Fostering International Student Success at Yeshiva University

Promoting the Success of a Diverse and International Class of Graduate Students

By Dr. Wendy Williams
Director, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

How do you contribute to a group project with one hand tied behind your back? Trying to do just that began an evening of training for faculty members to help them understand the challenges their international graduate students face.

The workshop on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, “Fostering International Student Success,” led faculty at the Israel Henry Beren campus through the culture shock and adjustment issues students encounter when they begin their studies at YU and how best to help them make those adjustments. Intercultural communication, theories on cultural dimensions, cultural metacognition—the evening offered a deep dive into the information that instructors need to inform their teaching practice and promote the success of a diverse and international class of graduate students.

YU’s Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning and the Katz School of Science and Health co-hosted the event, attended by close to 20 faculty and staff who teach and support international students. Dr. Paul Russo, dean of the Katz School, and Wendy Williams, the Center’s director, introduced the evening program, which covered the many challenges and solutions related to teaching international students. The workshop was developed and led by Asya Dinets, managing director of One to World, and Xiaotang Huang, associate director of employer outreach at the Center for Career Development at Princeton University, a former One to World employee.

Faculty hard at work discussing the adjustments international students need to make.

The final piece of the interactive workshop was a case study on how Confucianism and the educational environment in China can condition students to expect a much less interactive classroom than the typical graduate seminar in the United States. A background of attending large lectures, where students are expected to quietly take notes and never risk giving a wrong answer, could lead to less classroom participation than is desired by professors in the United States.

Inclusivity tips for faculty included arranging seats in a semicircle and posting phonetic pronunciations of all students’ names with their photos. Other suggestions included giving individual feedback with grades to let students know where they are within the expected range and encouraging students to visit during office hours. Pedagogical ideas included working in small groups  to promote a sense of belonging and rotating roles to allow students to experiment with taking the lead in researching, writing and presenting.

YU has an institutional membership with One to World,  and students are encouraged to participate in their events.  To view their program calendar visit  One to World.  Additional information is also available by contacting the Office of International Student Services at oiss@yu.edu.