Pilot program offers support to increase enrollment of Indian students in master's programs in Engineering

In response to concern over international graduate student enrollment at Wayne State, the Graduate School has been researching and developing new strategies to support school, college and departmental recruitment efforts. Declining international graduate student applications and enrollment is a national trend, being driven by a variety of factors including widespread concern about U.S. politics and immigration, as well as economic drivers within specific countries. In partnership with the Provost’s Office of International Outreach, we are working to fully understand and address the ways this trend impacts our own community.

During fall 2017, the Graduate School determined that the largest population of international graduate students at WSU is within the College of Engineering, specifically master’s students from India. As the area most impacted by declining enrollment, the pilot initiative targeted this group with a goal of enhancing communication during a key decision making period, between acceptance and enrollment. A select group of Indian engineering students were an essential part of this process, serving as graduate ambassadors to prospective students, providing valuable insight and assistance.

Indian student graduate ambassadorsThe graduate ambassador team included master’s engineering students from different regions of India, with a range of academic interests. They shared their experience leading up to enrollment at WSU and helped identify key concerns of prospective students. Together, they managed a WhatsApp group to answer questions and make connections, helping prospective students in India find resources and develop a community at Wayne State. “Working with these students was fantastic,” says Dean Ambika Mathur, “their enthusiasm for the project and for promoting Wayne State was inspiring. We couldn't have done it without them.” Dean Mathur was also able to meet with admitted students and their families during an open house in Mumbai, India.

As a result of this initiative, enrollment of new master’s engineering students in winter 2018 is higher than previous semesters. A new email campaign has been initiated to provide all international graduate applicants with essential communication during the critical 10 week period following their acceptance letters. This is intended to enhance, not replace or duplicate communication from programs, departments, faculty and students within each discipline.

Going forward the Graduate School will continue to develop and evaluate these efforts in collaboration with programs across campus. An initial survey was sent to all international graduate students in fall 2017 to identify and understand the needs of the broader group, and focus group discussions are planned to help us support and celebrate the international community at Wayne State.

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