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Pilot Program Launched To Transform the International Student Experience

January 16, 2024

In fall 2023, the Office of Career Success and Experiential Education (CSEE) piloted the International Career Advancement Program, an experiential education initiative designed to transform the first-year experience for international students with an F-1 Visa enrolled on the New York City and Long Island campuses. (An F-1 Visa allows foreign students to enter the United States as full-time students at an accredited school.) The initiative developed from formal and informal conversations and meetings with F-1 students and CSEE staff. With only first-year F-1 students eligible to apply, the Program was established with two goals: to foster a sense of belonging for F-1 students and provide them with basic theory and practice of American business culture and environment.

The conversations, engagements, and visits to the CSEE office indicated that many F-1 students did not feel supported and  wanted a campus community of shared values and connectedness. Adding to this, many F-1 students expressed their desire for a customized program educating them on the culture of American business so they could be positioned to succeed in a competitive professional space in the United States.

The International Career Advancement Program comprised a self-paced 12-week learning module, with the first six weeks offered online. During the remaining six weeks, students worked together on an assigned Consultants for the Public Good project. Consultants for the Public Good connects New York Tech students, faculty, staff, and alumni with nonprofit organizations for community-based volunteer opportunities.

The 67 students enrolled in the program participated in weekly online discussions and exercises covering U.S.-based career competency topics such as résumé building, interviewing/elevator pitch, self and career exploration, and careers in nonprofit management, to name a few. Students were randomly placed in groups to work on constructing a mentorship program specifically for F-1 students, applying the theoretical knowledge acquired in the first six weeks of the program.

Each of the 10 groups was required to present their mentorship proposal to peers and New York Tech faculty and staff to demonstrate their understanding of different elements of American business culture, such as teamwork, communication, time management, and presentation. The presentations were phenomenal, and it was evident that each group invested enormous time and effort in conceptualizing and developing their ideas. However, only one group was selected to move forward to fully develop and implement their proposal. The selected group will integrate CSEE’s human capital for university-wide implementation in fall 2024.

Overall, the participating students expressed that it was a rewarding and informative experience.

“I feel that this structured approach not only helped me understand who I am but also catalyzed my success, both at New York Tech and in the real world,” says Sharli Gelda, a student in the School of Management who participated in the program. “Your trust in us to undertake the mentorship project for incoming students underscores the core value of community at New York Tech, and we are eager to take this forward.”

Kimika Samms-Grant, Ph.D., associate director of experiential education, contributed this article.