by Sandy Gholston - April 14, 2011
Piram Prakasam believes that part of Ferris State University's strength, as an institution of higher learning, is rooted in its blossoming international diversity.
As director of Ferris' Office of International Education, Prakasam hopes that the best is yet to come for international diversity at Ferris. A man who once was known for his work at Ferris as an associate professor of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, now has a bigger and perhaps more socially-significant chemistry experiment in the works - blending the experiences of international and domestic students on Ferris' Big Rapids campus. In the end, Prakasam sees the benefits of such an educational opportunity as too significant to be dismissed.
"Through the Office of International Education, we can provide educational opportunities to expand students' horizons and better prepare them for the workforce after college," he said. "One of my goals is to provide more international education opportunities for students."
Open dialogs, programs and events are just part of the vision Prakasam spoke of as he touched upon the expansion of international education opportunities. The Office of International Education has committed itself to that vision. OIE's team includes Luzia Tartari, student recruitment and admissions; Linda Hayes, an admissions specialist; Shana Beisiegel, student advising and retention; Tara Benzing, Study Abroad and National Student Exchange manager; Morgan Hales, Study Abroad coordinator; and Lurena Williams, administrative assistant to the director.
Additionally, the staff benefits from a team of student interns who, of course, better understand the student experience - including some who know the international student experience.
OIE's dynamic team has hit the ground running to build a foundation of support for international students and a resource center to help students from the U.S. become well acquainted with their international brothers and sisters.
Last summer, as the new office was introduced to the campus community, Prakasam outlined OIE's three primary objectives: 1) coordinate study away opportunities for Ferris students, ranging from two-week to semester-long programs; 2) recruit international students and provide a support network for them while they attend Ferris; and 3) help international students with the transition from college life into the workforce.
"This was an opportunity for me to take some of the ideas that I had been thinking about and talking to other people about, put together a team and begin to implement some of these ideas," Prakasam said. "In a global marketplace, where higher education is also becoming a service that can move from one place to another place, it is important for state institutions like Ferris to look beyond the immediate market and see how they can become very globally competent."
OIE is leading the way through diverse programming and outreach efforts designed to engage students, faculty, staff and community members.
Prakasam is dedicated to an OIE that blends Ferris' domestic and international populations in an environment that is both comfortably social and highly educational.
The culturally-enriching Study Abroad program, the annual International Festival of Cultures celebration and thought-provoking open dialogs on a variety of topics are part of Prakasam's vision for an influential OIE that impacts a wide range of students at Ferris.
"The international experience is a key component of college life," he emphasized.
And, Ferris continues to lead that effort with a fast-growing international student population strengthened by Piram Prakasam and the Office of International Education.