Strategic growth initiatives in international education enrollment

Strategic growth initiatives in international education enrollment

Welcome to the next installment of a new Gateway series seeking to draw attention to critical topics in our profession. This third installment features Trine University and their approach to strategic growth initiatives in international student enrollment.

How does a high impact university strategy evolve into an international student population that in 10 years grew from 63 to 4000 students and maintained an 80% retention rate? Jaw dropping, yes. By coincidence, no. How did they accomplish this? Without a doubt, behind a great success story are the untold chapters of blood, sweat and tears leading up to where they are today. What first led them to change course? 

In 2012, with one student in the graduate program, Trine University’s David Colbert, AVP of International Services and Global Partnerships was asked by his administration if there was potential to grow their international programs. Initially, after offering an MBA and MS Engineering Management, they were able to see some initial positive results. Realizing there was a strong potential, the school embarked on a long term strategy focused on building their international student population. 

But how did they achieve their goals? David attributes this success to “Hard work along with a supportive administration that sees the value both from an institutional perspective and as revenue potential.” Three main hallmarks contributed to their winning strategy: Trine University leveled up, strategically pivoting to create quality programs focused on student demand, thinking beyond their four walls, and a powerful collaboration. 

Focus on Student Demand 

Building strong relationships with overseas partners such as universities, global ed tech companies and agents, enabled consistent market intelligence and understanding of market demand. This key information enabled Trine University to adapt to changing markets and build an effective recruiting strategy. A starting point was curated partnerships based on cooperation from both sides providing key information affecting current and future social mobility trends such as economic and political influencers impacting students’ decisions on what to study and global trends requiring consistent monitoring of world situations and flexibility to readjust strategies. 

Thinking Beyond the Four Walls 

The school’s next focus was to identify key cities to best facilitate growth of international graduate student populations. Trine University analyzed international student demographics in the U.S and projected career demands. Based on what they discovered, and with careful consideration, the university determined specific locations to offer four graduate degree programs to meet student demand and launched their first satellite branches in Detroit and Phoenix. 

Power Collaboration 

Creating a unified approach internally consisted of a supportive administration and a strong partnership between their graduate school and international departments enabling the university to quickly adapt to the market demand and needs of students. By aligning institutional goals with international strategy, the university was able to execute a clear plan with positive outcomes. Today their joint efforts have seen strong growth in their MS Business Analytics and MS Information Studies programs and an 80% retention rate, which can be attributed to quality curriculum, an international department focused on understanding and meeting student needs, recruiting for the right fit and strong global partners. Ellis Technology, as an innovative partner, is helping in their success by meeting the needs of their students pre-arrival, setting them up for success from day one of arriving in the USA and getting situated in a new country. 

Trine University is a model for what happens when a high impact strategic initiative works in tandem with great leadership, collaboration and adaptability. And, they aren’t sitting on their laurels, instead, expansion continues as they grow bachelor’s and doctoral programs at their satellite branches, pathway and online programs. 

Read more about Trine University’s growth here.

About the author: Mim Phillips is a highly experienced leader who has transitioned successfully in several verticals focused on bringing my A-game to organizations; in each vertical using my skills: scale, problem solve, initiate and execute ideas aligning with organizational goals. Building partnerships and working in business development as a connector and relationship manager.

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Episode 29: Cultural Lens on U.S. Higher Education: Analyzing International Perceptions of 'Anti-Woke’ Discourse

Dive into a nuanced exploration of the global discourse surrounding higher education in the United States. Join us for a panel discussion with esteemed international educators as we embark on a journey through the lenses of culture and international perspective, examining how global audiences interpret and engage with the ‘anti-woke’ discourse within the context of U.S. higher education. This engaging panel discussion will delve into the intersections of culture, ideology, and education, and the complex landscape of how international audiences perceive the ‘anti-woke’ narrative that has emerged within U.S. academia.

Whether you’re a senior international officer, or simply curious about the diverse viewpoints shaping U.S. higher education, this podcast episode will provide an invaluable space for critical analysis and insightful conversations.

Speaker Biography:

Fanta Aw is a distinguished leader in international education, renowned for her extensive contributions to global learning, cross-cultural understanding, and educational equity. With a deep commitment to fostering connections between diverse cultures and promoting educational excellence, she has significantly impacted the international education community.

Fanta Aw’s career has been characterized by her dedication to advancing global education initiatives, promoting diversity and inclusion, and nurturing partnerships that transcend borders. She has held influential roles in various organizations, advocating for the importance of international collaboration and learning experiences that empower individuals to navigate an increasingly interconnected world.

As a thought leader and visionary, Fanta Aw’s insights and expertise have shaped discussions on the future of international education, emphasizing the significance of equitable access, cultural exchange, and lifelong learning. Her work has not only elevated institutions but has also inspired countless individuals to embrace the transformative power of global education.

Date: September 14th, 2023
Time: 12 noon ET

Sponsored by:

Mark Beirn


An experienced global researcher and administrator, Mark Beirn brings a critical approach to risk management, factoring structural racism and identity-based violence into his rubric for supporting equitable global mobility.

Specialization Areas:

– Global Risk Management
– Education Abroad
– Diversity, Equity, Inclusion in International Education
– Health and Safety
– Curriculum Development


Stephen Appiah-Padi​


Stephen Appiah-Padi is an international educator with several years of teaching and administrative experience in both 4 and 2-year HEIs. An experienced global education practitioner-scholar, with a demonstrated history of success in the field.

Dr. Appiah-Padi has a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada in Educational Policy & Administration with a specialization in International/Intercultural Education.

At Northwestern College, he provided oversight in the administration of education abroad and international student services. In Lansing, Michigan, he first oversaw diversity and intercultural education at Lansing Community College, and later created the Center for International and Intercultural Education (CIIE) which merged intercultural engagement and international education programs of the institution, and he became its first director. Additionally, Dr. Appiah-Padi taught a course, “Diversity in the American Workplace”, to undergraduate management students of the College. In his current position, he provides leadership and vision in advancing strategic internationalization initiatives, including international partnerships and study abroad programs at Bucknell University.

Dr Appiah-Padi has created and facilitated several workshops for faculty and staff development in higher education and in business organizations. He has presented at several national and international conferences. In NAFSA, among several volunteer leadership positions, he has served as Dean of the Fundamentals of Intercultural Communication Workshop, the Leadership Development Committee member, Chair of the Africa Special Interest Group, and a Fellow of the Global Fellowship Program for mentoring emerging leaders of internationalization in African HEIs. He currently serves as a member of the NAFSA Board of Directors.

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Rosa Almoguera


Dr. Rosa Almoguera has worked as an international educator for over twenty years. She was trained as a Hispanic Philologist at the Universidad Complutense, in Madrid, and did her M.A. at the University of Pennsylvania. Her Ph.D., from Universidad Complutense included a field study and edition of written balladry “Romancero”. During many years Rosa combined teaching and her role as a senior administrator at the Fundación Ortega-Marañón in Toledo, Spain. At the Foundation, Rosa directed and, in many cases created, programs for the University of Minnesota, Notre Dame, Princeton, Ohio State, Arcadia, and the University of Chicago. She has also been a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, University of Portland, and Interamericana de Puerto Rico.

Beginning in 2016, Rosa works as an international education consultant for both public and private European and US higher education institutions. Rosa has been successful in developing new partnerships and programs, as well as helping improve already existing ones.

Rosa is a member of Forum and NAFSA and has presented with higher education professionals on innovative academic and research programming, STEM in study abroad and Nationalism in Europe. Rosa is currently completing the final Professional Certification from the Forum on Education Abroad.

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