The saying, “Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer,” can be heard around the world in many languages. From Beijing, China, to Brasilia, Brazil, West Virginia University’s international graduates proudly carry the flag for WVU.
And, as the global footprint of WVU continues to grow, the efforts of our alumni living abroad are vital to achieving the University’s strategic goals. These Mountaineers serve as valuable resources in recruiting students, engaging fellow alumni and assisting with opportunities for internships, professional networking, alumni activities and travel abroad.
This week, a group from WVU will begin a nine-day journey to Japan, Thailand and Malaysia to further engage, recognize and unite WVU alumni living abroad.
“This trip is a wonderful opportunity to reach out to our international graduates, as well as those living and working in these countries,” said Steve Douglas, president & CEO, WVU Alumni Association. “Our goal is to bring WVU to them, encourage their participation in helping us recruit more international students, form chapters to keep them engaged, and share the wonderful story of WVU.”
Douglas will be traveling with Vice President for Student Affairs Ken Gray and Dr. Tom Sloane, Executive Director of International and Global Relations, both of the WVU Division of Student Affairs. The trip will kick off in Tokyo, followed by visits to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Additionally, WVU Student Government Association President Zach Redding and Vice President Jarred Zuccari will join the group during the visit.
Alumni from these areas will host receptions where alumni and friends will come together to celebrate WVU and learn about their role in helping the University. As part of the trip, two new international chapters will be chartered – the Japan and Thailand chapters. The Alumni Association’s first international chapter – the Malaysia Chapter – was formed in 2010.
“Many of these graduates have been meeting informally for many years,” Sloane said. “Now we will have an organized format for them to participate in the life of the University. We are so pleased to have their support and recognize them for their contributions to WVU.”
While the campus of WVU may be thousands of miles away from many of these graduates, the pride in the University is very close to home and the importance of engaging these loyal graduates is critical to the University’s future success.
“Our international students and alumni bring so much to our campus in terms of diversity and culture,” Gray said. “It’s important for our students to interact with others from different cultures. It provides a worldview and helps them think globally.
“We want to maintain those connections with our international graduates and provide them with opportunities to stay connected to and return to WVU. This trip is just one way of doing that.”
In addition to alumni engagement, Gray noted the important role our international graduates play in helping our students and graduates find jobs and internships abroad.
“Our alumni are valuable resources in not only helping recruit new students, but also in assisting our current students, and, in many cases our alumni, find jobs,” he said “They value the education they received at WVU and are committed to helping other Mountaineers succeed.”
Many graduates even send their own children to WVU, and those students recommend WVU to their friends. Graduates also assist with recruiting events in those countries where they are able to share their personal experiences to encourage others to attend the University. Sloane compared it to “throwing a rock into a pool,” and the waves of students are getting bigger and bigger. And that is great for WVU and its students.
As more and more WVU graduates look to professional opportunities abroad, the international network of alumni is a great conduit for making connections and providing those opportunities. Alumni also help plan and host activities for WVU students studying abroad.
Douglas notes that this trip and others will become more important in making and maintaining connections with alumni. The group hopes this will be just one of many to come in the future. The Alumni Association and Division of Student Affairs plan to partner together to identify future opportunities to extend the reach of WVU.
WVU currently has more than 1,500 international students from more than 100 countries, with a goal of doubling those numbers within the next 10 years. Sloane said that the students come to WVU to take advantage of the educational opportunities and take what they have learned back to their own communities.
“Each international student is an ambassador for his or her own country while at WVU, and after they leave, they take on the role as ambassadors of WVU, always proudly carrying the Flying WV,” he said. “It’s wonderful.”
CONTACT: Tara Curtis, WVU Alumni Association
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