There are many roads leading students to North Central College from countries around the globe. Some travel the road of Internet searches to find unique majors like jazz studies and actuarial science. Others make a personal contact and find the attention and friendliness they’re seeking. These international students fulfilled their college wish-lists when they decided to come to Naperville.
Jazz Studies attracts international talent
Ecuador, Japan and Russia are the countries represented by students who discovered North Central College’s Jazz Studies major. Ricardo Morales Vivero ’17 specialized in jazz guitar at Conservatorio Franz Liszt in Quito, Ecuador, and wanted a music school in the United States. With the help of an Education USA office in Quito, he was accepted at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston and three other schools, including North Central College. He ultimately decided that North Central’s scholarship offer and location close to Chicago made it the most desirable option. “When I saw Wentz Concert Hall for the first time, I was so excited to start my music classes,” he says. “Overall, my favorite part is the faculty, especially John McLean, who teaches guitar and jazz theory. I’m so lucky to have gotten to work with him and all the jazz faculty.” Along the way, Vivero added a major in global studies and says, “I’ve picked my majors based on what I really like.”
Elina Khaneeva ’17 came to North Central from Yekaterinburg, Russia, to study vocal jazz. She had attended a summer program at Berklee and decided to stay in America for her education. “People seemed so nice here and the jazz program is pretty rockin’,” she says. “It’s been nice to be immersed in the American culture. There is no other place where a person could be met with such a warm attitude.” In addition to studying vocal jazz with Janice Borla, lecturer of music, Khaneeva sings in the Women’s Chorale under the direction of Ramona Wis, Mimi Rolland Professor in the Fine Arts and professor of music. “Working with Janice and Dr. Wis is a great honor. They are incomparable.”
A third jazz student, trombonist Kotaro Komori of Japan, is playing in the College’s Big Band while attending the College’s English Language Institute. Vivero and Khaneeva are in a jazz combo directed by Mitch Paliga, lecturer in music and member of the internationally touring Lt. Dan Band. “These are real assets to our program,” says Paliga. “Their work ethic and background add another dimension to our program.”
“Having students here from 40 countries makes this campus special.”
Finding a big-school program at a small liberal arts college
When Edwin Villavicencio Blanco ’19 of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, learned he could study actuarial science at a small liberal arts college, he knew he’d found the right place when he heard about North Central. Most actuarial science programs are offered at large universities. “I didn’t want a huge public, state school,” he says. “Plus North Central was close to Chicago and Naperville is peaceful. You can combine both things.”
He learned about actuarial science from a family friend, who works in the insurance industry. “I love numbers but didn’t know what to do for a career,” he says. “When I started learning more about the actuarial science field, I realized it was perfect for me.”
Xiao Wang ’15 of Yantai, Shandong, China, also came to North Central for actuarial science. “The size of classes at North Central is relatively small compared to other colleges and universities,” she says, “so the attention I could get from professors definitely would help me in academics.” Wang eventually added a major in computer science and is now completing an internship at Argonne National Laboratory.
A personal contact Uyen Lam ’17 was attending Saigon South International School in Vietnam when she met Megan Otermat, North Central’s assistant director of international admission. Lam took a gap year prior to college admission but stayed in touch with Otermat. “I wanted a school that would help me figure out what path to follow,” says Lam.
She capitalized on North Central’s flexibility to combine finance, organizational communication and Japanese. Her dream career is to work in public relations for an international bank. “Not many small liberal arts colleges have a program in finance to pair with other majors,” she says. The opportunity to study abroad in Tokyo as part of her studies also was appealing, she adds.
At a recruiting event in Seattle, Otermat talked to international transfer students about interactive media studies. “That’s another unique program with the potential to attract international enrollment,” Otermat says. At the same time, North Central offers majors that are highly sought after, like international business, mathematics and biology. Regardless of the spectrum of programs, international students and their parents are seeking information about outcomes, location and the opportunities for internships and research. “The fact that we are among the top schools in the nation for participation at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research is huge,” Otermat adds.
The College welcomed new students from 26 countries this fall, a source of pride for North Central, says Jack Shindler, professor of English and director of international programs. “Unlike many colleges and universities, we keep the mosaic varied,” he says. “Having students here from a total of 40 countries makes this campus special.”