International Students Bridge the World at TAMIU in 2004

International Students Bridge the World at TAMIU

An international student presence at Texas A&M International University makes for a more diverse university life experience. Students from countries such as Bangladesh, Colombia, France, India, Philippines, and Thailand help enrich the life and culture of the University and strengthen the global mindset among students.

Dr. Michael Gold-Biss, assistant vice president for international programs, said TAMIU's Division of International Programs is dedicated to act as a catalyst for the development of international students' educational experience.

"Part of what we aim to do as an institution of higher education learning is to help people learn about their world. International presence is important to the University because it is a way of teaching the community to live with change." Dr. Gold-Biss said.

"We live in a global society which means where we come from, who we are, and where we go is no longer limited by geography, distance, or time. We have to live with people who are different to us, and learning how to do that is not always easy," Gold-Biss added.

In comparison to previous years, the number of countries represented at the University has not grown a great deal according to Gold-Biss. He claims the number of international students has not shrunk significantly, but the diversity of the student body has become much smaller. The decline is due in part to the fact that it is now more difficult for TAMIU to encourage students to come, and it is also difficult for students who would like to come to actually make it here, Gold-Biss said.

"Everyone in this institution is committed to international growth, but unfortunately the world has changed since 9/11. It's been three years since its happening and yet it is getting more and more difficult to bring the world to the United States," Gold-Biss explained.

With the impact of 9/11, international students have not only had to deal with an increase in security, but it has also affected the enrollment process.

Gold-Biss said it is much more difficult for students wanting to study at TAMIU to obtain a visa and stay in status. He explained 'in status' means keeping track of foreign students from the moment they come into the country to the moment they graduate through a government-operated, Web-based system called Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), used for maintaining information on international students and exchange visitors in the United States.

He explained the student visa process has become more difficult and also expensive because more documentation has to be provided. It is a $200 process, which used to be free, and the requirements that students have to meet are much higher.

Gold-Biss said international students in good standing can benefit from scholarship programs and other incentives. For example, in the College of Business Administration, if a student meets a certain grade point average, is signed up for the Master of Business Administration program, and meets the criteria to receive a scholarship, then the student qualifies to pay in-state tuition.

"We try to encourage international students by being helpful as much as possible. We seek to provide guidance, services and information. We try to attract students the best we can, but the reality is that both federal and state funds to attract international students have shrunk dramatically," Gold-Biss stated.

An increase in international student fees has not gone unnoticed. According to Gold-Biss, fees are increasing because costs in higher education have gone up, but state support has not gone up.

"The reason we have to impose fees is not that we want to charge more, it's that if we don't charge the fees, we cannot provide the services," added Gold-Biss.

He said in order to engage the University community in the importance of the international dimension, international relations and culture have to be promoted from within the perspective of the University's international students, faculty, and staff.

"Because many of the problems are international in nature, the international aspect of our University has become more relevant and more important because the more we know about the world, the less scary it is. And the more the world knows about us, the more likely it is to like us," explained Gold-Biss.

The international flavor of the University enhances the classroom experience by providing students with a global perspective. He said it is important to emphasize that this University is a door to the world and also brings the world to Laredo.

"We are always here to build bridges, establish communication, and help people understand each other," Gold-Biss expressed.

For more information about the University's Division of International Programs, please call 326.2265 or visit offices in the Anthony J. and Georgia A. Pellegrino Hall, room 303.

University office hours are 8 a.m. through 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Offices will be closed beginning at noon on Thursday, Dec. 23 until Monday, Jan. 3, 2005. Spring Semester 2005 classes begin Monday, Jan. 10.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu