Roberts plans for enrollment of Chinese students

Collin Hoofnagle, News Editor

By working to bring Chinese students from the Far East to the halls of JC, Director of Admissions, Jesse Roberts hopes to both expand the mission of the school and fill a looming enrollment gap.

Roberts travelled to China in late August as part of his MBA program at Loyola University. There, he spoke “to [agencies] about the opportunities that exist to bring students from Beijing and Shanghai to JC.”

Roberts has “had experience” with the same agencies while working as Admissions Director at West Nottingham Academy. According to Roberts, these agencies “specialize in placing academically strong and focused students into schools in America.”’

As of now, Roberts expects to have five to 10 Chinese students for the start of the 2011 to 2012 school year. “You’re not going to see a flood overnight of 50 Chinese kids,” Roberts said.

“The number of available students who will be matriculating into ninth grade in the next three years is down, so how do we best find opportunities to fill seats? If it’s not local, we have to be open to looking in other places,” Roberts said.

However, “this is a mission-orientated directive,” Roberts said.

Filling an enrollment gap is “a secondary benefit,” according to President Richard O’Hara. “Why limit our recruiting just to the region if we have great potential students that are a little further away than Havre de Grace…like Beijing?” O’Hara said.

“This is not new to us. It’s always been a part of our fabric,” Roberts said. According to Roberts, JC enrolled students in the 1970s from Iran, Vietnam, and Africa.

Students from South Korea, Germany, and Cameroon are currently enrolled at JC. “But it hasn’t necessarily been something that we have had a focused approach [on]. If you’re going to welcome international students into your school, you need to make sure they have as many opportunities to be successful as you do for domestic students,” Roberts said.

It “doesn’t happen without planning. There are a number of issues that come with [enrolling more international students],” O’Hara said.

One such issue for the Chinese students, according to Roberts, is housing. Roberts is currently unaware whether Chinese students will live on their own or stay with current JC students.

“It would be a fantastic experience, I imagine, to have a student from China living with you for a year,” Roberts said.

Also, the students may have a specialized focus to their academics. “There are graduation requirements they’ll have to complete as every student does,” though “they might have a specific English class that focuses on English as a Second Language (ESL) that allows them to get up to speed,” Roberts said.

Students from South Korea and Cameroon currently take an ESL class, taught by Spanish teacher Sandi Seiler.

According to Roberts, ESL may be slightly different for Chinese students. “The scope might be a little more rigorous, more focused,” Roberts said.

The admissions process will also differ slightly. The students will be required to demonstrate their English ability on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Also, the students will be interviewed via Skype.

According to Roberts, Skype conversations will take place multiple times. “We want to make sure that not only the student is committed and engaged and energized by the experience but that the family is, as well,” Roberts said.

“We have to make sure it’s a good fit. We also have to make sure they’re qualified. It’s not just a question of getting any international students. Are they solid students? Will they be good citizens of this community?” O’Hara said.

According to Roberts, enrolling international students is not limited to China. “Spain is in the mix. I have contacts in Bermuda and Barbados. I have some contacts in South America. I have other contacts in England and Germany,” Roberts said.

”I want to be very focused about how we do this. I don’t want to turn into a school with 40 to 50 percent international students.”

“By doing this in a very focused and thoughtful manner, we’ll be able to get students who will not only thrive in the classroom, thrive in activities, thrive in the religious life of the school, but who’ll also be able to really give us something back,” Roberts said.

Collin Hoofnagle can be reached for comment at [email protected].