Global Initiatives Welcomes Students to Campus

Each term, Michigan Ross Global Initiatives welcomes students from all over the world to spend a term learning at Michigan Ross and living in Ann Arbor. It’s an exchange program the team starts preparing for a year in advance, and culminates with an orientation the day before school starts.

This winter, the Global Initiatives team welcomed 152 visiting exchange students from 25 countries. The program kicked off with an orientation on Jan. 3, and included an introductory presentation to Michigan Ross, icebreaker games, a tour of campus, and a separate orientation with the university’s International Center. Incoming students were paired with current Ross students who help them navigate life at Ross.

According to Jessica Oldford, managing director of Global Initiatives, the orientation is one of the most rewarding days of the term, and a time when the team sees firsthand the results of all of their hard work. It is also fun for the team to meet the students they have been preparing for all year.

“They are a very rewarding group to work with and it’s great to see all of our efforts over the past year realized during the Incoming Exchange Orientation,” said Oldford. “It’s also a wonderful way for us to bring the globe to Ross. We welcome students from countries where we don’t typically see degree-seeking international students, which allows us to further diversify the Ross community.  Exchange students come from unique places such as Finland, Argentina, and Hungary, and they engage as a full-time Ross student for the term or academic year.”

How the Program Works

In order to make the exchange happen, the Global Initiatives team first has to establish relationships with the international partner schools. The team identifies top-ranked schools and then works with the Ross leadership team and faculty chairs to create the official partnership. They also seek out recommendations from Ross’ U.S. peer institutions. 

For every partnership, Global Initiates works to negotiate the number of students that will be exchanged. Those numbers are based on where student interest is and whether the team can secure enough spots that align student interest with a high-quality education.

From there, the Global Initiatives team works with the incoming students to make sure that they are ready to arrive on campus, and confer with the International Center to ensure that the students have all of their documents and can get to the closest U.S. embassy to apply for their visas. The team also collaborates with the Michigan Ross registrar’s office and academic advising to make sure that the students have enough classes. Additionally, they provide resources for the exchange students to find short-term housing, either on or off campus.

But the work of the Global Initiatives team doesn’t end with onboarding students and the orientation. Throughout the term, the team is there to support the exchange students and answer their questions. 

“Many of the exchange students are living abroad for the first time — and this is their first experience living and studying in the United States,” said Oldford. “Given this, many of them need additional support to help navigate the new culture, different academic setting, and just overall life in Ann Arbor. My team and I reiterate to the exchange students that we are here for them — and in fact, we truly enjoy working with and supporting them! The exchange program and exchange students are a huge reason that many of us work in the field of global education.”

While this winter 152 exchange students were welcomed to Ross, the LSA Center for Global and Intercultural Study welcomed 17. Overall, the Michigan Global Initiatives exchange program is the largest program of its kind on the University of Michigan campus, and Oldford and her team are always looking for ways to expand the program and provide additional support for students. 

Meet the Global Initiatives Team

The Global Initiatives team currently consists of Oldford as the managing director, one director, four associate directors who manage a portfolio of partner schools that are broken down into geographies, as well as two global education advisors who support the incoming students by assisting them throughout the process as well as answering their questions, collecting their materials, and helping them to navigate any hurdles they may encounter. They are excited to be expanding their team and welcoming Emily Keeler from the Erb Institute.

Jessica Oldford, managing director
Kiali Curtis, associate director
Laura Haas, director
Annie Weaver, associate director
Stephanie Lee, global education advisor
Jen Chizek, associate director
Gabbi Wassilak, global education advisor

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