BRADFORD, Pa. - Alex Nazemetz, director of admissions at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, always knows what time it is in Beijing, just a part of recruiting Pitt-Bradford's largest group of international students ever.
This year Pitt-Bradford is welcoming its largest group of international students ever - three times as many as came to Pitt-Bradford in 2011. As classes got under way last week, they included 32 new international students from Gambia, Germany, South Korea, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, but mostly from China.
The new students - nearly 10 percent of the freshman class - bring the total number of international students on campus to 48.
The learning curve for Nazemetz, who does most of the international recruitment himself, has been steep. For example, international students are often interested in different things than domestic students, things that Nazemetz has found out through hours of correspondence.
Many of the students are referred to Pitt-Bradford through the University of Pittsburgh's Options program, which gives students the option of enrolling at a Pitt campus other than the one in Pittsburgh. Some express interest directly in Pitt-Bradford, particularly since the college started its own account this year on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
The account is administered by Dr. Y. Ken Wang, assistant professor of computer information systems and technology and a native of China.
Once a student is introduced to Pitt-Bradford through Options, Weibo or other channels, Nazemetz begins a long email correspondence. He shows students and their parents a map showing where Pitt-Bradford is located, a sample of the Pitt degree they would receive upon graduating and information on where recent graduates are working - all things that he's found Asian families to be particularly interested in.
The individual attention and safety that Pitt-Bradford can provide are also selling points, he said.
Once enrolled, Nazemetz's last interaction with international students may be the most personal - he and a couple of other members of his staff, Shawn Manning and Cindy Nowacki, pick each student up from the Buffalo or Bradford airport and drive them to campus.
"These students come in with buckets of enthusiasm," he said. "It doesn't matter what time I pick them up."
Once they arrive on campus, they're in the hands of Dr. Ron Binder, associate dean of student affairs, who, along with Kristin Asinger, director of international studies, created a mentoring program that matches each new international student up with a student mentor.
Mentors apply for their positions and stick like glue to their students for the first week or so, taking them to key spots on campus and making sure they attend English proficiency testing and orientation.
They show them around Bradford, too, escorting their mentees to a cookout at Asinger's home, helping them use the Area Transportation Authority buses to shop and run errands, accompanying them to the bank to open a checking account, and setting up a cell phone account for them.
"I originally wanted to be a mentor because I thought that I could learn a lot from someone who comes from a different culture," said Ashley Andrucyk, a public relations major from Shamokin, mentoring two students from China.
"It's very rewarding to help another student further their education. It was a struggle for me getting to college and staying enrolled, so to be the support system for international students has been exciting and very rewarding."
Nazemetz said, "International students add flavor to campus, and our domestic students are very receptive."