MT. PLEASANT — International students attending Iowa Wesleyan University will have a new “home away from home” as the university officially opens its Center for International Education.
The university held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house for the recently renovated building on North Broadway and West Franklin Street.
At the ceremony, university provost DeWayne Frazier said the university was able to raise $30,000 to repaint and power wash the building in preparation for the international center. Frazier also highlighted the university’s diverse campus, which often has a student body that represents up to 30 countries around the world.
“I think about the school, the church, everybody that came here. They believe that everybody should have an opportunity for education … We have had international students here for many, many years. When we can celebrate these students, it’s amazing,” Frazier said.
University President Christine Plunkett commended Frazier’s work with international students. The president noted both herself and Frazier arrived at the university five years ago, at which time the university only had “a handful of international students.” In more recent years, international students make up about a quarter of the university’s student body, Plunkett said.
Both students and faculty who participated in the ribbon cutting were excited for the new resource on campus. Roji Shahi and Sabi Khatiwada, students from Nepal said the new building is an upgrade from the smaller office that used to house the international department in the campus library.
“We can come here and enjoy. We can eat together, play some games and just hang out,” Khatiwada said.
“It was a little difficult in the past to do some of that because we didn’t have as big of a space,” he added.
Shahi added the house really gives international students a “sense of belonging.”
“You have somewhere to go if you have any problems,” she said. Shahi shared when she first arrived in the United States for college, she experienced culture shock and homesickness, something she was able to work through with the help of resources on campus.
In addition to housing faculty who work with international students, the center has a designated study space and a small library for English learners and a full kitchen that international students will be able to use to make cultural dishes.
Khatiwada, who began studying at Iowa Wesleyan in 2016 and was one of the first the larger cohorts of international students, said he’s seen the university grow, both generally and for the international community.
“It’s just really great, you know, having this place that anyone can come to,” he said.
Clay Johnson, student adviser for international students, said the building is a place they can “call theirs.”
“I think it’s really important. I think it shows how much the university and the community really wants the international students here,” he said.
Johnson added he felt the center will be a welcoming place as well as a point of contact for students and the broader community.
David Schmitz, the international program director, said the center is a “tangible and visible way” to show students how much the university values them.
“It’s important to have a space that’s really welcoming for them with friendly faces and be with people who really care for them,” Schmitz said.
Although the coronavirus pandemic has put a pause on the usual events the international department hosts, Schmitz said he hopes to use the new space as a meeting point to hold gatherings and events for students.
The international program director added the center is also a “two-way street” and enriches the broader community as well.
“We get a real taste of world culture right here in Mt. Pleasant. That’s amazing,” he said.