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University student retention and the international student : engaging universities in student success… Verkerk, Kathryn 2016

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   UNIVERSITY STUDENT RETENTION &  THE INTERNATIONAL STUDENT Engaging universities in student success programming Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		1		Introduction The Government of Canada has prioritized international students1 as an important avenue for immigration; as such, the government plans to double the number of international students entering Canada by 2022 (Government of Canada, 2010).  Likewise, the Province of British Columbia, in support of this initiative, would like 50% of Canada’s international students to be studying at an institution within the province (British Columbia Ministry of Higher Education, 2012).  As a result, British Columbia’s universities, such as the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), are pushing to increase their enrollment of international students by 2020.  Although the enrollment of international students is on the rise, many universities have not differentiated their academic and social services in support of the unique needs of international students in academic difficulty.  As institutions invest more resources in recruiting increasing numbers of international students, “it is in their best interest to retain these students and gain the full educational, cultural, and economical benefits of an internationally diverse student body” (Mamiseishvili, 2012, p. 2).  Student retention is much more cost effective than recruiting new students; therefore, universities should focus equal attention on retention, rather than limiting their scope to recruitment and admission.    This paper will explore the support services available to international students, specifically those in academic difficulty, with an analysis of student success programs. Through a detailed literature review, I will evaluate how universities support their international student population and the types of student success programs that exist for those in academic difficulty (i.e. on academic probation and/or required to withdraw).  I will conclude by tracing the history of SFU’s 																																								 																				1 International student(s) refer to undergraduate international students who cross a border to study at a post-secondary institution in Canada. Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		2		Back on Track program and suggest an institutional framework, which is informed by the literature on international student retention. Student Retention   The field of student retention developed in response to the changing needs of 20th century universities.  Historically, North American universities focused on the enrollment and education of white, upper class men.  With the onset of the industrial revolution, it was necessary to expand university enrollment to include men from different classes, women, and minority groups (Berger, Blanco Ramirez, & Lyon, 2012).  With the conclusion of two world wars and social movements, which affected enrollment, universities focused not only on attracting students, but also on retaining them through to graduation (Berger et al., 2012).  Student retention, as a field, was not explored theoretically until the 1970s (Albert, 2010; Berger, Blanco Ramirez, & Lyon, 2005).  The 1970s saw a “greater effort to systematically identify causes of and solutions to the challenge of retention” (Berger, Blanco Ramirez, & Lyon, 2005, p. 22).  There were many studies at this time (Kamens, 1971; Spady, 1970; Tinto, 1975) that constructed a base to inform retention concerns and issues throughout the rest of the 20th century.  Spady (1970) focused on the democratization of education and attributed attrition from university to background experiences, academic preparation, and a student’s goal and value systems.  Spady introduced a sociological model of dropout from higher education stating “interpersonal relationships facilitate greater integration of the student into the social system of the college (Spady, 1971, p. 77).  Spady’s model focused on preventing the dropout of students from higher education by ensuring students integrated into the academic and social system of the Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		3		institution.  Vincent Tinto (1975) built upon this work and has become one of the crucial theorists on student retention in the 20th and 21st centuries.   Tinto (1975) argued that in order to persist at a university, students must successfully integrate into the academic and social systems of the institution. If unable to connect both socially and academically with the university, students are at a higher risk of dropping out.  Tinto accounted for prior levels of goal development and institutional commitment, “it is the person’s normative and structural integration into the academic and social systems that lean to new levels of commitment.” (p. 96).  He evaluated such factors as family background, prior schooling, and individual attributes that hinder a student’s ability to commit to goals. Each of these factors, according to Tinto’s Schema for Dropout from College, influence how a student integrates into the academic and social systems, thus resulting in their likelihood of persisting or dropping out. Though Tinto’s interactionalist model was the first foray into evaluating the academic and social sphere's impact on student retention, his early work overlooks systemic institutional factors. Systemic bias and discrimination affect many students’ abilities to be successful in higher education and, as will be discussed with international students, can adversely impact their retention, especially in student success programs. The International Student and Retention  Retention efforts come in several varieties but are popularly known as “student success” programs.  There is abundant literature on the effect of mandatory (Arcand & LeBlanc, 2012; Symes, Tart, Travis, & Toombs; Yang, Yon, & Kim, 2013) and optional (Garnett, 1990; Humphrey, 2006; Office of Institutional Research, 2013) programming for students in academic difficulty (i.e. on academic probation and/or required to withdraw).  