Oct. 23, 2023Print | PDF
Student success is at the heart of Wilfrid Laurier University’s internationalization efforts, which are centred on attracting and supporting engaged international students at every step of their academic journey.
With an international population representing about 6% of Laurier’s total student body (2022 Registrar’s report), Laurier’s goal is to grow the number of international students while ensuring international student growth is sustainable, ethical, and aligned with the student experience the university is known for.
International students bring a richness of experiences and perspectives to campus that positively impact the entire Laurier community and prepares all students for lives of global citizenship. And by expanding world views and reducing barriers to common understanding, Laurier makes an impact as a globally integrated institution.
“The university’s focus is on making sure we have the right structures in place to support international students, from prospect to alumni,” says Julie Hummel, Laurier’s executive director of International. Hummel says that the foundational practices and resources Laurier has in place are well positioned to support a growing international student population on campus.
“Now more than ever, institutions have a moral and ethical responsibility to engage in equitable internationalization,” says Kathy Hogarth, associate vice-president global strategy. “The need for equity in the work we do, whether that be recruitment of students, inbound or outbound mobility, or engaging with entrepreneurial global partners, requires us to ask the critical question of how our work is ethically and equitably sound.”
“Laurier is committed to a recruitment strategy that is multi-layered and ensures prospective students and their families have access to information about Laurier from trained and reliable sources,” says Hummel. “We are working with our academic and support community to ensure that our offerings are competitive and accessible so that international students around the world consider Laurier as an option for where they want to pursue their education.”
Laurier employs upper-year international students as International Student Leaders (ISLs), who serve as mentors for incoming students early in their journey to Laurier.
“International Student Leaders start working with students who have confirmed or are in the process of confirming their offers in May to provide a remote connection with the students who are coming in,” says Peter Donahue, associate director of international student support. “Students are sometimes paired up according to programs that they're studying, or countries where the students are coming from.”
ISLs also help international students forge friendships and peer networks once they are in Canada.
“ISLs can reach out to new international students and bring them into the student support office for services,” says Donahue. “If they're a don in residence, they tell all the other dons about how to support international students. If they're involved with a student club, they represent international students and international student needs and they bring a lot of ideas to us in terms of what international students want.”
Providing housing supports to international students before they arrive on campus is a key priority for the university to avoid placing international students at risk of rental fraud or having to provide deposits sight unseen.
Similar to domestic students, first-year international students are guaranteed a place in Laurier’s residences, as long as they meet the conditions of their offer. To support upper-year and graduate students, some of whom arrive with families, Laurier partners with local relocation services to provide housing support at no charge to students in need.
“These services are embedded in our office, and it's almost like having international student advisors who are focused on housing,” says Donahue. “They know so much about what international students are going through. They also provide supports to graduate students who have families, such as getting their children into preschools and helping them find services.”
Laurier’s partnership with Wilfrid Laurier International College (WLIC), located at Laurier’s Brantford campus, provides pathway programs designed to prepare students for entry to university-level programs. Upon completion, students have a foundation for success to transfer into the second year of in-demand programs at Laurier.
In addition to the myriad academic and health and wellness supports available to Laurier students, Laurier international students also have access to tailored supports and resources to address their health and wellness needs.
“We have a counsellor therapist from the Wellness Centre embedded in the International Student Support Office two days a week,” says Donahue. “This arrangement enables international student advisors to walk with students across the hall to have meetings with a counsellor in a space where they're comfortable.”
The wellness counsellor participates in international student events like international orientation week, gets to know student leaders, and can provide informal support to students.
With a Laurier degree, international students are ready for the future. Innovative degree options, such as course-based master’s programs in growing fields like Applied Computing, UX and Health Science, make graduates attractive to employers both in Canada and internationally.
“There is a lot of opportunity, because there are growing markets globally that are looking for advanced degrees from Western universities,” says Hummel. “Sometimes a Laurier credential validates an international credential if students want to work in Canada, the United States or the UK. Sometimes a Laurier credential gives them an edge when they're on a job search in their home country, because they've had a North American experience.”