Monthly Archives: September 2012

Muslims from Abroad at US Catholic Universities

September 27, 2012


With all the US flag burning going on in the Arab world and Muslim nations these days, one question I have is where do they get these American flags? There seems to be a never ending supply of US flags in the very regions of the world that seem to despise all things American. But I digress. Flag burning and the ongoing antagonism expressed toward the US, isn’t the point of this piece. What is interesting is that despite the so-called Muslim rage portrayed on the cover of Newsweek or in mainstream media, Muslim students continue to choose the U.S. as their destination for higher education. What’s even more interesting is that they are choosing to do so at U.S. Catholic institutions. A 9/3/12 NYT article “Muslims Thrive at Universities Run by Catholics,” shows that a significant number of students from Muslim countries prefer attending a Catholic college or university than a secular institution of higher education. In fact, these students find that they are more comfortable in the religious setting of a Catholic university, even though they’re not Catholic. One female student from Kuwait at the University of Dayton is quoted as saying that she’s “more comfortable talking to a Christian than an atheist.” The students interviewed felt accepted and welcomed. Another, a graduate student from Pakistan at Creighton University in Omaha, said: “I like the fact that there’s faith, even if it’s not my faith, and I feel my faith is respected. I don’t have to leave my faith at home when I come to school.”

U.S. Catholic colleges and universities are reporting a sharp increase in the number of Muslim international students in recent years, though no definitive figures are available. But most report the numbers have not only doubled but that the number of Muslim women has tripled over the past decade. Catholic institutions offer features, such as single-sex dorms, or single-sex floors in dorms, spaces for prayer and installation of ablution room (for the traditional pre-prayer washing of hands and feet) that make them palatable to Muslim students. These students feel they can relate to the traditional values of a Catholic institution. In turn, the Catholic colleges recognize the special needs of their Muslim students by helping them with arrangements for celebrations of major religious holidays and offering halal meat at the cafeteria or for special events. By and large the feeling shared is that of mutual respect and understanding.

It is nice to see that on the campuses of our Catholic colleges, students from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds are able to get along and learn from one another. And just maybe on returning home to countries like Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Pakistan, Malaysia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia these students will take with them their experience of tolerance and acceptance.

The Frustrated Evaluator

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Filed under Credentials, Education, Human Interest

5 Reasons Why USA is the Top Choice for International Students

September 20, 2012

Statue of Liberty

According to a June 27, 2012 post by Study in the USA, “in the 2009/2010 academic year the number of international students in the USA rose by 3% to an all-time high of 690,923.” The U.S. continues to be the top choice for international students who want to continue their studies and broaden their experience.

As the former Director of University Placement Services at ELS Language Center (USA) and EDWAM Services Institute and AFME/AMIDEAST (Iran), I helped place thousands of students from around the world at U.S. colleges and universities to pursue undergraduate, graduate and advanced degrees. There are many benefits to studying in the U.S. and here are 8 reasons why international students choose to study in the United States:

1. Academic Excellence
The United States has one of the finest systems of higher education in the world. Its many different institutions offer academic and practical studies in almost any subject, at all levels, and for all types of student. U.S. universities also provide some of the world’s best professional degree programs in Engineering, Business Administration, Communications and Computer Science where students have the opportunity to work directly with some of the finest and best minds in their field of study. In addition, U.S. degrees have worldwide recognition for their excellence.

2. Flexibility
There is some flexibility in undergraduate programs where you are able to find a wide variety of courses to choose from to meet the requirements for the academic degree you are studying. Also, undergraduate programs allow flexibility to transfer to different institutions and switching your major field of study if you have a change of mind. If you know what you want to study, you can complete a “double major,” and cover two academic fields which you complete within the normal four years of study. And, if you’re “undecided,” you have time to make up your mind and pick a major (field of study) as you complete a variety of subjects in the first 1-2 years under the “liberal arts” requirements of the bachelor’s degree.

At the graduate level, you will be able to tailor your coursework to meet your specific academic goals and needs. You can select topics for a graduate thesis or dissertation based on ideas that are important to you and of interest to you and your country.

U.S. institutions also offer flexible entrance dates: Fall, Winter Spring or Summer with wide range of application deadlines (1-8 months before expected date of entry).

3. Experience American College Life & Travel the US
One of the perks of attending a U.S. college or university is the vibrant campus life you’ll be able to experience through a variety of non-academic activities available to help you get involved. You could run for a position in student government, write for the university newspaper, or join one of the many social or academic clubs available on the college/university campus. You could even cheer your university’s teams from football, basketball, baseball, or soccer!