Student success programs were created to support students in developing the academic and social skills necessary to thrive Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		4		at a university in a community-centered environment (Browne, Speed, & Walker, 2015).  Unfortunately, many of these programs were designed to support both domestic and international students, and treat international students as a homogeneous group.  The challenges international students grapple with while on university campuses include legal, financial, cultural, academic, psychological, and mental concerns (Akanwa, 2015; Andrade, 2006; Godwin, 2009; Mori, 2000; Olivas & Li, 2006; Rajapaksa & Dindes, 2003; Sandhu, 1994; Yang, Yon, & Kim, 2013).  Unless higher education institutions can tackle such issues, international students will fail to learn and contribute to the learning process, significantly impacting the institution’s ability to recruit new students and retain the current students already enrolled.   Post-secondary institutions must develop programs to assist international students with adjustment and support those who encounter challenges.  Students coming to Canada often have issues adjusting to the new culture, both within and outside of the university itself (Fritz, Chin, & DeMarinis, 2008).  Some international students may be unaccustomed to the informal nature of seminars, tutorials, and faculty office hours and, as discussed by Godwin (2009), “the impact of these different approaches to teaching and learning may diminish individual engagement and academic success” (p. 30).  Developing opportunities to equip international learners with information on how to be successful in the North American context could enhance the international students’ academic self-concepts (Myburgh, Niehaus, & Poggenpoel, 2002).  Creating a seminar at first-year orientation about the independent, unstructured learning approach in North America, for example, could aid a student’s understanding of the North American culture and how they fit within it.  Drawing from Vincent Tinto’s work, Mamiseishvili (2012) evaluated the success of international students in the United States by analysing a longitudinal data set of persistence rates Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		5		from year one to two.  According to Mamiseishvili (2012), understanding persistence rates for this population of students “will help higher education institutions to more effectively retain and serve these students” (p. 2).  The author argued that universities mistakenly assume international students coming to the United States are academically prepared, which includes strong English competency, based on high admission averages.  Furthermore, no matter how academically prepared international students are when they study at US institutions, they face difficulties transitioning to the American culture and society.  Therefore, while international students might integrate easily into the academic system of the university, they experience challenges in their integration into the social sphere.  Mamiseishvili (2102) also examined the characteristics of first-year international students and the positive factors influencing persistence rates.  The results indicated, “GPA, degree goals, and academic integrations had significant positive effects on persistence of undergraduate international students” (p. 12).  In other words, students who actively engaged in their academic performance in first-year tended to successfully persist to second-year.  These conclusions are important in considering which services should exist to support the successful academic and social integration of international students at universities.    Studies show that international students need stronger social support at university, including more interaction with local students (Olivas & Li, 2006; Rajapaksa & Dindes, 2003).  Opportunities that benefit both local and international students could be mentorship programs, which connect the two groups.  Rajapaksa and Dindes (2003) surveyed 183 international students from 12 colleges on the East coast of the United States, focusing on the psychological adjustment and sociocultural adaptation of the students.  The article addressed the importance of friendships and social networks and how “understanding their correlation with acculturation might help guide programs aimed at improving the adjustment of international students and efforts to improve Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		6		retention of this segment of college students” (p. 16).  In addition, a sizeable minority of polled students felt disconnected to the institution, an issue identified in Tinto’s earlier work.  As society leans towards improving diversity and multicultural competency, the importance of domestic and international students developing strong social connections cannot be underestimated (Akanwa, 2015).  The development of social connections is especially important for female international students; studies (Misra, Crist, & Burant, 2003; Rajapaksa & Dindes, 2003) have found that female and male students experience differences adjusting to North American university life.  For instance, female students are more likely to feel homesick, lonely, and less satisfied with their social network (Rajapaksa & Dindes, 2003).  In addition, females report higher emotional, physiological, and behavioural reactions to stressors compared to their male counterparts (Misra, Crist, & Burant, 2003).  On the other hand, Misra, Crist, and Burant (2003) counter their findings by stating these differences could be attributed to the socialization of males (i.e. underreporting their reactions to stressors in order to perpetuate masculinity).  That being said, it is important to understand the significance of developing social networks amongst women.  Rajapaksa & Dindes (2003) note it is not that female international students need a high number of friends, rather it is more important to understand the nature of friendships and how those impact social adjustment at universities.  