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Office of International Services celebrates 75 years of IU global growth


In 1943, there were only 29 international students. Today, according to the Office of International Services website, there are 7,814 international students attending IU. OIS is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. IU Archives Buy Photos

When IU President Herman B Wells tasked Leo Dowling with expanding the University’s foreign reach in 1943, there were only 29 international students.

Today, according to the Office of International Services website, there are 7,814 international students attending IU.

“International students, we believe, play a critical role in the preparation of all of our members of the community for today’s global economy and global world,” said Christopher Viers, an associate vice president in the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs.

OIS is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. While it was officially established in July 1975 when two older IU international offices merged, the office said on its website it considers Dowling’s appointment as foreign student counselor to be its real beginning.

The office now handles multiple aspects of the international student experience at IU, starting before a student applies.

OIS participates in international college fairs to recruit students. Potential Hoosiers can also go online to contact one of the office’s 23 student ambassadors representing 15 countries.

After a student is accepted to IU, the office helps he or she navigate enrolling in the University, obtaining a travel visa and provides assistance in finding housing, employment and health insurance. 

Executive assistant Marie Ambern organized OIS’s official anniversary celebration Sept. 7 in Franklin Hall. 

Ambern, who moved to the United States from Limerick, Ireland, said having a strong global presence on campus helps both international and domestic students learn more about the world.

“It just opens up the world to everybody,” Ambern said.

Ambern said the office engages in outreach programs for international students to integrate them to IU, such as special events for students or conversational English practice. 

IU has a long history of international students. According to the IU Bicentennial program website, British and Canadian students attended IU during the mid-19th century. The first non-European international student at IU is presumed to be Tekekuma Okada, a Japanese student who graduated in 1891.

International students are not the only ones invited to the office’s events. Two new international faculty said they also appreciate the chance to meet new people and experience IU’s diversity first hand.

“I read that Indiana University is open, but this open, I didn’t really expect,” said Asim Mujkić, a visiting scholar from Bosnia with the School of Global and International Studies. “I’m very much pleased to be here.”

Bo Choi, from South Korea, is a visiting lecturer in the fashion design program. She said she chose to come to IU because of its large size and diversity in research opportunities.

“So far, it’s amazing,” Choi said. “I have loved the town and class and the environment.” 

Looking toward the future, Viers said he is excited for the new $17.5 million International Center, which will be on campus by summer 2020. According to the Herald-Times, the center will house OIS, the Office of Overseas Studies and the Office of International Development. Construction on the 40,000 square-foot building will begin in spring 2019.

Viers said in the lead up to the anniversary, he and his colleagues had been thinking about the strong foundation their predecessors left for them. 

“We’ve been talking in the office a lot about wanting to make sure we leave a similar legacy for those who follow in our footsteps in the decades to come,” Viers said. 

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