Pablo Galarza, business major, came to UNM from his home nation Ecuador wanting to play soccer with the Lobos. But Galarza said he hopes to gain more than just goal kicks from his time in the United States.
“The U.S. is very prestigious,” he said. “Whether I stay here in the U.S. or go home, there will be so many chances for work. And here, I can improve my second language.”
Galarza is one of 60 international undergraduate students who arrived at the University this fall.
This semester, UNM increased its undergraduate international students’ enrollment by 25 percent, said Pablo Torres, associate director of international admissions and recruitment at the University. Overall international student enrollment also increased by 9 percent, Torres said.
But Torres said the campus could do a lot better.
“We have significant room to grow and compete,” he said.
According to the Institute of International Education Open Doors Report, UNM hosted 1,115 students last year, while neighboring institutions Arizona State University and University of Texas at Austin hosted 5,616 and 5,324 students respectively.
UNM’s Global Education Office began several initiatives last year to recruit and retain more international students, Torres said. He said UNM opened a recruitment office in Beijing last November.
Also, Torres said GEO representatives are in contact with government leaders from countries such as Saudi Arabia, which will give financial aid to students who come to the U.S. for their degree.
Torres said among the initiatives, the most noteworthy is the restructuring of GEO itself. Within the last year, GEO hired Torres along with Stephen Nussbaum as its new directors, and they are in charge of admission for all international students into UNM. Torres said this duty was previously handled by UNM’s admissions office.
“We want to be a one-stop shop for international students,” he said. “We have a new staff just for international students. I think it makes (our program) stronger that we have a devoted team.”
Mary Anne Saunders, special assistant to the president for global initiatives at UNM, said GEO faced challenges before the fall semester started. She said the closing of American embassies in Middle Eastern countries and the devaluation of currency in Iran made it difficult for students from these regions to study at UNM.
But the GEO staff is still happy to see undergraduate rates go up in spite of these challenges, Saunders said.
“In the field of international education, it takes about 18 months to see the impact of a new program,” she said. “(Torres) began in April. It’s been about six months since the restructuring. This is a great increase.”
Saunders also said the enrollment at UNM’s Center for English Language and American Culture, which increased by 20 percent this semester, means there is a greater influx of international students on campus.
Saunders said a higher international student enrollment at UNM can benefit the University community in general.
“Increasing the number of (international student) interactions with domestic students will have a positive impact of domestic students,” she said. “Studies found that students who interact with international students make more nuanced decisions and begin to question assumptions. (For international students), they get a quality education, they live in a different environment and it’s at a great cost.”