Simmons looks to grow international student body despite pandemic challenges


Olivia Ray, Arts & Entertainment Editor

International students, many of whom completed their first year of college completely online, were welcomed back to campus this fall as federal travel restrictions loosen. The Simmons University Office of Admissions reports growing numbers of international students, despite pandemic restrictions. 

Nardos Alemu, a sophomore Computer Science major from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is one such student. While Alemu’s classmates in New England logged into their 7 p.m. classes, the local Ethiopian time was 2 a.m. Alemu attended anyway.

On her first day on campus, Alemu ran into Kate Innes, the director of admissions at Simmons, and someone Alemu had worked closely with throughout her application process. 

“She looked at me and said ‘Are you Kate?’ [I said] ‘Oh my god, you’re Nardos!’ I was so thrilled to see her.” said Innes. “It is truly such a joy to see our students in person, especially our students from so far away.”

Alemu’s story showcases the effort Simmons is making to expand international enrollment. This work comes from Innes’ office and deals with both the admissions process for individual students and for the Simmons student body as a whole. 

Despite pandemic concerns, Innes said the admissions office has not experienced a significant change in the enrollment of non-US citizens. “International recruitment is something we’ve definitely been growing over the last few years,” noted Innes, when asked about current data trends.

To ensure continued growth, the admission office has partnered with Kaplan International, a company that employs admissions officials to broaden Simmons’ reach and promote the university. 

While international enrollment has grown with the help of Kaplan International, it has not grown as much as Simmons had hoped due to COVID-19 complications, according to Innes. 

“We’re looking forward to the next several years to really see that growth happen,” said Innes.

Perhaps the most compelling strategy to support international enrollment is the one-on-one work Simmons does with the candidate themselves. In addition to working closely with Innes, Alemu utilized the Simmons University Center of Global Education (CGE) ––  a crucial resource for those who are applying to come to the United States under F-1 visas.

The CGE aims to ensure that all international students are in compliance with federal agencies, as well as providing them with resources to help secure work and internship authorization benefits, said Kijowska. 

The F-1 student visas necessary for non-citizens are becoming increasingly more difficult to obtain, according to Kijowska.“I have seen an increase of requests of students hopeful to somehow navigate this bureaucracy and be able to secure, by some miracle, a visa appointment,” said Kijowska. 

This is especially true for students who come from countries that have travel restrictions from the United States. 

International students continue their involvement with CGE upon their arrival to campus, said Jamie Lee, CGE intern and junior from Singapore. 

According to Lee, the office offers a series of workshops, including Optional Practical Training (OTP) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT) programs. CGE has plans to expand these workshops, including the potential implementation of an immigration lawyer, said Kijowska. 

The combination of visa support and free workshops make CGE a central part of the international student experience at Simmons. 

“They’re so on top of things,” said Lee. “Maybe I’m biased because I work there right now, but I’ve seen their system and it’s very admirable.” 

Alemu seconded Lee’s observation, saying, “They always got back to me quickly. Sometimes I had to ask dumb questions, but they always answered.” 

This human interaction provided by CGE and the admissions office, coupled with Simmons’ focus on a balance of academics and activities made the difference for Alemu.

 “Those are the things that I value,” said Alemu. “This is the perfect place for that.”