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Safety, cost impact int'l recruiting

The University has stepped up its efforts over the last decade to create an internationally diverse student body, but safety concerns and financial constraints continue to keep admissions officers out of the Middle East and Africa.

Christoph Guttentag, director of undergraduate admissions, said the University continues to receive applications from regions where admissions officers are unable to travel, but that he still hopes to be able to send admissions officers into underrepresented areas such as the Middle East and Africa in the future.

"We obviously have a strong interest in creating a diverse student body and creating diversity within the group of international students as well," Guttentag said. "But with limited resources, we want to recruit in areas where we think we're going to get the greatest benefit from our presence."

At this point, Africa is not one such area, as the continent is too vast and costly to navigate to make undergraduate recruitment feasible, said Phyllis Supple, the admissions officer in charge of international recruitment. "It's an expensive place to travel around," she said. Supple added that the University is not sending recruitment officers to the Middle East due to "volatile travel conditions."

"When we were moving up to a point where it looked viable financially to go to the Middle East, we found ourselves faced with the current political situation, especially after Sept. 11," she said. "In fact, most schools have pulled back or are at a holding point with the Middle East right now."

Supple said it was difficult to gauge the affects of having a recruitment officer travel to any particular region, as there is not necessarily a direct correlation between the presence of an admissions officer and the number of applications the University receives.

"We have been traveling in Asia for many years, and it has been very successful," Supple said. "But who's to say how much recruiting has had an impact in, say, China. The number of applicants from China has probably been driven in part by greater offerings of financial aid or by having students come and talk about their experiences at Duke." She added, however, that active recruiting in other countries, such as Singapore, seems to have had a significant impact on the number of applications received.

Carlisle Harvard, director of the International House, said the University has enrolled some Middle Eastern students despite the absence of recruitment officers in the region. She said there are also some students from Africa, although their numbers are few and in decline.

"The bigger variety we have, the richer community. Hopefully the undergraduate admissions office is working toward being able to recruit in all regions, but they also have to look at their budget and decide what the potentials are for students in each region," Harvard said. "The truth of the matter is that we have a good number of international students here now, so the challenge is for there to be more interaction between international and U.S. students."

Currently, the admissions office is recruiting heavily in Asia and Western Europe, and slightly less heavily in Central and South America. This year, admissions officers will also travel to Eastern Europe--into Scandinavia, Russia and as far east as Turkey.

"We have a very large market in Turkey because students are educated in schools that offer U.S. or International Baccalaureate curriculums," Supple said. "Right now, we don't get a lot of applications from Scandinavia and Russia, but we'll see if we can't open some doors." Supple said the University, along with four schools with which it recruits internationally--Yale University, University of Chicago, Wellesley College and Dartmouth College--is also starting to consider sending recruitment officers to Vietnam.


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