Last month, Professor Stephen Quigley and his colleagues sat in a classroom at the College of Communication (COM) at Boston University with a few Chinese students and took notes on what they were talking about.
This July, the professors are planning to launch an online-to-offline program called the Digital Learning Initiative to help incoming international students from China prepare for the new environment of studying at COM and in the U.S.
“It seems like over the last five years or so, COM has seen a fairly dramatic uptake of international students, and Chinese language-speaking students in particular,” said Quigley, during an interview. Quigley is an Associate Professor in the Public Relations program at COM.
In an overview of BU, in the fall of 2008, 42 of 4,131 freshman came from China. Five years later, the number of Chinese freshman grew to 410 of 3,807 freshmen, and is one-third of the whole international student pool.
Quigley started to develop a concern that there was an imbalance emerging. “COM has been benefiting from all these students. But are we investing sufficiently in those students?”
“A Chinese-language speaking student who is extremely bright and gets great grades comes to COM, does really well, and graduates; he or she may get to work in the U.S. for couple of years. And perhaps they struggle to get that job, not because they aren’t smart, not because they’re not motivated enough, but because of fundamental language challenges,” he said. “And that makes me really sad.”
Then, he found a breakthrough to launch a program to help those students.
The project combines online and face-to-face discussion. The content will be heavily focused on writing and will touch upon the culture of the classrooms at COM, at BU, and in the U.S. Through the Internet, current Chinese students will participate in the project by helping new, incoming students with information or questions they may have. With the help of professors, training on writing skills will be provided.
Once the students arrive at BU, the online meetings will switch to face-to-face. “I love that idea,” said Quigley.
This program is not the first effort made by COM professors to help international students accustom themselves to American culture and English-centric studies. Christopher Daly, an Associate Professor in the Journalism department, has been running a program for about 15 years for newly arrived international graduate students from other countries. The program is a one-semester class for journalism students to learn about the American culture and to resolve any question about their studies. Daly also participates in COM’s new seed program.
The program for Chinese students will last for one year. More details have yet to be settled.
Main image: China Photos/Getty Images