To support such development and understanding, universities could create orientation programs or support networks, like mentorship programs, which facilitate the social integration of female international students within the university.  The superficial tendencies of North American culture can pose challenges for the development of significant relationships between international and domestic students.  For example, “‘Come on over sometime,’ ‘Let’s get together soon’ and ‘I’ll call you’ – are interpreted Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		7		by international students as positive signs of sincere interest” (Mori 2000, p. 138).  It can be very disappointing when students begin to understand that these are casual expressions in North American culture.  As a result, some international students rely on the shared connections within their own national groups at the expense of making friendships with other students.  It is important, however, for domestic and international students to develop friendly relations with one another.  Akanwa (2015) argued, “domestic students need to develop multicultural skills and diversity awareness…while international students could learn language, cultural, and communication skills from domestic students” (p. 280).  It is up to the institution to facilitate this development and support the beneficial relationship between these groups of students.     Many international students experience psychological stress through the acculturative process.  One method to support this tension is by developing stress management techniques through counselling services.  Mori (2000) suggests methods which include “breathing techniques, imagery, and meditation” and “to remind students of the importance of…physical self-care, physical exercise, and healthy eating habits” (p. 142).   Mandatory psychological interventions (i.e. multiple counselling sessions) for low achieving, Korean students was found to positively impact the student success of those who engaged fully in their sessions (Yang, Yon, & Kim, 2013).  Although students needed to participate in at least five sessions in order to develop a strong connection with their counsellor and address the underlying issues impacting their academic struggles (p. 554).  Therefore, it can be surmised that counselling services support students in academic difficulty with developing a stronger sense of overall well-being.  Legal and financial challenges are some of the biggest obstacles international students have to overcome.  Students are aware they require student visas to study in the country, but are not always aware of the intricacies of the Citizen and Immigration Canada requirements.  For Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		8		example, international students are only eligible to work in Canada if they are enrolled in full time studies.  If a student is working on-campus and changes their status from full to part time, they “must stop working on-campus the day [they] no longer meet the eligibility requirements” (The Government of Canada, 2016).  This can be challenging for a student who may need to reduce their course load because they cannot afford the cost of a full load. Financial challenges international students experience can vary from being unaware of the support services available to seeking illegal employment to support their living and education expenses (Akanwa, 2015; Shen, 2005).  It is important that international students are informed of the various services on campus to support them overall, but also for their unique financial and legal issues.   When dealing with some or all of these issues (i.e. legal, financial, cultural, academic, psychological, and mental), international students can find themselves in great academic difficulty, even risking expulsion from their university.  There exist programs to support these students, all of which support students in different ways. Supporting Student Learning & Development  Supporting international student retention and success is vital as enrollment numbers continue to increase.  Based on the unique challenges these students face, research suggests that students are more successful in their studies through the participation in learning communities, engaging in peer-to-peer mentorship, and discipline specific skill development (Anderson, 2015; Baik & Greig, 2009; Crisp & Taggart, 2013; Price, 2005; Tinto, 2005).    In 2005, Tinto turned his attention towards implementing a plan for institutions to move beyond theory.  Post-secondary institutions cannot control the external factors impacting a student’s decision to leave, however “institutions can control the environment in which students Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		9		succeed” (p. 254).  Tinto argues there are specific conditions in order for students to achieve success:   “Students are more likely to succeed when they find themselves in settings that are  committed to their success; hold high expectations for their success; provide needed  academic, social, and financial support; provide frequent feedback; and actively involve  students with other students and faculty, especially in learning.” (p. 260) To address these conditions, Tinto recommends the formation of learning communities to enhance the social and academic integration of students.  Research findings indicate that learning communities are “positively related to student retention, grades, course completion rates, social and academic integration, and/or faculty/student perceptions” (Crisp and Taggart, 2013, p. 122).  Some research stated (Elam, Stratton, & Gibson, 2007; Lowery, 2004; Pardue & Morgan, 2008) the current generation of millennial students are team-oriented individuals who prefer active and engaging activities, such as group work, rather than learning by lecture or the teacher-centered approaches that universities favour.  Therefore, it could be argued, learning communities may be a good fit for this generation of international and domestic students in academic difficulty.    Learning communities, as described by Tinto (2005), require students to enroll in multiple courses together in order to make connections beyond the classroom.  