Senior admissions adviser Sandra Burnham used to call herself a “desktop admissions adviser” for international students. Her duties included processing applications, evaluating academic credentials, and attending to paperwork on behalf of students—all tasks that she could accomplish from her desk in Moot Hall.
But as SUNY Buffalo State continues to more actively engage in recruiting prospective students from international markets, Burnham has gladly ventured beyond the office.
This week, she traveled to India as part of the college’s first on-the-ground recruitment effort in that country. While students from India have enrolled at Buffalo State before, this is the first time that a Buffalo State admissions representative will travel to India to speak in person with prospective students and their parents at recruitment fairs and to meet with counselors from the top certified student recruitment agencies in the country.
“We have made significant strides in China over the past few years and have identified India as another market in our international recruitment plan,” said Burnham, who will visit the densely populated cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai over the course of two weeks. “Students from India have considerable interest in urban and regional planning, applied economics, business, hospitality, and criminal justice—which are all very strong programs here at Buffalo State. That’s why we know that Buffalo State can be a great fit for students from India.”
Burnham’s enthusiasm over India is driven by her successful work in China, where Buffalo State has established a substantial recruitment presence during the past six years. In October, Burnham will return to China for a two-week tour promoting Buffalo State.
“I first traveled to China in 2007 to assist with a recruitment fair sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The State University of New York then decided to increase its focus on Asia and I became involved with SUNY efforts in China in 2011,” said Burnham, who recently spent two months representing the SUNY brand at meetings in 10 cities across China. “Those experiences have allowed me to network and meet the right people and learn how to connect with prospective students and their parents to get the word out about Buffalo State.”
She says that Chinese students are receptive to Buffalo State’s message and that awareness of the college is growing. It helps, of course, that Buffalo State operates a highly respected Center for China Studies, led by Zhang Jie, professor of sociology, and that, in recent years, the college has signed agreements with several universities in China to facilitate faculty collaboration and student exchanges. Earlier this year, Buffalo State and Capital Normal University in Beijing signed an agreement to establish a joint bachelor’s/master’s degree program.
In addition, Buffalo State launched its first pre-academic, stand-alone English as a second language (ESL) program last year. Under this program, the college may grant conditional admittance to international students to their academic program of choice, pending successful completion of Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exams. This allows international students who need to improve their English language skills the opportunity to do so, on the Buffalo State campus, before tackling a full academic curriculum taught in English. Ultimately, this will lead to a more successful academic career at Buffalo State.
“There are so many great things about international study. For students coming to Buffalo State from other countries, they’re generally drawn to earning a prestigious degree from an American university and to immersing themselves in our diverse culture. And they love that Buffalo State is in an urban setting and is easy to get around, with proximity to Toronto and New York City,” said Burnham. “For American students at Buffalo State, it’s wonderful to be able to meet students from around the world and to learn about different cultures and perspectives. I think that enriches everyone’s college experience.”