Saint Rose Adapts To Changing College Culture

May 21, 2015

As it publicly grapples with staff cutbacks and a dropoff in admissions, Albany's College of St. Rose’s international program is flourishing.

On Monday, officials announced St. Rose would cut 40 administrative and staff positions, 17 of them unfilled. The college's enrollment of 4,500 is down by about 800 since 2008.  President Carolyn Stefanco  said the staff cuts are part of a broader strategy to increase revenue and decrease expenses.    "We have reduced operating budgets, we have made some changes to benefits, and the last alternative of course for us was to eliminate some positions."

The college currently employs 650. Stefanco says additional layoffs are not anticipated and enrollment is "looking good" for fall.    "We have 140 percent increase in our accepted graduate students, which we're very excited about. In terms of deposited students at the undergraduate level, we're seeing the highest numbers that we have in four years."   The college is now focusing on fundraising, marketing and student recruitment.

Saint Rose recently cut the ribbon to open its new Center for International Programs.  Located in a former student residence hall, it gathers under one roof the college’s support services for international students as well as its international recruiting programs: Study Abroad, English as a Second Language and international advising.

In addition to providing a welcoming environment, Dr. Hadi Salavitabar, vice president for academic affairs and provost, explains the center functions as a hub for the school’s international activities. He has an ambitious agenda.    "I wanna make sure we get to the point where every one of our students have some kind of a international experience. Going overseas to a different - you know - short term and long term study abroad. I would like to make sure that we increase the number of our international students on campus, which would assist also not only help get them an American education, but be able to mingle with American students and learn from each other."

Salavitabar himself was an international student years ago, something he says prepared him to effectively balance the college's global perspective today.    "In fall of 2013 we had about almost 80 international students on campus. Right now we have over 200. We hope to get at some point in the future about 10 percent of our campus being international students."

St. Rose has arrangements with colleges in several faraway lands. Plans include expanding overseas opportunities for U.S.-based students.

Colleen Flynn Thapalia  is the Director of the Center for International Programs, which handles recruiting, study abroad, study away and ESL programs.   "We've always had students like Fulbright scholars and other students who found their way to us, but the more proactive recruiting of international students started about 4 or 5 years ago where we are now traveling to other countries, in addition to waiting for those interest emails to find their way to us. We have students here at St. Rose who I met with their parents at fairs in places all over the world."

Undergraduate application numbers for the international program are up 30 percent and graduate application numbers have increased tenfold.     "50 percent of the students who finish the application are likely to be successful."

Students who complete accredited programs are allowed to stay in the U.S. to work and build their resumes before they head home.  Michaelle Mugihsu  is a graduate student from Burundi in East Central Africa who began her college career in India, eventually landing at St. Rose. Like many internationals, she is fluent in several languages.    "I have French and I have English and also have other languages I speak back home, so, with that experience, I have the French experience, I have the English experience, it expands the way I view the world and the way I view the world and the way I  want to experience the world."

Mugishu is pursuing a masters in business administration.    "I have a dream of bringing economic development organizations back home to develop small communities to thrive."

Burundi is one of the five poorest countries in the world.   In Mugihsu's case, college education at St. Rose has been a game-changer.     "Now I feel very confident and I know what I want to do in life because of this small experience that I have. That's what we need to do, that's what we wish to do with everybody that comes here and works with our group. To have that kind of connection and find your place in the world. Not only in the U.S. or in your country but you yourself as a citizen of the world and how you can impact people."