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The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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International Wildcat Welcome rebrands, pushes for more funding, programming

Illustration by Sophie Zhang
Organizers said they hope International Wildcat Welcome’s rebrand will create a more seamless transition between the international and domestic student orientation experiences.

Starting in September, International Student Orientation will go by a different name: International Wildcat Welcome.

The program’s student executive board members said they are optimistic the rebrand will bridge the gap between the international student orientation experience with that of domestic students. 

SESP sophomore Sarah Norman said she and other International Wildcat Welcome executive board members were initially skeptical about the change because there wasn’t a strong relationship between Wildcat Welcome and ISO in the past.

“Some greater clarity has definitely come to light as to why that rebranding has taken place,” Norman said. “We’re hoping that the more that we brand it as one big event, the resources, attention and acknowledgement that Wildcat Welcome gets will also come to this international experience.”

International students arrive on campus a few days before Wildcat Welcome every September for orientation programming that helps them navigate immigration requirements, set up phone and bank accounts, and meet other international students.

Students involved in the program have criticized the University for providing ISO with fewer resources and assistance than Wildcat Welcome.

In previous years, international students have had to pay a $50-per-night early move-in fee for the duration of ISO — one that students on financial aid said they couldn’t waive. During the program’s annual trip to Chicago, students were also required to pay for their own meals and commute, according to Norman.

These barriers made ISO, a mandatory program for students on F-1 visas, feel like an afterthought to Wildcat Welcome, students said.

“The community is fantastic and they’re amazing,” Norman said. “It’s just that (International Wildcat Welcome) is organized solely by students … it doesn’t have all this fancy programming and speakers and the merch.”

One of the biggest challenges the program has faced is a lack of funding. International Wildcat Welcome is managed and funded by the Office of International Student and Scholar Services.

OISS — designated as a primarily academic office — is responsible for supporting international students throughout the year, leaving it with a smaller budget to allocate to orientation programming, International Wildcat Welcome team members said.

Wildcat Welcome, on the other hand, is organized by the Office of Student Transition Experiences, a department dedicated solely to orientation services.

Bienen and Weinberg junior Dami Akanni, an International Wildcat Welcome executive board member, said he hopes the rebrand draws more attention to the disparity between the two orientation experiences and paves the way for improvements.

“If they see that the branding of (International Wildcat Welcome) is also in the same likeness as Wildcat Welcome, but the quality isn’t on par, that could lead to some raised eyebrows,” Akanni said.

Deborah Cohen, the executive director of the Buffett Institute for Global Affairs, said the institute has been collaborating with the International Wildcat Welcome team to plan this year’s orientation programming.

Cohen said the rebrand intends to ensure closer collaboration between the teams behind Wildcat Welcome and International Wildcat Welcome, allowing for a more seamless transition between the two programs for international students.

“The change is to eliminate repetition, so students who have heard some of this information in International Wildcat Welcome won’t hear it a second time,” Cohen said. “And it’s to make clear that this is all part of one thing.”

The Buffett Institute — the umbrella organization that includes OISS — has expressed a willingness to make the program more accessible for low-income students, according to Communication junior and International Wildcat Welcome executive board member Juan Barrera Lopez.

“That means paying for housing, movers, helping with transportation and meals,” Barrera Lopez said. “Nothing is 100% secure, but it’s very evident that the leadership team in the Buffett Institute is looking to help us.”

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