Webster Hosts Mosaic Project Workshop, Explores Ways to Attract More International Students to St. Louis Region

| January 16, 2015
Webster's Kari Eckelkamp, Tamara Gegg-LaPlume, Wence P'Oryem, Bethany Keller and Trezette Dixon recapped current Mosaic Project initiatives on which the University is currently engaged.

Webster’s Kari Eckelkamp, Tamara Gegg-LaPlume, Wence P’Oryem, Bethany Keller and Trezette Dixon recapped current Mosaic Project initiatives on which the University is currently engaged at the Jan. 15 meeting.

Members of the St. Louis Mosaic Project met at Webster University’s home campus on Jan. 15 to discuss ideas on how to connect international students to regional employers and to hear research on what employers are looking for in an foreign-born employee. Members also heard updates on initiatives launched by several universities, including numerous steps taken by Webster University to better prepare students for the work force.

The St. Louis Mosaic Project is a seven-year regional effort between government, universities and private enterprise to increase the number of immigrants living in St. Louis, in an effort to spur economic growth in the region. The Project started in 2012, and was launched during the Immigration and Innovation conference held at the Danforth Plant Science Center in June 2013. The belief is an increase in immigrants will spur economic growth in the region. Julian Schuster, Webster University’s provost, chief operating officer and senior vice president, is on the Mosaic Project’s steering committee.

The need for St. Louis Mosaic is simple, said Betsy Cohen, executive director of the project: St. Louis has about 9,000 people a year move out of it and only 4,000 a year move into it.  “We are a shrinking city,” Cohen said. “This is economically driven. We need more people here.”

Hiring Global Talent

There are about 9,000 international students who study in St. Louis each year, so tapping into that population might alleviate part of the problem, Cohen said. Surveys say that 80 percent of those students indicated they would stay in the region if someone hired them. For that reason, several initiatives, including a mentoring program, a legal consulting team for students who need help navigating the U.S. immigration system, and an international student certificate program where students from other countries can learn interview skills, build an American-style resume and find out what such American terms as “business casual” means are planned.

The Global Talent Hiring Program includes several components, the Mentor Network Program from Regional Business Council, a legal consulting team for companies who need help navigating the process of hiring international talent. International Institute will be serving immigrants soft-skill programs starting Feb. 10.

Members of the St. Louis Mosaic Project discussed ideas on how to connect international students to regional employers and to hear research on what employers are looking for in foreign-born employees.

Members of the St. Louis Mosaic Project discussed ideas on how to connect international students to regional employers and to hear research on what employers are looking for in foreign-born employees.

Webster Development Workshops, Job Fairs

Several representatives from a few universities discussed what they have done since the St. Louis Mosaic Project was launched. At Webster University, for example, the attendees learned the University  surveyed companies at Webster’s fall job fair to find out which ones provide internships or jobs to international students. That information has been provided to students and also posted on GorlokJobs.

Webster also has hosted several professional development workshops through the Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs (MCISA) office and the Career Planning & Development Center(CPDC) and a handout has been developed for international students which lists the many resources available to them at the University. Several other Webster initiatives involving MCISA, CPDC and Walker EDGE also were discussed and are in development.

Current Challenges of international Graduates

Doreen Dodson, a senior partner with the Polsinelli Law Firm and an expert in immigration law gave the attendees a briefing on how President Obama’s recent immigration policy announcement might affect the ability of employers to hire recent international graduates. While the media has focused on the part of the proposal that would allow the children of immigrants and their parents to stay in the country, the plan is lot more complex and has significant changes in hiring skilled workers and recent graduates for technical jobs.

“The fact is, Congress will try to block these initiatives, so this is all up in the air for the moment,” Dodson said.

The attendees also heard research from University of Missouri-St. Louis graduate student Jennifer Morton who has been surveying employees in the region to measure their attitudes toward hiring international students.  “One of the biggest problems I have heard is that because these students either aren’t fluent in English or don’t understand how the American hiring system works, they are dismissed by a frontline human resources person on first contact and their resumes are never forwarded to the managers who are filling a position,” Morton said. “They can’t get hired because they can’t get past the first person in HR.”

For more information about the St. Louis Mosaic Project, or to read the studies behind the project, visit stlmosaicproject.org.

Category: St. Louis Campus News, Student Affairs and News

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