February 17, 2017 | By Chuck Carlson
Betsy Morley had been out of the country on assignment for all of one day when news arrived that she knew would make her job a little more challenging.
Morley, who in December became director of international recruitment in Albion College's Admission Office, was in New Delhi, India, with a group of other international college recruiters in late January when she heard that President Donald Trump had signed an executive order blocking entry to the United States for men, women and children from seven Muslim- majority countries.
And while India was not mentioned in the ban (which is currently on hold after a federal court ruling), the uncertainty brought on by the move and what the future might hold was one that Morley knew would have to be addressed.
“We woke up the day after and saw that and said, ‘OK, here we go,’” said Morley, who last week returned from three weeks meeting and greeting India’s students from grades eight to 12 in New Delhi, Pune, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. “The general concern from students and parents was, 'We don’t know what’s going to happen.' And they didn’t expect we would know, but they wanted to hear us talk about it. It was something we had to address, but it was easy to move on to the real reason we were there.”
At its best, international recruiting is not an easy job. Long days of travel and dealing with the vagaries of high school students who seem to know what they want until they don’t.
It can be frustrating and exhilarating, often at the same time. But Morley is used to it. Indeed, she seems to thrive on it. The fact that her sphere of influence is the world only makes it more interesting for her.
“You plan and you take minimal clothes and you take a lot of medication,” she said with a laugh. “It is intense, but the relationships you build are what sustain you.”
Her goal is to show students who are eager and willing and perhaps just a little brave to take a chance on coming to Albion College for the opportunity to fulfill their dreams.
In March, her plans are to travel to China and Mongolia. From there? Perhaps to Latin America, the Middle East and then to Vietnam and Nepal, areas from which Albion has been able to attract students.
It’s a job Morley thrives on, since travel has always been a part of her life.
Growing up in Lexington, Ky., Morley traveled a lot with her grandmother, who loved package vacation tours. As a result, her first trip abroad was to Ireland when she was 11 or 12 years old. And she was hooked.
She attended Agnes Scott College in Atlanta where she majored in French and anthropology and studied in Senegal for a semester. After graduation, she moved to France for two years to teach English. She returned to the U.S. and earned her master’s in international education at New York University and then went to Ohio University, where she spent time working in the study-abroad program.
After a time at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she returned to Ohio University in 2008 to help build its international program. She also worked in the school’s computer system integration unit for a period before deciding she wanted to get back into recruiting. After a year in international student services at Ohio, she learned of Albion’s need for an international recruiting director.
“We were very impressed with her experience in international education and recruiting in particular,” said Steve Klein, Albion’s vice president for enrollment. “And we were pleased that her undergraduate experience was at a selective private liberal arts college because she was already familiar with the type of opportunity we offer as well as the competitive environment for international students.”
Klein said it is Albion’s goal to build an international program that, in time, could welcome as many as 25 international students a year. Currently, there are students from 23 countries who are four-year degree seekers, U.S. citizens who grew up elsewhere or native speakers who teach their own language, according to Deb Peterson, director of the College's Center for International Education and Off-Campus Programs.
And they come from as far-flung places as Mongolia, Hong Kong, Nepal, Pakistan, Vietnam, India, El Salvador, Ghana, Peru, Russia and Kosovo. They also come from Italy, Mexico, Spain, France, Romania, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, China, Japan and San Marino.
“Getting an American education is an accomplishment in its own right,” Klein said. “It’s seen as a passport to success.”
And it’s Morley’s job to find the right students in the right circumstances to make the commitment to come to a small Midwest liberal arts college.
“I start by asking them if they know what a liberal arts school is,” said Morley, who was part of a group of recruiters from numerous colleges on the trip to India. “I ask, ‘What are your dreams and goals? What do you like to do in your free time? How do what we do as a college fit into what you want?’ We want to know their dreams and ambitions.”
On her recent trip, she visited with hundreds of students and was able to get a sense of what they were looking for in an American education. She will now stay in contact, usually through a phone app and email, to gauge their continuing interest.
“They really didn’t know what a liberal arts school was,” she said. “So it was great to see their minds open to it. It’s great to be in at the beginning of it.”
The conversations also included parents, who obviously were looking at the cost of not only sending their child to America for an education but concerned about what their child will encounter once they get here.
“We tell them we will always have someone looking out for their child,” Morley said. “That’s huge. But these are students who seem to know what they want. They’re engaged. So we let them know we have support for them. They’re going to find something new here to do.”
Klein said Albion is especially interested in growing its presence in countries with growing middle classes.
“One key is going to the right countries,” he said. “We’re looking for students with a hunger for knowledge and opportunity. If they’re able to study overseas, they’re looking for any opportunity to do that. I think the biggest challenge for international students is that we’re not on either coast and Asian students especially are looking at either the East Coast or West Coast because many students have relatives and friends in those places.”
It won’t be an easy process and it won’t be happen quickly. But for Morley that’s part of what makes the job worthwhile.
“The common wisdom is it takes three years to get into a market and we’ve already raised awareness about Albion,” she said, referring to the College's past efforts before her arrival. “We can tell students, ‘We’re going to give you what you need to achieve your dreams.’”