Liane Constantine leads post-COVID international recruitment rebound, expansion

Liane Constantine

Liane Constantine, UMSL’s senior international officer and the executive director of UMSL Global, is leading the university’s growth in international enrollment. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Yura Jeong, a performance manager in South Korea, wanted to advance her skills and her career by taking courses on her specialty. But when she started looking around for educational opportunities in her home country, Jeong realized that there weren’t many offerings.

She decided to explore options abroad – a decision that led her to the University of Missouri–St. Louis International Master of Business Administration program.

“I found out that there is a multiple-degree system with UMSL and my country’s university,” Jeong said. “I thought that multiple degree was good opportunity for me. Another reason is that my university’s professor received a doctorate from Missouri State University, and he recommended that UMSL has excellent lectures on data and analytics.”

Strong connections with international partner institutions and excellent programs are just two of the many reasons that international students are drawn to UMSL according to Liane Constantine, UMSL’s senior international officer and the executive director of UMSL Global. There’s also UMSL’s status as a tier 1 public research institution, approachable professors, strong market value of individual academic programs, St. Louis’ welcoming attitude and the American campus atmosphere.

“They’re happy students, and we much appreciate hosting them,” said Constantine, who assumed a permanent role leading UMSL’s international efforts in August after serving as interim executive director since spring 2020.

That’s a sentiment that Jeong agrees with.

Yura Jeong is a student in the College of Business IMBA Program. She decided to attend UMSL after discovering the IMBA’s partnership with Chonnam National University in South Korea. (Photo courtesy of Yura Jeong)

“I live with the other students,” she said. “Everyone kindly helps us, and I made lots of memories as an IMBA student. For example, we make food together in our dormitory and travel to attractions together. If I hadn’t entered UMSL or the IMBA program, I don’t think I will have been this close to them. I highly recommend the IMBA program.”

Experiences such as Jeong’s make for a robust international program that’s been able to adapt along with the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic and travel restrictions. How to expand following recovery and how to create an international experience on UMSL’s campus are very much on Constantine’s mind as she looks toward her office’s efforts going forward.

Traditionally, UMSL has drawn on partnerships with foreign institutions, such as Jeong’s Chonnam National University in South Korea, to create a pipeline of international students. In 2018, UMSL Global decided to expand into using recruitment agents, which resulted in record applications in 2020 – just in time for COVID-19 restrictions.

During the pandemic, agent and university work modes shifted, which meant that Constantine and her team had to step in and move that work 100% online and with new levels of creativity, highlighting UMSL’s unique strengths and market value of the academic programs.

“The campus community huddled together, and we invited our faculty community into late night shifts for talking about the individual programs,” she said. “It was very successful, and the effect for this season has been that we have seen almost 2,000 applications to campus as of today.”

UMSL has welcomed about 100 new international students during the fall semester of 2021. This has been the first semester since the onset of the pandemic to see a larger international  cohort again. Constantine anticipates this trend continuing with similar increases during the spring and fall 2022 semesters.

Approximately 600 international students have matriculated to UMSL for spring 2022, the highest number in the university’s history. Now, factors such as visa and flight availabilities will determine how many of those students will make it to campus.

Because of the many hurdles that international students must jump to attend schools in the U.S. – admission requirements, proof of sufficient funds, visa eligibility and more – the recruitment funnel must be sufficiently large.

“The biggest challenge for us as an international enrollment unit is to work that funnel and to get a good yield rate,” Constantine said. “One thing we’re looking into currently is to expand our regional scope, so we have bigger diversity within our international student body and to focus on other regions also like Europe, Africa, Central Asia and the MENA region, which stands for Middle East/North Africa. Currently, many UMSL international students come from the Indian subcontinent.”

In addition to College of Business Administration programs such as the IMBA, international students are traditionally drawn to computer science programs, such as cybersecurity and information systems, and the STEM degrees, such as biochemistry and biotechnology, chemistry and anything pre-med.

“Areas where we see growth and hope for more is, for example, under the College of Arts and Sciences, a new program for child advocacy, which is an area where Asian universities just don’t have as many offerings as we do,” she said. “Another one is actuarial science, and there is a wider spectrum of academic programs in the College of Arts and Science and across campus that we plan to put in the spotlight for international students and international partnerships.”

But greater enrollment isn’t the only ambition in Constantine’s mind for UMSL Global. She also hopes to see increased campus internationalization and goal-directed partnerships.

That means fostering a diverse, international perspective in classrooms and systematically promoting study abroad opportunities for UMSL students, even if that just means a two-week program.

“UMSL Global has an excellent portfolio of study abroad opportunities for all our students,” Constantine said. “Seeing the world through a different lens during your formative higher-ed years provides you with a tremendous advantage for a successful career. I encourage all of our students to stop by an explore our doable opportunities.”

Building out those ambitions for UMSL is something Constantine looks forward to and is a big part of why she’s so delighted to be leading UMSL Global.

“It has been an honor, and I really feel overwhelmed by the trust and by the support of our campus community, not just by the leadership, but really by everybody,” she said. “I love to work with our faculty community here, and I love to see the students coming in.”

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