Forum to help NMU better welcome international students


Sophie Hillmeyer

The international student population has been declining, not only here at Northern, but across the country. NMU is now looking toward ways to continue to internationalize campus and give both students and faculty opportunities to experience cultures different from their own, said Steve VandenAvond, vice president for Extended Learning and Community Engagement at Northern.

“It is more and more important as we become a global society that we not just accept people from other cultures, but really understand them,” VandenAvond said. “[To] get an understanding of where people from other cultures are coming from, in terms of their culture, language.”

The Extended Learning and Community Engagement division and Academic Affairs are holding a forum featuring alumnus Todd Holmstrom from 1 to 3 p.m. on Thursday, March 1 in West Science’s Mead Auditorium. The goal of the forum is to gather faculty and student input on ways to increase international engagement on campus, such as how to better welcome students to campus and promote study abroad programs, VandenAvond said.

Holmstrom has retired from a decades-long career working predominantly in the Middle East for the federal U.S. Government, VandenAvond said. He has since moved back to the U.P. and wants to help make some headway and generate ideas on how to internationalize campus, VandenAvond added.

Holmstrom was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2017, the highest honor that the NMU Alumni Association
awards. This goes to an alumnus who demonstrates exceptional leadership and makes transformative contributions to the community, according to the NMU Alumni Association.

“We have a number of ideas, but he and I want to engage the campus community to see what people think, and contribute ideas of their own as well as connections to how we can engage international folks,” VandenAvond said.

Extended Learning and Community Engagement is responsible for recruitment of international students and it has
changed its recruitment model by working to develop meaningful relationships with institutions abroad. The division also hopes to make campus more welcoming to international students by having “policy institutes,” or group of experts who conduct research to be prepared to accommodate students from different cultures, VandenAvond said.

“The policy institutes will help to understand people from other countries and can provide support, mainly from the Middle East, where cultures differ vastly from our own,” VandenAvond said.