June 17, 2016

SIU honored for its support of international students

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale has earned national recognition for the care and support it provides to international students. 

SIU is a recipient of the 2016 LASPAU University Award, presented by the Harvard University-affiliated organization for the assistance SIU has given to LASPAU-administered scholarship grantees. Cheryl Barnett, international recruitment coordinator for SIU’s Center for International Education, accepted the award on behalf of the university on June 2 during the annual conference of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, in Denver, Colo. 

The Latin American Scholarship Program of American Universities (LASPAU) is an education networking organization that awards and administers Fulbright Program grants and other prestigious scholarships to individuals form Latin America and the Caribbean who are pursuing graduate study in the United States. The organization works with more than 1,000 institutions and thousands of individuals in 34 countries. 

“We value your commitment in supporting exceptional educational opportunities to our grantees and for going above and beyond our expectations,” Angélica Natera, executive director of LASPAU, wrote when announcing SIU is a 2016 award recipient. 

SIU has worked with LASPAU for at least 35 years, according to Elaine Conrad, community and educational programs coordinator for the Center for International Education, and Ratna Sinha, assistant dean of the Graduate School. Through LASPAU, numerous Fulbright students and prestigious scholarship students pursued their graduate degrees at SIU, including seven who attended SIU in the spring, Barnett said. SIU welcomed 37 LASPAU students between 2011 and 2015. 

“My own department has benefited from a long series of outstanding LASPAU graduate students for decades,” noted Susan Ford, interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs and professor of anthropology. “The mutual benefits for the students, SIU and their home countries are manifest and it is a wonderful honor for all at SIU who work with LASPAU students to receive this award.” 

The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is an international educational exchange program created to facilitate cultural exchanges and encourage mutual understanding between people from the United States and other countries. The program awards grants for students, scholars, teachers and professionals to participate in graduate studies, advanced research or teaching within universities and elementary and secondary schools.  

“Working with LASPAU and Fulbright grantees has greatly impacted my own research and teaching program here at SIU Carbondale,” Andrew Carver, interim director of the Center for International Education and professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences, said. “Like many faculty and graduate students at SIU, I have developed life-long collaborations with LASPAU and Fulbright Program grantees from around the world. These opportunities for academic and cultural exchange make SIU a unique resource for the entire region.” 

SIU’s Graduate School, Center for International Education and International Friends Club work together with LASPAU and LASPAU students. The International Friends Club (IFC), which is affiliated with the Center for International Education, was created in 1981 to provide activities and support for the university’s international students and scholars. The club‘s members are faculty, staff, students and dedicated community members from around the region who volunteer their time and energy. The group has more than a dozen programs including the Host Family Program, English in Action and Language Exchange, the Loan Closet, the weekly International Coffee Hour and the International Women’s Support Group. 

LASPAU noted ongoing and recent actions of the university and its International Friends Group as reasons SIU was chosen for the honor. One example of the support for international students took place this spring when a LASPAU student at SIU suffered a stroke. The Emergency Response Team is an IFC program created to assist international students in emergency situations such as that. A club member spent many hours at the hospital with the student as well as staying in contact with family members, transporting them to and from the hospital and keeping SIU officials informed of the student’s progress. Conrad visited with the student as well and acted as a liaison with LASPAU during the recovery period. 

Conrad said the club member “went above and beyond” to assist the student and his family and LASPAU recognized the university and its affiliated organizations and their members for providing such support and care for international students. 

“We are very honored to receive this prestigious award and we look forward to continuing our support for these bright and beautiful minds,” Sinha said.