International Office implements new tool to gain student feedback

Amy Whyte, Reporter

The University launched a survey tool Oct. 15 designed to measure international students’ opinions of their experiences at Northwestern.

NU is one of the first American schools to implement the International Student Barometer. Ravi Shankar, director of the International Office, estimated only about 50 to 60 universities in the United States are using the program, developed by i-graduate, a U.K.-based company that recently expanded its market to North America.

“For the first time, we’re trying to gauge the international student experience at Northwestern,” Shankar said. “We really don’t know what our students are thinking, how they feel, so we wanted to get a comprehensive and holistic picture of their experience.”

Juliette Lim, an international student, said she thinks the program is a “good idea.”

“I think it’s good that they’re getting a different perspective so they can improve services for international students,” the Communication sophomore said.

The survey, which is being taken by international students across all Northwestern schools, both graduate and undergraduate, includes questions about everything from the admissions process to residential housing to services provided by the International Office.

“It’s designed to measure the entire breadth of experience of the international student from the time that they apply for admission to the time that they get here, and also measures their satisfaction in terms of their academic experience,” Shankar said. “It’s the entire length and breadth of an international student’s stay at Northwestern.”

The International Office began advertising the launch of ISB at the start of the school year, said associate director Nick Seamons.

“We tried to build a lot of momentum in advance of the actual launch, so leading up to it we were sending emails via listserv and also making announcements at programs like orientation to make students aware that the University was going to be taking this assessment,” Seamons said.

The launch itself was celebrated Tuesday and Thursday of last week with parties, where international students were invited to bring their laptops and eat free pizza while taking the survey, Seamons said.  The International Office is encouraging students to participate in the program by offering a $1,000 cash prize. All students who take the survey are automatically entered into a raffle for the money, according to the office’s website.

Shankar said as of last week, the program has already had a 14 percent response rate.

“We hope for at least 40 percent,” Shankar said. “That’s our goal.”

Lim said she intends to take the survey primarily for the chance to win $1,000, not because there was anything in particular she could think of that needed improvement. In fact, Lim had nothing but positive things to say about NU’s international student programs.

“I think they do a good job in terms of connecting with us and making sure we have the right resources,” Lim said. “And I like how we have orientation right before school starts. A lot of schools don’t do that.”

Shankar said he hopes that the survey’s results, which will be released sometime between February and March, will help the International Office determine which areas they are doing well in and which areas still need improvement.

“Maybe it’ll tell us we’re doing just fine, maybe we don’t need to do anything. I don’t know, “ Shankar said. “It will be interesting to see the results.”