The benefits of these communities for students are immense: students develop supportive peer networks, spend time with supportive peer groups, and become involved in a “range of learning activities, learn more, and persist more frequently than do students in more traditional learning settings” (p. 262).  Furthermore, Crisp & Taggart (2013) specified that learning communities “provide students with opportunities to become socially and academically integrated into the college environment, Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		10		connect with faculty and staff, and/or overcome potential lack of cultural capital or academic preparedness” (p. 115).  If executed well, learning communities could provide international students with the opportunity to develop connections with peers, both domestic and international, and faculty members in order to support their academic success at the university.   The learning communities’ model of “academic and social interaction represents an ideal structure to increase students’ connection with the college in general— and with the learning process specifically” (Price, 2005, p. 6). Common learning community models include paired or clustered courses, cohorts of students enrolled together in large courses, team-taught programs, and residence-based programs (Price, 2005).  An example of a learning community in practice is the Arts One Program at UBC, established in 1967.  Although the program is first-year and targeted to high achieving, humanities focused students, the program’s foundation recognizes “the value of small cohort learning and an integrated, inter-disciplinary curriculum” (The University of British Columbia, 2016).  Students take their core courses together and have a dedicated study/work space in the library with unlimited access to their instructors and one another. Arts One is a shining example of placing students with common academic interests together in an effort to promote learning, collaboration, and engagement with peers and the institution.    As discussed earlier, some international students experience potential language proficiency gaps.  Anderson’s (2015) research discussed “how stakeholders can and should work together to ensure foreign students are provided better opportunities to succeed and socialize within their local communities and discourse practices” (p. 178).  By clearly establishing the requirements of the Canadian academic expectations and shifting from the “Anglocentric and Eurocentric academic norms and practices that can serve as barriers for some foreign students” (p. 178), institutions can address the unique challenges of the international student.  For example, some Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		11		international students find it difficult to keep up with readings, assignments, and class discussions.  In order to address this, institutions could develop faculty specific peer-mentorship programs.  International students whose first language is not English express concern about their proficiency and preparedness for their studies (Baik & Greig, 2009).   Likewise, instructors often “fail to recognize the complexity of language issues confronting foreign students, particularly those associated with writing” (Andrade, 2006, p. 138).  One way to mitigate this issue is to support students in developing discipline-specific language and academic skills “based on the course content and focused on tasks specific to the discipline” (Baik & Greig, 2009, p. 414).  Many institutions have writing centres and support courses, but miss the target by providing general writing support (Anderson, 2015, p. 180).  For instance, at SFU there are support courses in the library’s Student Learning Commons available called, “Writing a Term Paper? Start Planning Now!” (Simon Fraser University, 2016).  Though well intentioned, this course aims to engage students in the writing process on very general terms.  From Actuarial Science to World Literature, most disciplines at SFU have required writing courses with inevitable term papers; it is short-sited to expect that a general term paper discussion is one size fits all.  As Fletcher and Stern (1989) stated, “more attention to the ‘fit’ of English instruction to the technical language and requirements of the specialized field may be required” (p. 307).    Institutions are typically quite knowledgeable about which courses are the most challenging for their students.  SFU, for example, has coded their writing (W) and quantitative (Q) 2 courses in such a way that students must meet a minimum requirement in order to enroll in those courses 																																								 																				2 Quantitative/Analytic (or ‘Q’) courses have either quantitative (numerical, geometric) or formal (deductive, probabilistic) reasoning as part of its primary subject matter, or make substantial use of such reasoning in practical problem solving, critical evaluation, or analysis. (SFU, 2016) Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		12		(SFU, 2016).  If students do not meet the minimum, they must enroll in remedial courses, called Foundation Courses, attain a minimum grade, and are then eligible for the required W and Q courses.  In some cases, students do not meet the minimum requirement in the Foundations Course and are still unable to take these mandatory courses.  The W Foundation Course, “Foundations of Academic Literacy,” can be particularly difficult for students who are new to the English language.   To support students in courses that are known to be difficult, institutions could develop peer-facilitated success programs targeted at specific courses. Crisp and Taggart (2013) noted, “supplemental instruction identifies ‘high-risk classes’ (e.g., chemistry, calculus) rather than ‘high-risk students’ and is open to all students in the targeted class” (p. 117).  Peer-mentorship would differ from a learning community because it is supplemental to the course and would work best with a senior level student who has already successfully completed the course.  Furthermore, peer-to-peer learning is beneficial to both domestic and international students as it supports the development of peer relationships and provides an opportunity to connect with their learning at a deeper level.  SFU has worked hard to develop meaningful student success programming over the past 10 years.  