Concord University Celebrates 40 Years of Welcoming Foreign Students to its Campus
Athens, W.Va. - On December 17, 1965, Concord College was granted permission to accept foreign students by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. Lyndon B. Johnson, who was president of the United States at that time, was quoted as saying, “International education cannot be the work of one country. It is the promise of all nations. It calls for free exchange and full collaboration.... The knowledge of our citizens is one treasure which grows only when it is shared.” That belief was shared by officials at Concord who laid a strong foundation for international education, which continues to be built upon today.
Concord University’s international student body is the third largest concentration at any public college in West Virginia according to the 2004-2005 edition of the Open Doors report prepared by the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors in Washington, D.C. Only West Virginia and Marshall universities rank higher.
International students come from a wide variety of places such as China, Bulgaria, Peru, Nepal, Japan, Ghana, Canada, Germany and India and bring with them an equally wide variety of experiences.
Adella Silochan, a senior from Trinidad and Tobago, described her experience at Concord as a “growing and changing process.” “When I first came to Concord I felt like a stranger because I was in a different environment and culture from what I was used to. Although it was a culture shock for me, Concord embraces diversity and culture and that made me feel accepted. I’ve met many people who treated me as though I was part of their family. When I graduate in December and leave Concord, I will have fond memories of professors like Carmen Durrani and our discussions of Latin American culture, Dr. Towers and how he always said ‘Hello, Adella.’ when he saw me in the hallway and my experiences as a resident assistant on campus.”
Foreign students contribute significantly to the school’s budget. Students contributed $872,000 in tuition and fees and about $1,405,000 for living expenses at Concord during 2004-2005, according to Open Doors. Even when scholarships are subtracted foreign students still contributed a net $1.5 million to the school.
“State officials have mandated that we find ways to financially support ourselves because the state’s declining revenues will not be sufficient in coming years,” said Nancy Ellison, director of multicultural affairs. “The financial contribution of foreign students will help us in our efforts.”
Foreign students are also a positive asset for the town of Athens. Students are frequent visitors to Athens School and share their culture, language and traditions with students.
Ning “Emily” Jiang, a student from China who is majoring in teacher education recently taught a math lesson on division to fourth grade students at Athens School. She noted that teachers in China are highly valued.
“As an educator and citizen of the Athens area, I have found the presence of international students at Concord University to be of great benefit to me, personally and professionally,” stated Nancy Aldridge, who teaches fourth grade at Athens School.
”Often seen walking in town, the international students add a global dimension to our small southern community. Over the last eight years, I have had the pleasure of having several international students work in my classroom for community service hours. This gives my fourth grade students and the international students opportunities to become acquainted and form friendships, thereby learning from one another. International students at Concord University provide a unique link with distant places. Their participation in local service organizations, churches and schools opens the door for us to build understanding across cultural differences. Their presence makes it possible for us to discover similarities with persons around the globe and begin to build relationships for the future.”
Assistant professor of psychology, Dr. Karen Griffee agreed with Aldridge and further stated, “Before living here, my husband and I lived in New Mexico and Colorado. When we came to Athens it seemed like such a safe, friendly, but very culturally homogenous place! I was really worried that our four kids would grow up thinking the whole world looked, acted, and thought the way we do. I was delighted to realize that Concord is also home to a large number of international students from all over the world, and that really helped me feel good about raising my kids here. I think one of the best things about our community is the diversity provided by Concord’s international student population.”
Athens School class members who learned from Ms. Jiang included: Karly Ball, Brandi Billings, Vaughn Campbell, Madison Caruth, Katie Coburn, Lacey Dart, Zachary Ellis, Daniel Fuller, Eric Harper, John Hilderbrand, Caressa Mainland, Alexis May, Darrin McGuire, Shiloh Parish, Fernando Porras, Cory Suiter, Holly Wiley, Vanessa Williams, Kristen Worrell and Michael Nick Yost.
PHOTO: Ning “Emily” Jiang teaches a math lesson on division to (clockwise) to Kati Coburn, Karly Ball, Fernando Porras and Eric Harper.
PHOTO: Ning “Emily” Jiang works with Vanessa Williams.
PHOTO: Nancy Aldridge’s fourth grade class with Ning “Emily” Jiang in the center.