Meet the Assistant Director of International Student Services
Lionel Remesha, MIBA
Assistant Director, International Student Services
Alliant International University
“The key is to show what we have to offer them. Why Alliant and not another institution? That’s when we can showcase our programs and the support that they will receive at Alliant and that's something we've done historically well.”
As the assistant director of international student services at Alliant International University, Lionel Remesha has seen many changes over the years. One thing that hasn’t changed is how Alliant supports its international student community from the time they apply and throughout their entire academic program. Lionel has been with the university for almost 20 years starting with his role in the admissions processing center. Lionel’s next role was as an undergraduate recruiter for several years. In 2008, he began working with international student services on a system-wide basis for all the Alliant campuses.
For international students, there are many more steps to the application process, starting with their immigration documents and visa needs. Alliant is approved for two types of visas: the F1 visa for students, and the J1 visa for scholars which can either be students that are sponsored by their home countries or professors and researchers.
Alliant admissions counselors work very closely with these students to ensure they understand the process. Once they are admitted, that is when Lionel provides additional support with an enrollment agreement, a priority integration, and then an orientation once they arrive here in the U.S. “Once they matriculate, I work very closely with them. They know they can schedule a Zoom meeting with me any time they have questions or come to my office if they’re at the San Diego campus. We work with the campus directors at all our locations so that students have local support as well. We also provide regular information sessions to serve our international students whenever they need help.”
The economic markets have always had an impact on international student recruitment. Before the 2008 recession, many institutions had no interest in attracting international students, but the post-2008 budget crunch shifted those efforts and now, international students have more options to choose from. “The market is very competitive there's no doubt about it. But the international market is also highly dynamic. If a specific country is doing well economically, we may get more students from those countries and vice versa. But we always try to make it a priority to balance our recruitment towards students from different parts of the world and create a diverse environment on campus. The key is to show what we have to offer them. Why Alliant and not another institution? That’s when we can showcase our programs and the support that they will receive at Alliant and that's something we've done historically well.”
Lionel is originally from Burundi in East Africa and spent his formative years in Kenya where he attended a British educational system. He eventually moved to the United States in the 1990s to pursue a degree in business. He wanted an institution that provided a global focus, believing that knowing people from different parts of the world and learning about their cultures would broaden his future opportunities. This led him to attend United States International University (USIU) (which eventually became Alliant International University) to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in international business administration. He has also taught at various institutions including Alliant. As an alumnus who speaks six languages, Lionel brings a personal experience that helps him understand what international students need and how best to help them.
One of the most important aspects of Lionel’s job is to ensure that Alliant is helping international students acclimate to their new academic and cultural environments. “When we talk about international students there's a tendency to put them in one group, and they are not because they come from different countries. They may even come from the same country but from different ethnic groups, tribes, or caste systems.”
Lionel notes that even the educational systems in other countries can be different from the United States. “We know that we need to help them adjust to the U.S. education system. For example, the instructors at Alliant want students to focus on critical thinking, which is entirely different from many other countries where the instructors expect you to respond in the same words they used during class. But if they do that here, it would be considered plagiarism. We train our faculty to be aware of those dynamics. Instead of penalizing students, we send them to the academic support center to help them adjust to these expectations. If we don't catch that early, then the student’s GPA could go down, risking academic probation and their ability to stay in the U.S. to finish their education.”
Alliant has always been committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion both inside and outside of the classroom. One of its greatest strengths is that all students can learn from each other’s respective cultures. Lionel helps with those efforts by organizing fun things to do outside of the classroom like going to the ballpark for a baseball game, the beach, or the San Diego Zoo. This gives students another avenue where they can socialize and get to know each other. “We also encourage them to be involved in the community beyond our university. We recognize it can be a tough adjustment and for students who may be living alone, it can be even harder. But I feel like we work very hard to make the students’ experiences at Alliant great.”