The size of the U.S. with its great diversity in geography and culture offers international students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel and see the country during long university summer holidays. The international students offices on U.S. campuses also arrange programs such as holiday trips and host family stays that provide students immersion into American family life and culture.

4. Technology, Research, Teaching and Training
One thing universities in the U.S. pride themselves on is being on the forefront of technology. You can be sure that even if you’re not pursuing studies in the sciences or engineering, you will still have access to the latest technologies available on campus. This exposure will provide you with opportunities to become skilled in using cutting-edge technology to help you with your research, staying connected with other researchers, teachers and experts in your field on a global level.

At the graduate level, students who wish to help finance their education are able to acquire valuable experience through teaching and/or research. This is because many graduate programs at U.S. institutions provide training and teaching opportunities to help students become teaching assistants to undergraduate and/or research assistants on special projects related to their field of study.

5. Internationalization and Global Marketability
Education is a valuable commodity and international students who have earned degrees from U.S. colleges and universities find that they are sought after by employers for their wide range of knowledge and experience. As more U.S. companies seek to have a stronger presence in the global marketplace, they look to hiring individuals whose language skills and education helps them communicate, negotiate and conduct business across different cultures. International companies too look at recruiting from the pool of strong international student graduates of U.S. institutions for the same reasons as their U.S. counterparts. Employers value international student job applicants with and those with overseas work experience. International students in the US have the opportunity to gain work experience during their studies and can work in the US for up to one year or two years (for science and engineering students) after graduation in the Optional Practical Training scheme.

With over 4,500 colleges and universities, the higher education system in the U.S. offers something for everyone. No matter what your educational goals may be, you will be able to find a college or university that provides the particular field you want to study. In fact, you’ll probably find several colleges or universities to choose from!

Nora S. Khachetourians
Executive Director, ACEI, Inc.

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5 Things to Know about U.S. Community Colleges

September 13, 2012

City College of San Francisco 07

Many individuals and groups overseas seem to have a distorted view of U.S. community colleges thinking that their academic programs are inferior to those offered by four-year colleges and universities. In fact, even our visa officers at U.S. embassies seem to have a skewed opinion of community colleges when it comes to approving visas to international students holding acceptance letters from U.S. community colleges. It’s time that we explore the nature of community colleges and the benefits of obtaining a community college education.

Here are 5 things to know about a community college:

1. Academic Institution – A community college is an academic institution committed to higher learning just as a traditional four-year college or university. In the United States, community colleges (also called junior colleges, technical colleges or city colleges) are mainly two-year public institutions granting certificates, diplomas and Associate’s degrees. They also offer continuing and adult education programs.

2. Affordability – Community colleges are an affordable way to get access to university-level studies. The cost per credit hour for courses offered at community colleges is less than traditional universities. Many students planning on earning a Bachelor’s degree can benefit from the lower fees by opting to complete the general education requirements of the four-year bachelor’s by attending a community college first before transferring to a university.

3. Range of Courses and Programs – Community colleges provide a wide range of educational opportunities as well as courses related to trade and industry. The variety of courses offered makes pursuing studies at a community college attractive to students wanting to break into a career path which requires skills unique to a trade or job. But community colleges also offer courses satisfying the general education content of bachelor’s degrees so that domestic and international students can fulfill this component before continuing their studies at a four-year institution.

4. Transferability of Courses to U.S. four-year institutions – Community colleges provide academic courses specifically designed to meet the requirements for transfer to a four-year college/university should the student decide to use the credits earned toward a bachelor’s degree.

5. Flexibility – Community colleges are ideal for those attending to family needs or the working student who can’t afford to devote the time and energy needed to a four-year college and university program. Community colleges provide the working students and new parents with the opportunity of acquiring an education at a pace that makes sense and conforms to their busy schedule.

Whether you’re a local resident or an international student, set on acquiring and upgrading a skill/trade or earning credits to transfer to a four-year institution, the range and scope of programs offered make the community college a cost-effective transitional pathway to further education and independent living.

Useful links: Center for Global Advancement of Community Colleges

Alan A. Saidi
Sr. Vice-President & COO, ACEI, Inc


Filed under Education, Human Interest

The Decline of Western Civilization: Rejecting Critical Thinking & Embracing Pseudoscience

Manhattan street

If there ever were a time to question the quality of education in America, I would say that the recent revelations of political figureheads give us just such an opportunity. From sea to shining sea, the political battleground in the U.S. is brimming with candidates running for state and federal government positions. One would suppose them to be intelligent, well informed, highly educated individuals, who represent the best and brightest that America has to offer. Think again.