For instance, the workshops offered by the library and the Back on Track Program for students who have been required to withdraw, but there is room to incorporate more specific content in support of student retention and success. The next section discusses SFU’s Back on Track (BOT) program and provides recommendations on how to support the unique needs of international students who participate in the program.  	  Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		13		SFU’s Back on Track Program  North American institutes of higher education each have student success programs in one form or another; the majority of programs reviewed by the academic literature focus on the success of first-year students (Crisp & Taggart, 2013; Mason, 2010; Yorke & Longden, 2004) and those on academic probation (Humphrey, 2006; Miller & Sonner, 1996; Tovar & Simon 2007; Yang, Yon, & Kim, 2013).  There is a gap, however, on retention initiatives in support of students who have been required withdraw from their institution, especially in the Canadian context.   SFU’s Back on Track program began in 2007 with a question posed in a staff meeting: Why do we require students to attend another institution when they are not academically successful at SFU?  If a student achieves a cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of 2.00 or lower for two semesters in a row, their academic standing changes to “required to withdraw” (RTW).  At that point they are asked to leave the university to fulfill a set of readmission requirements at another post-secondary institution in order to re-enrol.  The question in our staff meeting was a simple one that unearthed many issues.  Is SFU not responsible for supporting the success of these students? Why should another post-secondary institution be responsible for supporting SFU students if we know what they need in order to be successful?  And finally, the question which resonated most with the institution: why is SFU sending valuable tuition dollars to another institution?  Almost 10 years later, the Back on Track program, which began as a pilot initiative in the summer of 2007 for international and Applied Science students, is self-funded and available to all RTW students.  The program consists of a manager, seven academic advisors, and two support staff.  The program also funds other units to support the program with educators and facilitators, specifically from the Student Learning Commons, Health and Counselling, and Career Services.  Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		14		In any given term there are between 700 and 800 students participating in the program, 20% to 25% of which are international (Birnie, 2015).   Students enroll in BOT for a full, academic year, or the equivalent of three semesters (see Figure 1). The Program uses a combination of individual consultations, group meetings, in-person activities, and online learning opportunities which promote self-regulation, reflective practice and transformative learning (Back on Track (BOT) Program, 2016).  Students enroll in BOT specific courses for at least two terms (BOT 110, 120) and three terms (BOT140, 145) only if their standing does not change to Good Academic Standing (i.e. both term and CGPA <2.00).  The program does not differentiate students by CGPA or study permit status; each student enrolls in the BOT courses that fit with their course schedule, or as recommended by their dedicated academic advisor. Figure 1: Back on Track Program (2016) Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		15		 Within BOT, approximately 25% of the students enrolled are international and their completion rate is the same as domestic students (Birnie, 2015).  Specifically, 26% of enrolled domestic students and 26% of international students are required to withdraw from SFU at the end of the program because their CGPA has not met the university minimum of 2.00.  While this means three in four international students successfully complete the program, SFU can do more to support the 25% of students who do not improve their academic standing and are subsequently RTW for a second time.  The structure of the BOT program does not differentiate between international and domestic students; courses detailed in Figure 1 are required for each to take.  BOT students are required to meet with their dedicated academic advisor in each term, the first term being the most significant.  In a student’s first term, they must review and sign a contract indicating their commitment to the program.  At this time, the Advisor may recommend a student enroll in an additional English support course, Foundations of Academic Literacy, if it is clear English is a challenge for them and, potentially, contributed to their RTW academic standing.  In the first term of the program, students do not enroll in academic courses but participate in non-academic workshops.  One workshop, or reception, is geared specifically to international students, though domestic students are invited to attend.  The students have the opportunity to connect with other international students and discuss their experiences at SFU.  This reception provides students with a chance to connect with other international students in academic difficulty to support their development of a sense of community.  This international student reception occurs only in term one and does not happen again throughout the BOT program. Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		16		 The workshops (BOT 110, 120, 140 & 145) identified in Figure 1 guide students in developing their “personal, academic and career goals and achieve greater success in their studies” (Back on Track, 2016). Each week subject experts from Health and Counselling, Career Services, Academic Advising, and the Student Learning Commons present on different topics.  The idea is that students will build a toolbox they can access outside of the program to help them cope with the various issues impacting their academics.  Within the workshops, students form success teams with others in the class, but because students select the BOT workshop that fits with their timetable, these teams are comprised of whoever happens to be enrolled in that section. Recommendations   Canada attracts thousands of international students to universities across the country.  