College Tops Charts in Friendliness and Academics According to Survey
From friendliness to academic satisfaction, a recent survey has SUNY Plattsburgh scoring some of the highest marks in the world among international students.
The 2010 International Student Barometer ranked SUNY Plattsburgh first in the world when it came to making friends and first in the United States when it came to student satisfaction with the overall learning environment. The college also ranked third in overall satisfaction among its global competitors and fifth in the world for satisfaction with the overall learning environment.
Published by the International Graduate Insight Group Ltd., the International Student Barometer is the world’s largest international student survey, providing global, regional and customized benchmarks for international student satisfaction. It tracks decision-making, expectations, perceptions and experiences of international students through an online questionnaire. The current survey is comprised of input from 157,964 students attending 203 institutions around the world, in locations like Australia, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Canada, Hong Kong and Italy.
“SUNY Plattsburgh’s status as a world-class institution has now been confirmed by an international panel of experts – our students,” said Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “All SUNY should be proud of such a superior performance on the International Student Barometer. The SUNY Plattsburgh experience leads the nation in satisfaction for international students, and SUNY’s commitment to providing a friendly learning environment is unwavering for all of our students. In fact, one of our six big ideas in SUNY’s strategic plan — The Power of SUNY — is SUNY in the World, and this is further evidence that we are nurturing a culturally fluent, cross-national mindset.”
“These results give us an idea of the strength of our programs and our course offerings — and how students feel we measure up against some of the best schools around the world,” SUNY Plattsburgh President John Ettling said. “We are immensely proud of the work that goes on at the college, day in and day out, assisting our students when they need support and creating a strong academic environment. We are also proud of the work that our International Student Services staff does, creating a warm welcome for our students and generating friends around the world.”
Overseas schools covered included Oxford, Edinburgh University, Kings College London, St. Andrews University and the University of Adelaide. Also in the mix were American schools like Kent State, Northeastern, Michigan State and Drexel universities.
The survey ranked SUNY Plattsburgh highly on a number of other measures, including:
• First in both the country and the world for student care and safety in the residence halls.
• First in both the country and the world for its Office of International Student Services.
• First in the United States and third in the world for academic performance feedback.
• First in the United States and third in the world for learning support.
• First in the United States and third in the world for visa advice.
• First in the United States and third in the world for its Office of Financial Aid.
• First in the United States and fourth in the world for the quality lectures.
• First in the United States and sixth in the world for good teachers.
• First in the United States and fourth in the world for student advising.
• First in the United States and second in the world for helping students find careers.
“I'm incredulous, myself, and frankly humbled by the positive input from our international
students,” said Jackie Girard Vogl, the college’s assistant vice president for international
enrollment management, who oversees the efforts of the ISS office.
According to Vogl, the success could be attributed, in part, to the hard work her staff does in finding those students who are a good match for the school.
“We interact with prospective students using every possible means of communication: direct interaction at college fairs and school visits worldwide; email; Facebook; and the telephone, employing current students who speak their native language. Through these means, we are able to assess whether we can predict success for each student, which is, of course, the entire purpose of the recruitment and admissions processes.”
Vogl also mentioned how she felt institutional size is a primary factor.
“I think that one of the reasons we fared so well is because this ranking is not about research or funding, but rather about teaching and access to student services and support. We can provide that level of personalized attention in and out of the classroom because of the relatively intimate size of our community,” Vogl said.
Meanwhile, Assistant Director of International Student Services Cat Young pointed out that the survey also indicated areas that need improvement.
“For instance, the survey showed that there is room for improvement when it comes to giving international students what they want in terms of food selection on campus. It also indicated that even while these students highly value the support they receive from our Financial Aid office, they would still like to see more opportunities for financial assistance,” Young said.
SUNY Plattsburgh has one of the largest international student populations per capita of any comprehensive college in the State University of New York system, with 385 students coming from a wide variety of countries including Canada, Antigua, China, the People’s Republic of China, Egypt, Japan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Tanzania and India. In fact, for the first time in the college's history, the president of the Student Association is an international student. PJ Shah comes from Nepal.
The International Student Services staff consists of six individuals and six international students who serve as assistants.
Sitikege Mwakatobe from Tanzania is one of the many international students on campus. Her experiences with the office and with the school echoed many of those captured in the survey.
“I have more opportunities here in Plattsburgh,” Mwakatobe said. “… It's easier to know people here than to be lost in the crowd. Even in classes, you know your fellow students. You know your professors one-to-one, and that relationship is very good.
“They are the ones who help you adjust to the environment and know what to do,” said Mwakatobe of the ISS office staff. “They nurture you through everything. … They make the transition very smooth.”
In fact, Mwakatobe recounts arriving on campus for the first time at 2 a.m. She was worried about how she was going to handle things with everyone asleep. To her surprise, however, someone from ISS was there to greet her when she arrived on campus.
“I felt very welcome,” she said.