Based upon its steadfast approach to both recruiting and supporting international students, the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering recently won the 2018 Award for Outstanding Department Contribution to International Education at NIU.
Murali Krishnamurthi, a professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, as well as the vice provost for faculty affairs at NIU, nominated the department for the award. He says the entire department, which has nine tenured and tenure-track faculty members all of international heritage, is dedicated to international education.
“What sets apart this department in this area is the concerted effort to promote international education by everyone in the department, starting from the office staff to department chair, which not only benefits international students but also all students in the program. The award is a recognition of the leadership of the department chair, Dr. Purush Damodaran, and all the faculty, staff and students of the department.”
The award is based upon many criteria, including number of international students and faculty, study abroad opportunities, and efforts to recruit international students and to support them while they are at NIU.
That support can come in many ways, including teaching assistantships, tuition waivers and more.
In the fall of 2018, the department had 253 undergraduate and graduate students, of whom 119 were international, hailing from countries including Bangladesh, Canada, China, Egypt, India, Iraq, Jordan, Nigeria and Sudan, Damodaran said.
Of those, 19 students had research assistantships, 19 had teaching assistantships and four had tuition waivers.
While that support is integral to the success of the students while at NIU, the department’s support goes even deeper than that into personal interactions.
For example, every Thanksgiving, Damodaran and Krishnamurthi host personally funded Thanksgiving dinners for international students and alumni to promote international understanding and help international students network with alumni.
Each year many faculty and students travel overseas to their home countries and other areas for lectures and mini-courses, as well as to visit home. They also travel each year to Colombia and bring in students from the country, which is where the department’s study abroad program is located. While abroad, they tout the benefits of NIU and the department, Damodaran said. Given the program’s reputation, he said, it is an easy sell to international students.
The fact that prestigious companies come to the department looking for real-world solutions to their problems from engineering students is appealing. Students get hands-on experience and first opportunities at internships, and most have an easy time finding a job upon graduation, he said.
When he touts the department to international student audiences in his native India, they are excited to apply and become a part of the program at NIU.
“We have a good reputation and it’s easy for us to talk to them and they get excited,” he said. “The students see an advantage to coming here.
“When they do, they are happy they picked NIU,” Damodaran said.