By 2022, the federal and provincial government intends to double the enrollment of international students, with 50% of those students studying at institutions in British Columbia.  According to Canada Starts Here: The BC Jobs Plan, students studying in British Columbia spend $2.3 billion on tuition, accommodation and other living expenses, arts and culture, and recreation. This supported almost 25, 500 jobs and created a positive economic effect on communities throughout the province.  It is without refute that international education makes a significant contribution to the Canadian and British Columbia economy.  While there has been national- and provincial-level interest in and recognition of the importance of international students to Canada, student retention policies and practices play out differently across the country.  There is room for considerable improvement of the services and programs for international students.  The literature “suggests policies, services and programs to meet this population’s unique needs and to assist in their academic success” (Ren & Hagedorn, Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		17		2012, p. 135), and the following recommendations are to support international students participating in SFU’s Back on Track program. Recommendation 1: Create a BOT Learning Community   There are key ways in which a BOT Learning Community can be developed, both within the program itself and the faculties.  Tinto (2005) recommended that to develop this community, students must enroll in at least two courses together.  In addition, the curriculum must be integrated and interdisciplinary with a high level of participation and collaboration by faculty and students.  Finally, the environment must be supportive and engaging so students establish strong academic and social support networks (Crisp & Taggart, 2013).   As administrators and faculty learn about the cultural differences amongst international students, it will inform how they teach and mentor students (Akanwa, 2015, p. 281), which supports the development of learning communities.  Developing the BOT Learning Community will take the collaboration of the BOT program, faculties, including professors and department advisors.  In term two and three of the BOT program, a student’s academic advisor approves their intended course list; this information could be collected in order to develop the learning community.  The faculties could be informed how many BOT students are in each of their courses so adjustments can be made.  For example, each BOT student would receive consistent, timely feedback on their progress (rather than waiting until after midterm exams), attend a supplemental tutorial to review the weekly material in greater detail with a peer-mentor (for particularly challenging courses like Math and English), and enroll in a BOT workshop with peers from their faculty/program.   This model allows students to engage with their learning on a deeper level and connect with peers across the university. Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		18		Recommendation 2: Create professional development opportunities for faculty and administrators  Faculty and administrators may assume assessment systems, learning methods, and teaching approaches are universal, yet there are significant variations from nation to nation.  These assumptions cause substantial problems where “students do not understand the local rules of the game and staff make assumptions about student ability and achievement potential based on a variety of misconceptions which are culturally located” (Jones & Brown, 2007, p. 3).  In order to support the international student learner and develop successful academic and social environments, faculty and administrators must learn to effectively teach, mentor, and assess this student population.  Student Services, in consultation with content experts like Academic Advising, International Services for Students, and Health and Counselling could facilitate workshops to equip faculty members and staff with the skills to support international students.  Initiatives could include: developing an understanding of how to prepare students before classes begin (i.e. first-year orientation programming, course expectations, and/or availability of additional resources, etc.); recommending how to support international student learning within the classroom; or training on cultural sensitivity, including the stressors of acculturation. Recommendation 3: Develop discipline specific workshops and courses  BOT students indicate that “their academic success or lack thereof [is] highly connected to their sense of belonging and connection to others” (Popadiuk, 2015).  The BOT sessions provide an opportunity for students to connect with other RTW students and learn more about themselves as a student.  For instance, they set goals, examine their learning style, and develop a stronger sense of wellbeing; they do not, however, delve deeply into discipline specific content.  Requiring students to enroll in a BOT session that is specifically tailored to their faculty will allow course and faculty advisors to present on the academic skills needed to be successful within that Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		19		discipline and help students engage more with their learning.  With the enrollment information collected by the academic advisors, students will be told which section of BOT to enroll in based on their specific faculty and/or courses.  This ensures that students will have at least two courses together – BOT and an academic class.  Furthermore, the Student Learning Commons, in conjunction with the faculties, could consider developing discipline-specific content both in their writing centre and with the workshops they offer (Anderson, 2015; Baik & Greig, 2009; Fletcher & Stren, 1989).    Recommendation 4: Train BOT Advisors on identifying high-risk students  Students are required to meet with their academic advisor once a term, called a “Check-In Appointment” and are introduced to the support services offered by Health and Counselling throughout the BOT program.  