International program at UW-L wins national award

2009-12-12T00:15:00Z International program at UW-L wins national awardBy KJ LANG | La Crosse Tribune
December 12, 2009 12:15 am  • 

MADISON - Anyone who has seen the mass of international students marching in the Oktoberfest parade can surmise the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse International Education program is doing well.

Now there's proof.

UW-L was awarded the 2009 U.S. Department of Commerce Export Award for its international student recruiting and programs during the UW System Board of Regents meeting Friday in Madison.

International students qualify for the "export" award because they bring foreign dollars to the U.S., said Koreen Grube, international trade specialist with the department.

UW-L international student enrollment has increased by more than 300 students since 2002, numbering 437 students from 45 countries this fall. UW-L aims to reach 667 by 2012.

Jay Lokken, director of UW-L's international education program, attributes the increase, in part, to stepped-up recruitment. Recruiters - two part time and one full time - meet with current and potential students, parents of students and UW-L alumni worldwide.

"It seems like a simple strategic plan, but few schools do it," said Lokken.

Ryan Hemmesch became a part-time recruiter based in China about four years ago, when UW-L had about 10 students from Chinese-speaking countries. Now they have 180 - the largest international group on campus - and Hemmesch works full time.

It helped that China has weathered the economic slump well, said Hemmesch, and many Chinese view America's college education system as the best in the world.

UW-L's consistently high U.S. News and World Report ranking, excellent faculty and academic offerings, a top-notch English as a Second Language program, community organizations such as La Crosse Friends of International Students and the city's scenic setting all attract students, said Lokken.

International students also financially help support UW-L by paying about three times what an in-state student pays for tuition, he said.

UW Regent Brent Smith sees a need for more international students throughout the UW System.

"(International students) bring the world to our classes and our community," Lokken said.

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