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UWyo Magazine
University of Wyoming
Dept. 3226
1000 East University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071-2000
Phone: 307-766-2379
TTY: 307-766-6729
Email: uwyomag@uwyo.edu

UWyo Magazine

May 2016 | Vol. 17, No. 3

The 2016 Chinese New Year celebration at UW included cultural performances and cuisine.

The 2016 Chinese New Year celebration at UW included cultural performances and cuisine.

Bring the World to Wyoming

UW provides a global education by welcoming international students, hosting cultural events and much more.

By Micaela Myers

Less than 5 percent of the world’s population lives in the United States. Understanding other cultures and learning new ways of looking at issues benefit University of Wyoming students during school and as they enter the globally competitive job market.

“International exposure challenges status-quo thinking and enables the ability to compare and contrast situations,” says Cameron Nazminia, a UW graduate and current chair of UW’s International Board of Advisors. Nazminia’s work has spanned the world, with engagements with the World Bank Group, Newmont Mining Corp. and most recently as a policy adviser to Gov. Matt Mead.

“It is a big world out there, and we come from a small state, so there is a lot to be learned from other parts of the world,” he says. “On the other side of the coin, we as Wyomingites have a lot to offer as well.”

While approximately 400 UW students study abroad each year, internationalization efforts at home help all students achieve a broader education. One of the main ways UW brings the world to Wyoming is by welcoming more than 800 international graduate and undergraduate students from nearly 90 different countries.

“By having international students on campus, it diversifies the classroom experience,” says Jill Johnson, admissions associate director, who also oversees the International Students and Scholars (ISS) office. “They bring a different world view and perspective to the classes that they’re in. We also host a ton of different events on campus every year, and a lot of our Wyoming students get the opportunity to attend those events.”

International students share their cultures by welcoming all UW students to participate in events such as the Indian Diwali celebration, Chinese New Year, International Education Week, African Awareness Week and Celebrate Nepal.

“Those kinds of events and educational opportunities are really important for our Wyoming students, who may not get the opportunity to travel or study abroad,” Johnson says.

Recognizing the importance of internationalization, Johnson and her team recruit students from all over the world and hope to welcome even more international students to UW in the years to come.

Godwin Nnaji of Aba, Nigeria, a master’s student in kinesiology and health, studies in the Education Annex.

Godwin Nnaji of Aba, Nigeria, a master’s student in kinesiology and health, studies in the Education Annex.

A Global Classroom

“Diversity is the one of the gains of having international students in a school,” says Godwin Nnaji of Aba, Nigeria, a master’s student in kinesiology and health. “When international students share knowledge from their different cultures, this makes learning more interesting. I feel international students spice up the learning process.”

Nnaji wanted to study outside his home country to get a better education. “The United States has always been on my mind because of its high academic standards and quality of education,” he says. “The city of Laramie and the lovely people who live here have made life worthwhile here. UW is a great school, and the members of faculty and staff are so awesome.”

“Having international students from around the world is the best thing to improve the education system,” says civil and architectural engineering doctoral student Mustafa Al-Kamal of Baghdad, Iraq. “It helps to build a good knowledge on how other people think.”

Inspired by his professor in Iraq who studied in the United States, Al-Kamal learned about UW and liked the safe, small-town feel of Laramie, which he says is a good place for his young family, which includes “a cowboy, 18 months old, and a cowgirl, 6 months old.”

“I have a very nice adviser and excellent research,” he says. “I had highly recommended UW to an Iraqi student, and he got accepted and he is now studying here.”

Upon graduation, Al-Kamal will return to Iraq as a professor at Al-Nahrain University.

Sophia Kwende of Cameroon in Central Africa is an undergraduate pursuing her degree in chemistry with hopes of going on to medical school. She also believes that international students enrich UW’s learning environment. “The diversity cultivates patience, tolerance, acceptance for differences between people of different races, religion and beliefs,” she says.

Like Al-Kamal, she left her home country in search of a better education and found that at UW. “The quality of education is extremely good and affordable,” she says. “I assist two professors with research. One of the research projects is with Professor Jason Gigley. The aim of the research is to elucidate molecular mechanisms, which regulate cellular response using the pathogen Toxoplasma gondii. Being a part of this research project enables me to become familiar with complex laboratory equipment. Also, it provides insight on how to carry out experiments and how to work successfully with others.

“The second research project is with (research scientist) Navamoney Arulsamy. This research project focuses on the neurotransmitter nitric oxide and its effects on the brain and potential as a tumor-fighting agent.”

UW’s international students are involved with organizations and work across campus. Vikram Singh hails from Bangalore, India, and is pursuing his undergraduate degree in astronomy. He served as the International Students Association (ISA) representative for the Associated Students of UW and is now ISA events coordinator.

“I’ve worked with the Wyoming African Students Association, MILAAP Indian Student Organization, I was part of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, and I also helped start the Men’s Action Network,” he says. “UW is a really good university with great opportunities for you to excel. Right now I’m applying to the top theoretical physics institutes in the world. Eventually I hope to earn a Ph.D.”

A UW honors student, Singh spent three months studying super massive black holes in the Netherlands and studied at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities for a year through a UW exchange program.