Many international students on academic probation experience psychological shock because they have never experienced academic failure prior to college and are reluctant to access counselling services (Shen, 2005; Yang, Yon, & Kim, 2013).  Equipping BOT Advisors with the ability to identify high-risk students and subsequently require those students to seek counselling services supports the social integration of international students at the university.  In order to facilitate this, it is ideal that BOT Advisors have the ability to book the students with a counsellor during the Check-In Appointment rather than referring them to Health and Counselling services, especially if they are resistant to seeking counselling services.  In addition, Health and Counselling can develop and facilitate regular training on how BOT Advisors can identify high-risk students and best support them.    Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		20		Recommendation 5: Develop a stronger partnership with SFU International Services for Students  International Services for Students offers workshops throughout the year supporting international students’ social development and offers a voluntary, peer-mentorship program (Simon Fraser University, 2016).  Because the peer-to-peer connection is vitally important, international student peer mentors could facilitate BOT workshops in order to connect directly with international students.  Breaking away from the domestic students for one or two sessions per term would give international students an opportunity to connect with one another and address their specific questions and concerns.  An international student services advisor could also attend, in order to address legal questions a peer advisor is unable to.  The international student reception is held in term one for the newest intake of students.  In order to provide support for the new intake of students, all international students in the BOT program should be invited to attend every term.  This would provide current BOT students the opportunity to connect with the students they met at their term one reception, but also for current and new BOT students to connect.  Much of the information might be focused on new students, but the reception can serve as a socialising opportunity for current BOT students. Conclusion  International students are important to the lifeblood of a university as they are a source of revenue in the face of provincial cuts.  These students also feature prominently in the Government of Canada’s immigration policies for the next six years.  For these reasons, the enrollment of international students will not be slowing down anytime soon.  Post-secondary institutions tend to focus on the recruitment of international students at the expense of retention initiatives.  Due to the unique challenges facing international students, such as mental health, legal, financial, and Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		21		acculturation, it is vital for universities to provide strategic programming and services in support of their unique needs.  This can involve the development of learning communities, discipline specific courses and workshops, and more intentional involvement of Student Services, the faculties, and professors.    SFU’s BOT program provides students with an opportunity to remain at the university after being required to withdraw.  The program is enormously successful in retaining students and supporting their success, but could develop targeted programming for its international student participants.  Like all universities, funds are tight and BOT must be fiscally responsible; there are very likely limited funds available to significantly revamp their program.  Be that as it may, in tweaking existing programming and utilizing low cost solutions the aforementioned recommendations could be viable.    International students should not be homogenized into one, general category; evaluating factors such as gender, program/faculty, and home country are important to incorporate into any plan to support the academic and social success of international students.  Nonetheless, it is daunting to tailor retention initiatives for each unique student who crosses a border to study in Canada.  Additionally, acknowledging the shortcomings of programming which focus on Eurocentric approaches to learning is vital, as a learner’s needs and background must always be considered.  Further research needs to be conducted into early alert programs and how they support students who exhibit warning signs of academic difficulty.  Integration into the academic and social spheres of the university is not easy for every student, especially international students; however, it is the responsibility of the institution that recruited them to provide as many supports and services as possible. Kathryn Verkerk EDST 590: Graduating Paper, Spring 2016 		22		References Akanwa, E.E. (2015). International students in western developed countries: History, challenges,  and prospects.  Journal of International Students, 5(3), 271-284. Albert, S. (2010).  Student Retention: A Moving Target. Toronto, ON, CAN: Council of Ontario  Universities, 2010.  Anderson, T. (2015). Seeking internationalization: The state of Canadian higher education.   Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 45(4), 166-187. Andrade, M.S. (2006). International student in English-speaking universities. Journal of  Research in International Education, 5(2), 131-154. Arcand, I. & LeBlanc, R.N. (2012).  “When you Fail, You Feel Like a Failure”: One Student’s  Experience of Academic Probation and an Academic Support Program.  Alberta Journal  of  Educational Research, 58 (2), 216-232. Baik, C. & Greig, J. (2009). Improving the academic outcomes of undergraduate ESL students:  The case for discipline-based academic skills programs. Higher Education Research &  Development, 28(4), 401-416, Berger, J. B., Blanco Ramirez, G., & Lyon, S. C. (2012). Past to present: A historical look at  retention. In A. Seidman (Ed.), College student retention: Formula for student success  (pp. 7-31). Westport, CT: American Council on Education and Praeger Publishers. Back on Track (BOT) Program (n.d.). 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