Albion Diversifies Student Body Through International Recruiting

Lewis Cardenas brought an Albion pennant to a tour of the school museum at the Wenhua Middle School in Wuhan, China.Lewis Cardenas brought an Albion pennant to a tour of the school museum at the Wenhua Middle School in Wuhan, China.Lewis Cardenas, '02, didn't have to complete tasks assigned by a producer or director to work around a detour or road block, but he still logged an amazing number of miles in an amazing race to direct a successful campaign geared toward diversifying the Albion College student body through international recruitment.

Through trips to the Middle East and Asia since joining the admission staff last summer, Cardenas' efforts will result in 30 international students and two American students living abroad joining the Albion community this fall.

"I thought it would be great to use the Middle East as a stepping stone because we're working on increasing the Islamic student population on campus by our efforts with Chaplain Dan McQuown and the Islamic community in Dearborn," Cardenas explains. "I thought it would compliment those efforts if I went to the Middle East and tried to establish relationships there."

Lewis Cardenas presents admission materials to interested students in Qatar.Lewis Cardenas presents admission materials to interested students in Qatar.Cardenas' Middle East tour consisted of visits to three countries, with each country having eight school visits and at least one college fair. The Asia tour, which took place in the spring, included visits to 22 schools and participation in six college fairs in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and China.

One of the keys to getting Albion exposed internationally was Cardenas' effort to stay on the move. He stayed in most cities for just a day and a half during the Asia tour, though his visits to Chinese cities of Raizhao, Shenzhen, and Wuhan lasted four days each.

"The tour does a good job of setting up the school visits and I was on the go," Cardenas said. "I had my materials ready and I made my way to each school via plane, train or automobile for about an hour and a half and then you are off to the next school. On average it was three school visits a day and a college fair in the evening lasting three to four hours.

"Out of the five weeks (of the Asia tour) I had two days where I didn't check e-mail or have any school visits," he added. "I took every opportunity to meet with prospective students during any free time. Some students couldn't make it to the college fairs and I couldn't visit every high school in Shanghai so I was meeting students who would make time out of their day in the hotel lobby. It is pretty intense."

An ability to adapt was also important. In addition to trying to learn a couple of phrases that would help him communicate in the each area, Cardenas had to adjust to the difference in seating arrangements at college fairs and the customs for interpersonal communication. Being seated with a leg crossed is offensive in the Middle East, for example.

When he can't get away from his desk in Albion, Cardenas reaches out via video conferencing and chats on the internet.

Cardenas found that international students were attracted to Albion by the number of faculty members holding doctorate degrees, the longevity of the college, and the equestrian center.

Now at his desk in Albion for the summer, Cardenas is in the process of developing his travel schedule for the 2009-2010 academic year.

"I was the first international studies major at Albion College and my dream was always to have a job that involved travel in some capacity," Cardenas said. "What I have come to figure out is every job I've had since I've been out of college has involved education in some capacity. I really enjoy working with students and their families.

            "My goal is to go back to the Middle East and pick the areas we were best at - and that would be Kuwait and the Dubai college fair - and possibly reach out to Jordan or even Lebanon who has a market that is slowly growing and the Lebanese connection in the Detroit area might be a good fit."