Think, Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, think Lubbock County Judge Tom Head, Rep. Rick Berg, Rick Santorum, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, to name but a few. Think that, if they are the litmus test of what the current system churns out, we must have taken a trip in Mr. Peabody & Sherman’s Wayback Machine to the dark ages of ignorance and repression.

As America finds itself in the fundamentalist grip of a very divisive presidential election, and we watch the two leading parties attempt to define themselves and the ideals of their respective platforms, I am struck dumb by what I can only perceive as a complete and utter lack of education.

To debate the merits of each party is fruitless, as that is not really what will get the United States and the world further along the path of evolution and out of the mud-slinging gutter we presently find ourselves mired in. But let’s run down the list of obviously educationally-challenged figureheads. How did these guys get into the positions of power they occupy anyway?

An obvious choice would be to start with Todd Akin, the now notorious Missouri Senate candidate who revealed his rocket-scientist genius by declaring,”If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” What century are we in? Are we really hearing a dialogue defining the various contextual forms of rape? Forcible rape, legitimate rape, assault rape…since when is rape anything but rape. It is an absolute perversion to try and qualify the sheer brutality of rape. This Pro Life Movement, National Right to Life Committee advocate’s attempt to bolster his anti-abortion views, seems to indicate that he must have been dosing off during biology class and all those 7th grade sex-education films…or?

Think Rep. Rick Berg the Senate candidate from North Dakota who while he condemned Todd Akin’s claims as “insulting and reprehensible” had previously voted in favor of convicting a woman who obtained an abortion as, ready for this–– guilty of a homicide crime. A crime, which in North Dakota, is classified as a felony, and carries a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole, even in cases of rape and incest. Think again, that Rick Santorum, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Mike Huckabee are also heartily behind legislation that forbids abortion even in the case of incest or rape.

But wait. Let’s go back to Todd Aikin for just a minute. Earlier this year, he made another frightening statement, attacking the federal student loan program by comparing it to cancer. Really? “America has got the equivalent of the stage three cancer of socialism because the federal government is tampering in all kinds of stuff it has no business tampering in,” Akin said. “What the Democrats did to get rid of the private student loans and take it all over by the government was wrong. It was a lousy bill. That’s why I voted no. The government needs to get its nose out of the education business.” What a genius idea. Wasn’t it government that had the foresight and wisdom to pass the GI Bill in 1944? One of the provisions in the GI Bill was providing our servicemen and women the opportunity to obtain a college/university education, a privilege reserved for the rich.

Another figurehead of the Republican brain trust, Paul Ryan would like to dismantle the only functioning social safety net in America, by, are you ready, following the model of American banks during the failed mortgage/loan Wall Street investment scheme which caused a world economic collapse. He would like to propose privatizing Social Security, which translates as taking seniors’ savings and investing them into high risk Wall Street funds. Wow, brilliant! And he can hardly be accused of forgetting his history lessons. He even wants to get rid of Medicare and slash funds for Medicaid, has proposed cutting food stamps for as many as 10 million Americans, cutting funds for programs likes Meals on Wheels, and eliminating Pell Grants for more than a million students. His genius knows no limits. Ryan has proposed a plan to slash taxes for the wealthiest Americans while raising taxes on some of the poor. Does this sound like a solidly educated, conscious human being?

To further support my conviction that the education system in America needs a complete overhaul, I call upon the confederate leanings of Judge Tom Head, from the state of Texas–– which accounts for more than 37% of the nations executions, 246 to be exact conducted under the current administration of Governor Rick Perry. Judge Head has warned that America might descend into a, “…Lexington, Concord, take up arms, get rid of the dictator…civil war if President Obama is re-elected.” Think Juneteenth, the commemoration of the day in which federal troops arrived in Texas to enforce the emancipation of its slaves. It was the last state in the union to give up slavery… And speaking of that uncomfortable subject, what was the RNC thinking when they allowed Cowboy Clint Eastwood to address President Obama at the podium as an invisible man? How many of those RNC members and attendees of the convention have read Ralph Ellison’s seminal book “Invisible Man”? I believe a few did, and seeing that reference on stage in front of the entire world made me cry.

The reprehensible rhetoric America is broadcasting to the world now, at his very moment, is anathema to the fundamental ideals upon which this country was purportedly founded, and can no longer be allowed to pass for intelligence. It shamefully announces to the world that our system of education is more than lacking. We must regroup and strategize a way to bring the basic precepts of a good solid education to all of our citizens, and we must re-create a society, which upholds the right of all of its citizens to live, work, learn, make choices and thrive in dignity and health.

Recommended reading:
The Atlantic Magazine September issue, “Fear of A Black President” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design / E:

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