By: Raymond Humienny ~Campus News Editor~
A trademark quality of the scientific method is that you will always start with a question and invariably end with another question.
For assistant director of admission Dan Marschner this process unfolded as it naturally does. Last semester, Marschner sent out an online survey to more than 4,000 Xavier students, faculty and staff in order to field questions concerning the international student population on campus. As a result, Marschner has inferred that although the 1,464 respondents to the questionnaire believe Xavier’s environment accommodates international students, there is a discrepancy between ideals and praxis.
“One of the things that I thought was pretty interesting amongst these results was that you can see here 55 percent feel that Xavier is a welcoming environment for international students, which is positive,” Marschner said. “But then you have the part about whether someone has actually talked to someone in the Intensive English program. You can see that the vast majority of people have not.”
The Intensive English program at Xavier is designed for international students looking to attend college in the U.S. Since these courses focus heavily on English in an academic and professional setting for international students almost exclusively, it is very unlikely that domestic students would be aware of the program at all, according to Marschner.
“My experience has been that (Intensive English students) kind of have a sort of separate experience here, in that their classes are just with others who are learning English,” Marschner said. “They don’t really feel like there are a lot of opportunities where they feel comfortable to interact with other students here on campus, so that’s one of the challenges that they were talking about is the sense of not feeling really integrated.”
Marschner took particular note of the International Coffee Hour that provides an outlet for domestic students to experience foreign cultures in order to aid this integration. However, Marschner has received reports from international students which show that a large amount of participants during these events are international students themselves.
“That’s an opportunity that the vast majority of people who go to those events … tend to be primarily international students,” Marschner said. “So the question is why isn’t there an interest in those kinds of events? If you’re serious about learning other cultures, if that’s important to you – having international students here – and that’s something that’s going to be beneficial to you long-term, then why isn’t there more interest in those kinds of opportunities? Those are the kinds of questions (international students) were working through.”
Marschner has worked closely with a group of 10 students representing nine different countries: Venezuela, China, Saudi Arabia, Chile, Japan, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Vietnam. These individuals helped create the survey and provided qualitative responses to the data to juxtapose quantitative outcomes.
“The idea was that they could bring a pretty broad perspective and that they could provide more depth to the survey than the (1,464) people who answered the survey questions,” Marschner said. “More than a ‘like’ scale, ‘agree or disagree,’ that kind of stuff.”
The data itself is on public display throughout the second floor of Gallagher, each question paired with the qualitative responses and a photo that represents nonvocal responses made by Marschner’s team of international students. The photos were produced by a technique called Photovoice, in which individuals articulate their thoughts and feelings using a physical image.
“One of the pictures they took was a picture of the billiards table outside of Coffee Emporium,” Marschner said. “And what I’ve heard a lot of people talk about before was that they don’t really know who the people are they’re playing there. They kind of just do their thing, and there’s this group of people who are here at on campus and just don’t seem to integrate well into the rest of the community, and the question is is that a decision that they make? Is that a decision that Xavier makes?”
Marschner summarized his findings thus far by explaining what he has observed from international student responses to his survey as a “hybrid identity.”
“I think that you’re navigating two realities,” Marschner said. “I think that’s a thing a lot of student experience no matter where they come from. I mean, they have their life back home and they have their life here on campus. I think for international students that’s a whole other dimension of realizing you have a life back home and a life on campus, but your life on campus here would have different kinds of dimensions than a life on campus would have for a domestic student.”
Marschner is currently investigating this research further as a doctorate candidate student at the University of Cincinnati. He is enrolled in the education studies program with an educational and community-based action concentration. His dissertation will pertain to additional questions to be added to the survey.