What goes on behind the scenes of international recruiting at Dixie State University is made possible by dedicated, passionate people right on campus.
DSU approves several international recruitment trips each year. The most recent international recruitment trip was to American Samoa Feb. 21-28. Two faculty members and a student traveled to the country and took a powerful message about the importance of higher education.
David Roos, enrollment services executive director, helped pave the way to an academic relationship with American Samoa.
“The biggest eye-opener for me when we go to places like that is thinking of the way we can make the most headway by making a personal contact and then letting it grow — making it stronger,” Roos said. “It’s not this blanket approach. It’s finding specific schools and specific people who can help us achieve our goals.”
Roos said DSU is one of the few schools that has gone to American Samoa to recruit for the general student population. In fact, many people were surprised that Roos and his group weren’t recruiting football players.
“A lot of big schools go there, but not for general recruiting,” he said. “We thought that was a niche we could take advantage of.”
Another driving force toward the success of the trip was because of a passionate DSU student. Tevita Sekeni II, an integrated studies major from Salt Lake City, is originally from the Kingdom of Tonga. He was walking by Roos’ office last December when Roos stopped him and asked if he knew anything about Palau.
“Out of nowhere [Roos] asked me a random question: ‘Do you know anything about Palau?’ And I said, ‘Yes, it’s one of the groups of islands of the South Pacific, and it’s American territory,’” Sekeni II said.
Roos explained to Sekeni II that he was thinking of ways they could get students from Palau to DSU. Sekeni II told Roos he would contact the embassy of Palau, but because of timing, they could not agree on an appropriate time to make the trip possible.
“We had agreements and disagreements,” Sekeni II said. “I thought, ‘How about this: Let’s start slow and work on U.S. territories. Let’s go to Samoa.’”
The proposal for the trip was sent through and approved by Frank Lojko, the vice president of student services. Sekeni immediately got to work in connecting with the board of education in American Samoa.
“That’s when Arlene Sewell joined us,” Sekeni II said. “She’s a native American Samoa. She was the former director of financial aid at a college in Samoa. She understands the way to connect with Polynesian students — to emphasize the power of education and bringing something valuable back to their homeland.”
The group came back to DSU with 110 applications. Of the applicants, Sekeni II said he has 20 completed ones on file. His job is to keep the communication between DSU and those students so they feel confident in coming to the area where they will have a support system.
Executive Vice President Bill Christensen has also been on a few recruiting trips himself and emphasizes the importance of making the international students feel welcome at DSU.
“We really take care of our international students,” Christensen said. “If a student from Germany or Nigeria comes to America and they’re going to a big school, they’re lost in the shuffle.”
Christensen said the installment of the international student services began only a few years ago when the university decided to hire a director of international student services and recruiting: Michael Thompson.
“We wanted international students, but we had very little resources to get students here,” Christensen said. “So we formed this cooperative group to meet and found out about global activity called the [Global Engagement Team]. We don’t have an organization that takes care of all the global engagement, which is OK. We’re not big enough to justify that yet. In the meantime, the GET fills that gap.”
He said the international student services department has seen amazing results because of the trips they’ve taken to places like American Samoa. Christensen said just a few years ago, DSU had only a handful of international students, and now there are nearly 200 international students attending DSU.
Christensen is planning a trip to Japan in May to open up connections with universities there, and he sees the future of international student services looking bright.
Finding future students, getting to know them, and building relationships and networks is a fun aspect of the recruitment trips, Christensen said.
“You fly in on your helicopter, you land, get out of the helicopter, pass out your stuff, get back in helicopter and fly away, and you hope something sticks,” he said.