To support international students, schools focus on fostering ‘university identity’

A new article in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education shows how international students may face prejudice from domestic students on American college campuses and suggests several ways universities can create a more inclusive environment. Wendy Quinton, a clinical associate professor in the psychology department at the University at Buffalo, authored the paper after surveying 389 college students, all of whom self-identified as being born and raised in the United States.

As covered by, the analysis explored how various factors predict negative attitudes toward international students. Support for Donald Trump, loose identification with the university community, and lower levels of interaction between international and domestic students all emerged as predictors of prejudice.

Potential for university administrators to decrease divisions

Quinton highlights university identity—students’ sense of belonging to a cohesive campus community—as a key predictor of prejudice that’s within administrators’ control. “If you increase university identity and make everyone feel like they belong to one group then the division between domestic and international students should become smaller,” Quinton says.

Socialization is another crucial way to make progress, especially among students predisposed to prejudice, Quinton says. She calls for “high-quality” interactions between domestic and international students, such as studying together or participating in group activities—“the kinds of close contact that can build friendships.”

Giving international students a warm welcome

Voice of America, meanwhile, looks at how some schools are onboarding international students through special orientations that include social activities on campus like barbeques and pizza parties.

Rice University, which hosts a week-long international student orientation week, has 1,676 international students this academic year, accounting for about 24 percent of its student population. Students attend orientation to learn about visas, health insurance, transportation systems, and more, while also meeting people from many cultures.

Noting that he initially felt trepidation about attending college in Texas, Santiago Lopez Alvarez, a Fulbright scholar from Colombia attending Rice University, told Voice of America that he has been pleased to find “that stereotypes and prejudice are always overturned when you get there.” “They do want international students, and American students want to get in touch with you and meet you, and that’s really cool.”

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