“As a whole, I think I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” he says of his education at UW. “It’s allowed me within my budget to get a top-notch education.”

Undergraduate Virginia Zambrano, a petroleum engineering major from Venezuela, agrees: “It’s just an amazing university, and I’m really happy to be a part of it.

“Having so many international students provides diversity,” she adds. “Everyone gets to see a little part of the world with every international student we have here. I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from all around the world. In my personal experience, it helps you grow and see beyond what you have right in front of your eyes. It’s a really nice opportunity to learn about others.”

Vikram Singh, an undergraduate astronomy student from Bangalore, India, enjoys a starry night outside Laramie.

Vikram Singh, an undergraduate astronomy student from Bangalore, India, enjoys a starry night outside Laramie.

Supporting International Scholars

Whether international students need help with their visas, help with financial aid or just want to connect with other students from their home countries, UW’s International Students and Scholars (ISS) office is there to help.

“The ISS office was the first to welcome me to Wyoming,” Nnaji says, adding that the office staff connected him to other Nigerian students on campus. “They also introduced me to available resources on campus for academics and student life.”

Al-Kamal agrees: “I would like to thank the ISS office for making the transition go fast. It is a different culture here, and when I need help, I go directly to the ISS office, and the help is given.”

“The ISS office was instrumental in getting me here and helping me get scholarships so that I could afford an education,” Singh says. “They’ve been phenomenal. They went above and beyond.”

Singh also credits his adviser, Professor Michael Brotherton, and the UW Honors Program. “Professor Duncan Harris, retired Honors Program director, really helped me transition,” he says. “When I came here, I wanted to get involved with as many things as I could. The program really gave me those opportunities. The classes in the beginning helped me take my Eastern ideas and gel that with the Western world—that amalgamation became much easier because of the Honors Program.”

Zambrano found her college equally welcoming. “The engineering college is really good at making you feel like you’re home and helping you in the whole process,” she says.

All Access Pass

In addition to welcoming international students and cultural events, UW brings the world to Wyoming in countless other ways, including international library and museum holdings, coursework, speakers and visiting scholars.

“We have a senior visiting scholar in global studies funded by the Wyoming Excellence Fund,” says David Messenger, professor and director of the Global and Area Studies Program. “We ask them to design a class around their real-world experience. Right now we have George Varughese, the country representative in Nepal for The Asia Foundation, which is one of the largest nongovernmental organizations in Asia doing development work. He’s talking about practical elements of development based on his experience.

“The visiting scholars also serve as guest speakers in other classes and give public talks around the state,” Messenger says. “Varughese has been to Cody, Powell, Worland and Casper. We take them around the state to introduce these topics.”

Past visiting scholars have included international journalist Elinor Burkett, Ahmed Rhazaoui of the United Nations and former U.S. ambassador to Chad Marc Wall. Visiting scholars also invite other global leaders to Wyoming to share their knowledge.

UW’s internationalization efforts help students gain the skills needed to succeed in today’s interconnected world.

“Today, we live in a global environment, and I think it’s really important for kids who go to the university to be exposed to different ways of thinking and viewing the world,” says International Board of Advisors member Johnnie Burton, whose career highlights include serving in the Wyoming Legislature, as director of the Wyoming Department of Revenue and as director of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service. “The university is essentially opening their minds to all kinds of possibilities.”

English Language Center Director Frederica Suess meets with Maria Bravo of Argentina.

English Language Center Director Frederica Suess meets with Maria Bravo of Argentina.

English Language Center

The new English Language Center at the University of Wyoming offers a full-time Intensive English-as-a-Second-Language Program, as well as short-term English study tours and professional development.

“The English Language Center opened a year ago as part of the UW Outreach School,” says Director Frederica Suess. “It helps meet the needs for international students learning English. It also serves as a recruiting tool to welcome international students here for an immersion program of English and academic skills preparation for college-level work. Incoming students can now do a semester or two of full-time English in order to get up to university-level requirements.”

Almost all major state universities have intensive English programs, Suess says, so the center fills a gap for UW. Several innovative elements set UW’s program apart. The full-time students will be fully integrated into campus, unlike many competitor programs.

“I want my students to feel like they belong on campus,” Suess says.

“Our program is a lot more learner-centered,” she adds. “They leave the program by achieving their TOEFL score, not by taking a set number of classes.

“We really want to be a finishing school for not only English acquisition but also for academic skills acquisition.”

The program is interested in getting students involved in active learning and service projects.

“We also have outreach in tutoring and short-time programs for community members, business people and UW students,” Suess says. For example, the president of a Brazilian university is coming to improve his professional English skills in a personalized two-week program.

“One area of future development is to become an outlet for the professional development of international teachers who teach English as a foreign language in their own countries,” Suess says, adding that interest in improving ESL/EFL infrastructures globally is on the rise.

To learn more, visit uwyo.edu/elc.

International Student Named Top Graduating Man

English Language Center

English Language Center

Office of International Students and Scholars

Office of International Students and Scholars

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UWyo Magazine
University of Wyoming
Dept. 3226
1000 East University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071-2000
Phone: 307-766-2379
TTY: 307-766-6729
Email: uwyomag@uwyo.edu

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