In an interview with Michigan Language Assessment, Christopher Lewis, Ph.D., director of Graduate Programs at the University of Michigan-Flint, shared his extensive experience working with graduate students and provided insights into the unique challenges and opportunities international students face. Lewis discussed various aspects of the university’s graduate programs, support services, and the crucial role of English language proficiency.

Lewis has dedicated much of his career to supporting graduate students. With 10 years of experience at a law school and additional time at Grand Valley State University, he has worked extensively with both domestic and international students. His diverse background has prepared him well for his current role, where he oversees the graduate programs at UM-Flint.


Popular Programs Among International Students

When discussing the programs popular among international students, Lewis highlighted several key areas: “The most popular right now are Master of Business Administration, Master of Public Administration, computer science and information systems, and mechanical engineering.”

These programs are in high demand, and the university is continuously working on expanding its offerings.

“We’re waiting on ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) approval for about 10 or 11 new programs,” he added, indicating ongoing efforts to broaden the educational opportunities available to international students.


Support Services for International Students

UM-Flint places a strong emphasis on supporting international students through various services provided by the Center for Global Engagement.

“From the moment they get here…from picking them up at the airport, to bringing them down to grocery stores that have the food they’re trying to have, to working out specific housing opportunities, we aim to create an environment where students feel supported,” Lewis said.

The university offers numerous activities to help international students integrate into the campus community and adapt to their new environment.


Student Organizations and Cultural Integration

To foster a sense of community and support cultural integration, UM-Flint offers various student organizations tailored to international and graduate students. These include the Indian Student Organization, the Bangladeshi Student Organization, and a student of color organization specifically for graduate students.

“We’ve been adding a lot of new things to bolster the international student experience as we move along, and I think we’re going to continue to do that,” Lewis noted, emphasizing the university’s commitment to creating inclusive spaces for all students.


Importance of English Language Proficiency

English language proficiency is a critical factor in the success of international students at UM-Flint. Lewis emphasized it is paramount that students are very comfortable speaking English since learning is usually discussion-based at a graduate level. The professor is not just bringing the information to the student as they would at an undergraduate level but is fostering an environment for students to ask questions and make discoveries with their peers.

“Students that come in with a solid background of English…and that come in higher than our minimum scores tend to do much better in finding success sooner,” Lewis said. “We want our students to succeed in reaching their academic goals … we know MET is a solid test that acts as a good measurement for English proficiency and we would like to see more students use it.”

UM-Flint accepts various English proficiency tests, including the Michigan English Test (MET) and the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE). Lewis notes that while the scores for English proficiency may be higher than other schools, it is a reflection of the quality of education received at a UM school.


Overcoming Challenges in the Admissions Process

International students often face several challenges during the admissions process, including understanding the application procedures and securing funding. To address these issues, UM-Flint offers webinars on various topics such as applying to graduate school and finding success in graduate programs.

“We make it very clear that we are always willing to answer any questions and to be available,” Lewis said.

One persistent challenge is ensuring students check their email regularly, which is crucial for timely communication regarding their applications. “It is so important that when a student applies, they have an email address that they’re going to be checking on a regular basis because universities are going to be reaching out to that email,” Lewis said.


Career Support and Alumni Network

UM-Flint provides robust career support services to help graduates transition into their professional lives. These services include resume workshops and job placement assistance.

“We have a large base of alumni that have been part of our campus community for quite some time, and they love having UM-Flint grads come and work for their companies,” Lewis stated.

The university’s strong alumni network and career resources play a pivotal role in helping international graduates find success in their chosen fields.

Looking ahead, UM-Flint is focused on strengthening relationships with partners and agents to attract more international students.

“By educating, by informing, by helping individuals get a better feel for what the city truly is and is not, especially as we’re working with partners, that becomes important,” Lewis said.

UM-Flint is dedicated to providing comprehensive support to international graduate students, from the admissions process through to graduation and beyond. By addressing language proficiency, offering extensive support services, and fostering a strong sense of community, the university aims to ensure that all students can achieve their academic and professional goals.

For more information on UM-Flint’s graduate programs, visit their website.

For more information on MET, visit our MET page.