The Undergraduate International Student Recruitment Experience and the Effects of Institutional Outreach in Supporting Their Feelings of Belongingness
Over the last decade, post-secondary international student enrollment has grown in the United States (US). In part, this growth has been facilitated by an increasing number of third-party recruitment partnerships; wherein US universities sign agreements to allow parties to engage in the recruitment and advising of students. By creating and expanding partnerships the university seeks to enroll more students at their university. With these additional parties involved in the advising process, it is more important than ever that students have as much information as possible to make an enrollment decision that makes them feel like they are members of the campus community and that they belong. To attain feelings of membership and belonging the university staff and faculty should be reaching out to students early in their academic career about the resources that are likely to enhance their feelings of membership and belonging at university. To understand and improve students’ feelings of membership and belonging the researcher developed a mixed-method intervention that included a control and experimental group. All groups completed a pre-posttest survey. The experimental group was exposed to 1:1 belongingness advising sessions and debriefing interviews. Twenty-two first-year international students participated in the study. The intervention had two objectives: 1) understand how a semester-long advising program, in the students first-year, enhanced international students feeling of membership and belonging at the university; and what components of the program were most effective and 2) based on how students were recruited to university, how did they differ in their developing feelings of belongingness and membership. The intervention was informed by agency theory, dropout model, and previous research on students’ feelings of membership and belonging. The results suggested that students in the experimental group were more likely to feel like members of the university when compared to their control group peers. Additionally, the results suggest that students in the experimental group were able to build relationships, knowledge, and support systems that enhanced their feelings of belonging. The discussion explains these outcomes as they are related to the research questions and extant literature. It also summarizes, implications for practice, future research, and lessons learned.