Over 600 undergraduate and graduate students come to Lehigh from countries outside of the United States, with more expected as part of the university’s new international undergraduate recruitment effort. LTS staff interact daily with students from all over the world -- we employ international students, we assist them in using our services, and we collaborate with them in carrying out course-related projects. This spring, the LTS Diversity & Inclusion Committee offered two opportunities for staff to raise their awareness about the experiences and challenges of our international students.
In March, sixteen LTS staff attended “Welcome to Acirema,” a program offered by the Lehigh University Office of International Affairs. ACIREMA helps attendees understand what it is like for students and faculty to make the journey from their home country to Lehigh. The program takes participants through a simulation exercise designed to sensitize participants to the challenges that international students encounter in their quest for a U.S. education. From their first contact with a U.S. educational institution to the early on-campus experience, staff got a sense of what it is like for international students coming to Lehigh.
Attendees commented afterwards on how eye-opening this session was, helping them gain a greater understanding of the difficulties students experience when pursuing education in the United States.
Humanities librarian Heather Simoneau said “Acirema was a great experience to go through because I now have a much better idea of the challenges that international students encounter at Lehigh. The different perspective I gained through Acirema generated ideas for new ways that I could make their experience smoother.”
Library acquisitions assistant Erin Clavier added “I am impressed by the courage it must take for our international students to come to another country to study—particularly overcoming language barriers. This workshop provided a space to simulate that experience and also was an opportunity to get to know fellow staff members!”
Student panel discussion
Another opportunity came in April, as LTS staff gathered in Linderman Library for “Coffee & Conversation.” This session was designed to focus on our student colleagues and provided a casual and supportive environment to talk about their experiences on campus. Students shared the challenges they face, providing valuable insight to LTS staff who work with international students. Students of color shared their perspective on a recent racist incident on campus and stories of how they were personally impacted.
Cataloging assistant Gayle Nemeth said the session helped build empathy for the students that LTS works with, and helped participants see that they’re strong, determined individuals who face a lot of hurdles and overcome them, especially with respect to language and cultural barriers.”I have a lot of respect for them,” she said. “We should be proud of them.”
The goal for our Coffee & Conversation meetings is to promote opportunities for relevant and open dialogue on various topics for LTS staff and invited guests.