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Alumni key to international recruiting effort

By : Stephen P. Jensen

Jenae Schmidt began her six-week recruitment trip to Asia this week.
Faced with increasing competition and the difficulties of immigration following 9/11, the University has stepped up its international recruitment in recent years.

Jenae Schmidt, senior assistant director/coordinator of international recruitment for Binghamton, knows that better than most.

This week she embarked on a six-week tour of Asian countries to educate prospective students about Binghamton’s strengths.

She’ll attend college fairs, but will also rely on already-established relationships. “I have alumni who come out, meet me and help out,” said Schmidt. “They are a fantastic resource for us. In addition to attending recruitment fairs, alumni also call on prospective students and their families at home.

“To have someone - in their native language - talk to their parents and kind of ease their fears is very beneficial to us.”

The goal, of course, is to attract students to Binghamton, and that, she said, is best done in person.

“The face-to-face interactions are so crucial, especially in the Asian environment,” Schmidt said. “Having a person there helps ease parental concerns about their children traveling around the world. Safety is a huge concern.”

Schmidt, who will recruit both undergraduate and graduate students on her trip, will visit China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Japan, India, the Philippines and Thailand to talk with prospective students, their parents and guidance counselors.

In each country, she will also meet with an official from the U.S. embassy to learn about changes in the visa application process.

Competition to attract students for oversees study from these countries is fierce, Schmidt said.

“Not only are we competing with colleges and universities in their own countries, but with institutions in Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada,” she said.

“These countries have put a substantial amount of money into their education programs and recruitment efforts, and they make it easier for students to get visas. Easier than in the United States.”

It creates an additional challenge for Schmidt.

“It’s difficult,” she said. “We have to exert a lot more effort to get some students, the same types of students we were getting even three years ago.

“We have to be creative, we have to be high-touch, and we have to make them feel familiar with the campus, as best we can.”

The alumni involvement is critical, she said.

“They bring their enthusiasm and their love of Binghamton and that’s so important. They are real examples of what it means to study in America,” Schmidt said.

“To keep them up to date on what’s happening in Binghamton, we give them an alumni handbook and brief them on how things have changed since they were here.”

Spending time with the alumni is gratifying for Schmidt as well.

“It’s great learning what they’ve accomplished and what they do in their countries,” she said.

“For example, there’s a Binghamton grad in Singapore who studied environmental (issues) before going to graduate school at Harvard.

“Now she’s working on a grant to educate youth about the environment and the impact of things like global warming.

“She teaches children about these things so perhaps they’ll make more sound decisions for the planet’s future.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08