Office of International Education awards roughly $15,000 to programs

Office grants funds between $1,000-6,000 to programs aimed at the inclusion of international students

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The Office of International Education awarded roughly $15,000 to programs for international students this spring. 

The Office of the Provost provided funding for the programs, and OIE acted as “stewards for the money,” which will be used to help international students “transition into a new U.S. academic and social culture,” according to Caitlin Rioux, the International Student Inclusion and Engagement program coordinator. OIE requested proposals from departments in late November and selected four of the 20 proposals for funding, Rioux said. 

"I think the thing for me that was most exciting was that I had different stakeholders on campus coming forward, and saying, 'Thank you for this, because it's forced us to think about better ways to include and engage international students and what we're doing in our unit," Rioux said.

The four proposals that OIE funded were from the Asian Studies Program, Counseling Services, the Community for Global Health Equity and Student Engagement. 

The funding was a result of UB’s international inclusion and engagement task force, which made recommendations to improve UB’s international community involvement in 2016, according to Rioux. She said her own position was a result of the task force’s recommendations.

Rioux said the process of sending in proposals challenged UB programs and departments to consider the struggles international students face with finance and travel. 

Counseling Services proposed a support group for international students at UB whose romantic partners may also be international or domestic. OIE awarded the program $2,260. 

Stephanie Chong, a psychologist from Counseling Services said she was interested in international student issues because of her own international background, having grown up in Singapore and Malaysia. 

Chong said the program is one of the first of its kind, as not many institutions provide support for the partners of international students. 

“[The partners] might have been more independent in the past, but then here, because of not being able to work or even study, their responsibilities shift,” Chong said. “Who they see themselves as shifts as well. This may contribute to their self esteem or impact their cross-cultural adjustment.”

The support group for international students or their partners will take place every Monday from 1-2 p.m. in 228 Student Union. 

Chong said the support group will be in the Student Union instead of Counseling Services at Richmond Quadrangle. She said this reduces the stigma around counseling and makes the group more accessible and more of an “outreach program in a community building.” 

OIE granted CGHE $5,383 to fully fund four international fellows for the Global Innovation Challenge — a week-long workshop in May. The GIC requires students to engage in critical thinking and problem solving for global health problems. 

CGHE aims to fully fund the participation of four Local-International Global Health Talent (LIGHT) fellows. The four fellows will be UB international students, two of whom will be graduate students and the other two, undergraduate students, according to the program coordinator Lisa Vahapoğlu. 

The application for LIGHT fellows closed on Feb. 16, and the fellows will be announced in the coming weeks according to Vahapoğlu. 

Vahapoğlu said she wrote the program with the “intention of institutionalizing” UB’s diversity. 

Vahapoğlu said she hopes the program will help “cultivate a sense of belonging” through “mentored relationships” with professors in the CGHE. 

Vahapoğlu said the department will award the fellowships to international students who haven’t yet “put down roots” in the U.S. and were more prone to feelings of “alienation, and feeling adrift.”

Walter Hakala from the Asian Studies program said, although the program hasn’t yet run any of the activities it outlined in the proposal, it plans on hosting events such as scavenger hunts, “language luncheons” and other events that “will bring international and domestic students together in meaningful ways.”

Hakala also said the department is “uniquely situated” in engaging with international students from Asian countries in particular, as the faculty is “actively interested in internationalizing their studies.”

The Student Engagement office’s proposal will be part of a conference in April, where undergraduates can pitch their ideas for inclusive programs for international and domestic students. The winners of the pitch competition will then be awarded funding for the implementation of a program, according to Rioux. 

Representatives from the Office of Student Engagement did not respond in time for publication.

Tanveen Vohra is a Co-senior News Editor and can be reached at Tanveen.vohra@ubspectrum.com and @TanveenUBSpec.

TANVEEN VOHRA


Tanveen Vohra is a former senior news editor and covered international relations and graduate student protests.