After earning an associate's degree from Scott Community College in Bettendorf, Nepal native Ragya Sharma was looking to continue her education at a state school in Iowa or Illinois.
Then, Sharma took a look at St. Ambrose and quickly discovered it was the perfect place to pursue a nursing degree.
"Everybody was so friendly," she said. "I met with the nursing faculty and they were very positive. I just felt they were here for me."
Increasingly, students from across the globe who are eager to gain a college education in the United States are discovering St. Ambrose is here for them, too.
Sharma was among four international members of the spring graduating class of 2012. She was joined by (left to right, above) Rev. Erasto Naakule, a 47-year-old Tanzanian priest who earned a bachelor's degree in accounting; Mingxin "Mimi" Li, who came from China to earn a master's in accounting; and Emlyn Jacoby, a South African who earned his MBA.
The quartet of international grads was twice the total of a year ago and up from just a lone international degree earner in 2010. A year from now, 12 international students are projected to earn graduate or undergraduate degrees from St. Ambrose, with seven or more bound for gowns in 2014.
Those future numbers are part of a concerted effort by the St. Ambrose Center for International Education to grow the degree-seeking international student population.
This year's international enrollment of 44 is up by 20 over a year ago and nearly half of that increase is the result of the St. Ambrose Master of Science in Information Technology Management program being included on a list of US college programs approved for scholarships by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Next year, Ryan Dye, PhD, director of the Center for International Education, said a minimum of eight students seeking master's degrees in accounting or finance will follow Li from China as a result of a reciprocal study abroad agreement with an institution there.
"We have a lot of work to do to develop an institutional plan for international recruitment," said Dye, who has led the effort the past five years. "But the initiatives that we started in Saudi Arabia, China and also in India are starting to bear fruit."
President Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD, said the entire student population is enriched by internationalization. "International exchanges benefit all on our campus as we seek to prepare students for life in an increasingly global society."
The four new grads all say they have grown from their exposure to Ambrosian culture.
Li made the most of her two years here by taking leading roles in the Graduate Student Government Association and the Diversity Fest planning committee. She interned at Deere and Company and will begin a fulltime job with the QC-based corporation in August, one that ultimately will take her home to aid Deere's expanding presence in mainland China.
Fr. Naakule said the openness of his fellow Ambrosians was an enlightening aspect of the American culture. He will remain here to pursue a Master of Accounting degree.
Jacoby served as a graduate assistant on the St. Ambrose men's soccer squad and hopes to find a job locally and remain a part of the program. Sharma will join her husband in Arizona but plans eventually to return to Nepal to use her nursing skills.
Wherever they go, all four new graduates believe their St. Ambrose degrees will serve them well.
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