09:13 AM

New director hopes to welcome even more international students to UHCL

University of Houston-Clear Lake’s outreach to international students will continue to strengthen and expand with the efforts of Johna McClendon, the university’s new director of international admissions and student services.

McClendon, who joined the UHCL staff in November, said that she was attracted to the opportunity to come and build on (UHCL President) Ira K. Blake’s plan that she has already begun implementing in the area of international enrollment.

“We currently serve students from 34 countries,” McClendon said. “International students make up 4.7% of our student population. We continue to find new ways to hone in on students inside and outside this country, leveraging our counselor contacts by providing them with seminars to recruit students from their high schools and colleges to our university.”

Her office, explained McClendon, assists international students by streamlining their admissions process, helping the student maintain his or her immigration compliance, and offers services for international alumni. “(Assistant Vice President of Global Strategies and Senior International Officer) Gigi Do’s plan is to continue to provide a global stage for UHCL,” she said. “We hope to establish increased enrollment, leveraging our top countries — India, Vietnam, China and Nigeria.”

Do said that McClendon was a great asset to the global learning and strategy team. “I look forward to providing the best services for international students and increasing global engagement throughout our campus,” she said.

McClendon added that the best part of her job was experiencing the first contact of an international student. “I love to receive initial contact from students outside the country who have never been to the United States and open their eyes to a different world,” she said. “We offer customer services to help students maintain their immigration status through graduation as well.”

Through a program called Optional Practical Training, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services allows international students to stay in the country for work authorization, which enables them to seek work experience in their field of study before returning to their home countries.

“We are taking UHCL internationally to both industries and prospective students,” McClendon said. “We are creating a pipeline that helps take students from education to the workforce through the university’s exceptional academic programs and we are expanding the student experience within the local and international communities.”

“Students in a STEM career path are allowed an additional 36 months, while non-STEM-related students are allowed 12 months,” she said. “We serve our alumni in that capacity, and we hope to re-recruit the alumni back to UHCL to complete a master’s degree or other graduate studies during that time.”

Even beyond graduation, the Office of International Admissions and Students Services remains available to serve international alumni. “We want to give back to the students who stay, and those who do not wish to stay have their UHCL training to bring back to their home countries,” she said. “We currently have about 1000 students on the Post-Completion Optional Practical Training STEM extension plan.”

McClendon said that generally, students who come to the U.S. have a great experience. “I want them to graduate, but while they’re here I want them to feel welcome and feel part of the university,” she said. “We want them to have the total experience. UHCL is a special place that is developmentally expanding. I’m very excited about the direction we’re going.”

Find out more about international admissions online.