, math, biochemistry, nursing and pre-business programs. Samford’s Chinese graduate students are studying primarily in the university’s science and business programs.
ELLI director Sandi Prater noted how much the Asia component of Samford’s international program has grown in just two years. Of the nine Chinese students enrolled in a fall, 2010, project, she said, five required an academic “bridge” in the form of seven hours per week of English language tutoring. “With the extra support, the students thrived and the pilot program was deemed a success,” Prater said.
A concerted effort to recruit Chinese students began the following spring with a trip to China by Howard College of Arts and Sciences dean David Chapman and Tatyana Karaman, then Samford's Associate Vice President for Decision Support and Financial Strategy. “When you look at the English as a Second Language (ESL) enrollment at Samford today, it's hard to believe that in March, 2011, ELLI was only an idea,” Prater said.
In response to the rapid growth of the ELLI program, Samford is renovating a wing in Brooks Hall to include new office space, seminar and conference rooms and a multi-purpose language center.
Prater said the renovations and the ELLI program as a whole play a significant part in meeting Samford’s goal of engaging the global community in learning, faith and service and promoting intercultural and international understanding.