Tag Archives: International Students

An Interview with José Pecho-Chaves

The last few years of José Pecho-Chaves’  life have taken him to more places than ever before. Three years ago, looking for a new adventure, José decided to visit the University of Georgia on a study abroad program. Fast forward to the present, and José has not only transferred to UGA as a student in the Terry College of Business, but he has also studied abroad in Germany, and is  preparing to graduate and start his next adventure.

Here, José looks back on why he initially decided to come study in the United States:




International Street Festival

International Street Festival is the University of Georgia’s annual celebration of international cultures and diversity. Street Fest, hosted in by International Student Life, the Office of International Diversity and the Office of International Education, is a day of music, games and fun. College Ave. in downtown Athens, Ga. is roped off for the event, and students, professors and families alike roam through the street.

International student organizations such as AIESEC, the Pakistani Student Association, the Vietnamese Student Association and many others have booths at the event, all ready to share stories, games, food and other aspects of the cultures they represent.

The following are photos and sound bytes from the Street Fest 2014:

photo 5 (1)

photo 2 (2) photo 4 (1)

photo 2 (1) photo 3 photo 3 (1) photo 2 photo 5 photo 1 (1)

How does UGA stack up?

The increase in international student diversity at the University of Georgia begs a question: how does UGA stack up to its peer and aspirational universities?

Peer and aspirational universities are institutions comparable to the University of Georgia. If a university is UGA’s peer, it is directly comparable to UGA in its current state. If a university is one of UGA’s aspirational institutions, it holds a higher standard or ranking than UGA at the moment (translation: the University of Georgia ‘aspires’ to be like them in the near future).

The universities discussed below were selected for comparison using the two criteria below:

  • Were they listed as a peer or aspirational institution on the university website? Quite simply, if UGA doesn’t recognize the universities discussed as peer or aspirational schools, this comparison wouldn’t be legitimate.
  • Are they a public university? This restriction is my own. There are private universities on UGA’s peer and aspirational schools list. However, public universities face similar environments in regards to funding and student demographics, so I decided to solely compare public schools.

So how does UGA stack up?

Let’s look at four different institutions: Michigan State University (MSU), University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA), University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (UNC) and the University of Alabama (UA).

MSU is one of UGA’s peer institutions, meaning that the University of Georgia views MSU as an equivalent university. UCLA and UNC are aspirational institutions. UA makes the list because, like UGA, it is a member of the Southeastern Conference, or SEC.

International students as a percentage of total student body count
International students as a percentage of total student body count

All four of these schools have varying international student populations, and a quick comparison puts UGA right in the middle. The University of Georgia has a larger international student population than both UNC and UA. MSU and UCLA have larger international student populations than UGA, though.

Further compare UGA and UNC, and you get some interesting finds. Both universities draw their largest numbers of international students from China and Korea. However, UGA has a larger Chinese student population, which numbers 761 at the moment. At UNC, there are 479 Chinese students.

Also noteworthy are the origins of other international students at both universities. Both UGA and UNC draw large student groups from Korea and India, but beyond that, UNC has more students coming from Canada and Japan, and UGA has more students coming from Taiwan and the United Kingdom.

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 2.10.25 pm
Top five countries from which international students arrive at UGA.
Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 2.09.58 pm
Top five countries from which international students arrive at UNC.






Table: International student origins by country between 2000 and 2013


The full list of University of Georgia peer and aspirational institutions can be found here. 

Diversity Institutionalized

University of Georgia Associate Provost and Chief Diversity Officer Michelle Garfield Cook (Photo credit: Brittni Ray)
University of Georgia Associate Provost and Chief Diversity Officer Michelle Garfield Cook (Photo credit: Brittni Ray)

International students at the University of Georgia are familiar with three branches of administration: the Offices of International Education, Student Life and Institutional Diversity.

Of these three offices, the Office of Institutional Diversity (OID) is led by Michelle Garfield Cook, who is the OID’s associate provost and chief diversity officer.

According to Cook, the increase in international students from Asia can be attributed to two primary causes. The University boasts new programs in biological sciences and engineering that bring more international students to Athens, Ga. The University admissions office also partners with alumni in China in order to bring programs to the attention of Chinese students.

Cook also mentions that there is a correlation between faculty and student diversity, particularly for those of Asian origin. “It’s almost direct. It’s around 9 percent. And that’s kind of that sweet spot when you think about diversity. You want to have a nice, a reasonable number, of students, in terms of the percentage of faculty.”

That being said, Cook highlights the University’s diversity plan (which has a target completion date of 2016) as one of the OID’s priorities for the coming year. “It’s probably at the top of our list. We’re not [solely] doing the plan — it’s a campus effort — but we want to make sure we continue to shepherd that plan.”

The diversity plan, which was initiated in 2011, has five main objectives, one of which is an “increase in the recruitment and retention of diverse students.” According to the plan, indicators of success in this area would include campus-wide diversity, an increase in international programs and the number of historically underrepresented students at the University of Georgia.

Table 1: Growth in UGA’s international student population between 2001 and 2013



For the 2013 year, 2,547 international students studied at the University, making international students a little over 7 percent of the student body. In 2000, international students comprised 5 percent of the student body.

Then-Provost Jere Morehead recognized the need for increased student diversity in his 2011 letter detailing the diversity plan:

“Still, there is more that can be done. This five-year diversity plan provides a framework to encourage further progress. It is incumbent on all members of the university community to promote the goals outlined here.”

International Student Demographics

International students come from around the world to study at the University of Georgia. Past years have seen significant changes in the places they call home, though.

Information obtained through University Fact Books dating from 2000 till 2013 suggests that the University has seen its greatest influx of international students from China and India.

Between 2000 and 2013, for instance, the University saw an approximately 260 percent increase in the number of international students (both graduate and undergraduate) arriving from China. In 2000, the University had 292 Chinese students. In 2013, the same demographic numbered 761.

The number of Indian international students has also increased in past years. Between 2000 and 2008, for instance, the Indian international student population grew from 201 to 325. Since 2008, though, Indian international students have been coming to the University with decreasing frequency. There has been a 22 percent decrease in the number of students from India between 2008 and 2013, at which time the University welcomed 253 Indian students.

Conversely, the number of international students from the United Kingdom has slowly decreased over the years. Since 2000, there has been approximately a 42 percent decrease in the number of students from the United Kingdom.

Significant numbers of international students also come to the University from South Korea and Taiwan, which had 404 students and 57 students study at the University in 2013 respectively.

Trends in international student enrollment at the University of Georgia.
Trends in international student enrollment at the University of Georgia.