Ribbon-Cutting Marks Opening of International Village


A ribbon-cutting and open house were held today at Southeast Missouri State University celebrating the opening of the new International Village, a venue dedicated to supporting Southeast’s robust international student population.

The new International Village opened its doors in January, providing a venue dedicated to serving international students and enhancing the University’s diverse and globally-oriented campus. Located at 1025 N. Sprigg Street, the University’s Office of International Education and Services (IES) and the Intensive English Program (IEP) are located in the newly refurbished facilities.

Cutting the ribbon were Dr. Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast Missouri State University; Dr. Debbie Below, vice president for enrollment management and student success; Dr. Kevin Timlin, executive director of International Education and Services; Breanna Walling, associate director of IES and director of IEP; student Ruchika Sharma; and Luke LeGrand, Southeast’s student Regent.

“So far, there has been a lot of good energy around campus about the new facilities, especially with the international students” as the International Village has begun taking shape, serving as a resource and providing students a gathering space, Timlin said.

“It has been well received by our international recruitment partners, as it is a unique initiative,” he said. “It truly shows our institution’s commitment to internationalization.”

This spring, Southeast has 636 international students enrolled on campus, many of whom are using the new facilities for coffee hours, game nights, the International Student Association Prom and a Ladies Night hosted by the Intensive English Program (IEP). Other events have included an IEP new student orientation, a story-telling night for Women’s History Month and an international student graduate reception.

Timlin says the goal is to use the space “to the utmost capacity. It is a place for collaboration, cooperation, sharing and learning. It will take some time for everyone to figure out how to use it and what it can be used for, but I look forward to seeing the programming here grow and the level of international awareness increase.”

The International Village at Southeast is a unique setting and one offered by only a handful of universities in the nation, said Dr. Debbie Below, vice president for enrollment management and student success.

“It is spaces such as this that give students an opportunity to learn from one another and feel at home on a college campus,” she said. “The International Village will serve as a gathering space and learning environment for all students for many years to come.”

The facilities have been repurposed for the University’s international needs, bringing together in one location IES, which was formerly located in a house at 939 College Hill, and IEP, which had offices throughout Pacific Hall at 347 N. Pacific. With the first phase of renovations complete, the second phase of renovations, to be addressed at a future date, will include repurposing three cottages for residential housing.

The new International Village follows Southeast’s recent participation in the American Council on Education’s (ACE) Comprehensive Internationalization Laboratory. The laboratory has helped guide Southeast in its review of current international efforts and work towards the creation of a strategic plan in its international education efforts that align and integrate policies, programs and initiatives to position the University as a more globally-oriented and internationally-connected institution. The strategic planning process is currently in its final stages. Redesigning the facilities for Southeast’s international services will help fulfill the University’s commitment to advance internationalization.

The opportunity to redevelop the space as an International Village became possible after the Community Counseling Center assumed operation of Cottonwood Residential Treatment Facility in July 2015, later deciding to relocate and end its lease. The Southeast Missouri University Foundation built Cottonwood in 1987 for lease to the Missouri Department of Mental Health as a youth treatment facility, which operated the facility from its construction until June 2015. The space was identified, evaluated and recommended for repurposing by the Lawrence Group which led a comprehensive master planning process at Southeast.

“Having a venue dedicated to the purpose of global awareness and connectedness, as well as a place for international students to feel at home is very important,” Timlin said. 

The administrative building has office space for IES and IEP, and the upgraded gym is being used for social, recreational and learning activities. Adjacent to the gym is a commercial and residential kitchen being used as a catering prep area for events in the gym or for student social activities.

“This space is providing a whole new dimension and flexibility to host small and larger events,” Timlin said. “It’s a perfect venue for international students to share their culture, food and experiences with the whole campus.”

The administrative building includes a 20-station computer lab, and adjacent cottages house four classrooms and two small lounges which are helping meet the academic needs of IEP students. IEP began offering classes in the new location this spring.

Southeast’s IEP prepares English language learners for success in undergraduate or graduate study through high-quality instruction in the English language and cultural orientation activities. The program, accredited by the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA), emphasizes the linguistic skills, cultural awareness and critical thinking skills necessary to succeed at an American university.

 “With a dedicated space, we can invest in the resources and support students need to find success,” Walling said.

The International Village also is providing more opportunities for international students to interact with people across the campus, allowing them to transition to a new culture and language, and offering them the opportunity to practice their communication skills.

The facility is not only a space for international students but also a space for the entire Southeast community.

“Having a global understanding is vital to being a productive student and professional in the 21stcentury,” Timlin said. “Education is about collaboration, and the International Village is dedicated to sharing and understanding global cultures across the Southeast community.”

He reflected on the International Village’s future.

“It is enough of an ‘open page’ right now that the place can become what the students and the campus want it to be,” he said.

*Photo Caption: From left are Dr. Kevin Timlin, executive director of International Education and Services; Dr. Debbie Below, vice president for enrollment management and student success; Luke LeGrand, student representative to the Board of Regents; Dr. Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast Missouri State University; Ruchika Sharma, Southeast student; and Breanna Walling, associate director of International Education and Services and director of the Intensive English Program.