ATHENS, W.Va. – Thursday, Dec. 17th marks the 55th year that Concord University has been welcoming international students to campus. Concord was granted permission on that date in 1965 to accept international students by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Since the first international students arrived on “The Campus Beautiful”, Concord and the Athens community have benefitted from the cultural, social and economic contributions made by these students.
“Fifty-five years ago, the administration of Concord College made the decision to create and support an inclusive, diverse and educationally rich learning environment. Since then, hundreds of international students have called Concord home, sharing their cultures and providing international perspectives that have enriched the lives of all of us.”Nancy Ellison, Director of Multicultural Affairs
The Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange 2020 Fact Sheet ranks Concord fifth among West Virginia’s colleges and universities when it comes to international student enrollment. Concord’s international students come from a wide variety of places and bring with them an equally wide variety of experiences.
According to data provided by Concord’s Institutional Research, 67 international students representing 27 different countries were enrolled for the Fall 2020 semester. Among the countries represented are: Argentina, Ethiopia, Finland, Ghana, Hungary, Ivory Coast, Nepal, Netherlands, Rwanda, Sweden, United Kingdom, Venezuela and Vietnam.
For Fall 2019 – prior to the COVID-19 pandemic – 92 international students were enrolled at Concord from 33 countries including: Albania, Bahamas, Belgium, Cameroon, Canada, China (Hong Kong,) Dominica, Germany, Japan, Peru, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea, Spain and Ukraine.
The financial contribution made by Concord’s international students to the university’s budget is significant. According to NAFSA: Association of International Educators, this contribution, based on an analysis of the 2019-2020 academic year, totals $3 million. This places Concord sixth among the state’s institutions of higher learning when looking at benefits from international students, the report says.
Concord’s international students contribute to campus and community life in a variety of ways. They are enthusiastic participants in Homecoming activities each year with representatives of the International Students Club having won the Homecoming royalty crowns on a number of occasions.
The annual International Banquet is a popular event with CU students, faculty and staff, as well as the Athens and surrounding communities. International students serve as hosts for this culturally rich event, preparing dishes from their home countries and entertaining with traditional dances in costumes from their respective homelands.
Through the years, Concord’s international students have visited local schools to share their cultures with the children. Their visits are appreciated by the students and teachers alike.
“Concord is thrilled to celebrate 55 years of welcoming students from around the world to ‘The Campus Beautiful. Our international students continue to enrich both the campus and Athens community by sharing their cultures, stories, and experiences.”Dr. Sarah Beasley, Vice President of Student Affairs & Dean of Students
Concord’s international students have a strong track record of excelling academically, and following graduation, being successful in their careers. Zornitsa Umlenska is among the international graduates who have had the honor of being a valedictorian of their class. Zornitsa earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in 2001 while maintaining a 4.0 average in her double majors of finance and accounting.
She says that she has benefitted academically and professionally from being introduced to the diverse backgrounds of her fellow international students while she was attending Concord.
“I got to meet people from a lot of countries at Concord. I feel that the exposure I had at Concord…gave me more international awareness.”Zornitsa Umlenska
Zornitsa has used that global perspective in furthering her education and in several of her career roles including with her current position of fraud policy manager with Bank of America.
After graduating from Concord, Zornitsa went on to earn an MBA in International Business with a second specialization in Foreign Affairs from The George Washington University.
She acknowledges how the support she received from Concord faculty and staff – from mentoring to scholarships – has been valuable to her. “At Concord so many people helped me,” she said.
Originally from Bulgaria, Zornitsa now lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. with her husband, Alex Cockcroft, who is also an international CU alum, and their dog, Rory.
Although she is a native West Virginian, Lauren (Lambert) Stevens joined the International Students Club when she was at Concord. “I realized that I had an affinity for other cultures…and languages,” she said.
Being part of this organization offered Lauren many opportunities, but one that was especially significant was helping prepare her for her own experience of being a guest in another country. Lauren spent three years following her graduation from Concord in 2011 teaching English in China. She said that being around her international friends and classmates at Concord taught her about the “cultural fatigue” that can occur when learning to navigate new and different customs and cultures. “Everything can be different,” she said, from the language to the food.
Back in southern West Virginia, Lauren has continued her association with Concord’s international students by serving, along with her husband, as host parents for students during Thanksgiving and Spring breaks. They open their home to students who aren’t going home for the breaks so they’ll have a family to be with when the residence halls close.
“It’s a great experience. It’s a really great way for people in our area to learn about other cultures and make friends.”Lauren (Lambert) Stevens
Persons with disabilities should contact Nancy Ellison, 1-304-384-6086 or 1-800-344-6679 extension 6086, if special assistance is required for access to an event scheduled by the University on campus.
Sarah M. Pritchett
Office of Advancement
PO Box 1000, Athens, WV 24712
(304) 384-6312, email@example.com
After 4 p.m.