In an effort to better support the academic success of international students, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Mary Kraus has hired Roberto Arruda to serve as CU Boulder’s first director of international student academic success.
This new position was created in response to the recommendations of the Task Force for International Student Success, established by Provost Russell Moore in December 2016.
Kraus said the administration is currently focused on responding to the task force’s recommendation to better support faculty.
“Faculty said they are struggling to engage international students,” Kraus said. “Many report they don’t have the proper multicultural skills to work with international students or to provide a sufficiently supportive classroom.”
Kraus explained the director of international student academic success is responsible for providing faculty, staff and students with the support they need. Integral to this is the development of coalitions among all units across campus that work with undergraduate international students.
“Roberto brings tremendous experience to this role, as he has worked in education for many years, during which time he has taught English as a foreign and second language, as well as worked in an international office with sponsored students, advised international students and conducted immigration work.”
Customized workshops and individual consultations
Arruda says he is currently focused on two functions: hosting workshops for faculty and providing individual consultations with faculty members who are working to improve the academic experience of international students.
“I work all across campus to host a number of different workshops for any department that requests them, all of which can be adjusted to the individual needs of your department or program,” Arruda said.
Workshops are typically 50 minutes and cover such topics as international students in the classroom: teaching tips, intercultural communication in the classroom, and assessing international student learning.
Arruda says, in addition to providing customized versions of workshops for departments or other units, he also is happy to identify and develop new workshops based on the needs of the faculty and work with individual faculty members who have questions about specific challenges they are facing with international students.
“Many faculty report issues about international students under-participating in class or talk about the struggles of second language,” Arruda said. “My job is to learn about issues, help the instructor figure out what we can control in this situation and develop strategies to address.”
Arruda explains there are many reasons students might not be participating in class as much as an instructor expects, including the fact that some cultures do not emphasize interaction and participation in the classroom, making student-centered classrooms unfamiliar to students from such cultures.
“Sometimes it isn’t feasible to get students to participate in class,” Arruda explains. “Our job is to ask ourselves, ‘What are we trying to accomplish through class participation, and what are some other ways we can accomplish and measure the same thing?’”
Improving the academic experience for all students
Arruda says when you improve learning for international students, you improve learning for all.
“When we dig into this issue, what we’re really talking about is inclusive pedagogy, Arruda says.
“When we take the time to devise strategies that will make it easier for international students to learn, there are many domestic students who benefit from those same accommodations. For example, providing an example of a successful assignment makes it clear to students what is expected of them, which helps those who are not familiar with certain types of assignments.
Arruda also is working with campus partners to develop support services to improve international students' academic experience at CU.