In all the efforts to drive student engagement through the planning and marketing of classes and activities, a particular group is often left quite disengaged: international students.
Kent State University is making a very concentrated effort to increase the involvement of international students in recreation activities.
Campus Rec spoke with Kimberly Rufra, the director of recreational services at Kent State, about how the recreation department engages the campus’s international population.
The Kent State recreation department has been able to involve international students successfully through concentrated outreach efforts and evaluation of programs that have proven the most popular among international students.
“But more importantly, we’ve tried to make the environment more receptive to all international students on campus,” said Rufra. “We’ve worked to engage those international students with potential employment opportunities, as well.”
The results have been encouraging. As recently as last year, international students accounted for 10 percent of all participants in Kent State recreational activities. Additionally, eight percent of the student staff had international status.
That connecting point of international students on staff is a huge reason for the increase in international student participation.
“One of the things that has really helped is that we have international students that are on our front lines right now,” said Rufra. “If [an international student] comes into our pro shop to learn more about programs and services, having representation is just an enhanced comfort level that’s taking place.”
Being able to create an atmosphere of comfort in the recreation departments has spilled into the rest of campus at Kent State. Through cross-promotion efforts, the recreation department has been able to expand its reach outside of its own doors.
“We’ve also worked with the global outreach group on campus here, and worked to build a partnership with them so we could do some cross-promotion of all our programs,” said Rufra.
Serving international students is one of the most important efforts a campus recreation department can make. It not only sets a precedent of a welcoming recreation environment, but a welcoming environment on campus as a whole.
“I think it’s having a better understanding of the community that you’re trying to reach, and developing those partnerships,” said Rufra. “It’s seeing what resources you might have on campus and tapping into those resources. And more importantly, it’s making sure the environment is one that’s welcoming of all people.”