Thomas Lavenir is the Assistant Director of the Center for Multicultural/International Student Services at James Madison University. He works to ensure that international students have a smooth transition upon arriving at JMU. He has been in the role since 2004.
How does JMU support international students upon arrival?
Starting a new chapter of your life in a new country that you have not even been to before is a big step that can be overwhelming to say the least. We want you [international students] to leave the worries and the details to us. We want to ensure a smooth transition to your new home and as such as we will offer shopping trips, campus tours, presentations about the campus culture, academic and general expectations rules and policies, and many opportunities to connect with great students, staff, and faculty. Amongst the many friendly faces you will meet are the LINKers. They play a large role in running this international orientation program. The LINKers are returning international and globally-minded students who serve as orientation leaders and role models to help with your transition. As a result, a large part of our focus is helping you connect and make friends with like-minded students.
What does “student success” look like at JMU?
The more connected and engaged you are, the more successful you will be!
On day one of orientation, you will be strongly urged to get involved. “Why?” you ask. The more individuals you know, the more likely you are to make friends. The more time you spend with these individuals and with friends, the less you will miss home and your family. The more friends and individuals you meet, the more you will learn about yourself, others, and the world around you. The more exposure you obtain, the easier it will be for you to explore different majors, classes, interests, hobbies, and sports. The more experiences you acquire, the more interesting and appealing you will become to prospective employers and companies who are looking to hire for their internships and jobs.
At JMU, we truly believe in providing you all of the necessary tools to be successful. “How do we do so?” you ask. You will live on campus in a residence hall where you will be with individuals from around the world and a staff who will provide assistance and organize different events to create a supportive residential community. We have a building called the “Student Success Center,” which is comprised of many different departments to help you with your medical and emotional health; with English, math, science, communication, and writing assignments; and with your job search and gaining valuable experiences to add to your resume. JMU understands the importance and value of good food. We are ranked #5 for the U.S. colleges in best food. Finding different communities with whom to connect with is also something JMU values highly. There are currently over 360 student organizations that you can join to pursue an interest of yours. Last but not least, there’s always an office door on campus that is open with someone who is ready to answer any of your questions and or concerns and guide you in the right direction… on the path towards success.
In the past, what activities/groups have been popular amongst international students upon arriving to the campus?
In addition to the LINKers, our office works closely with the Chinese Student and Scholar Association, the International Student Alliance, Latino Student Union, Bridges, African Student Organization, Indian Student Organization, Muslim Student Association, Persian Club, and Italian Club. These are the organizations that we have worked with closely to welcome our global Dukes, though that is not to say that we are not open to working with the remaining 330 + organizations. Moreover, we collaborate with Resident Advisors, FrOGS (or orientation leaders) in addition to prior members of the Conversation Partner Program and our Friendship Family program (called LIFE).
Part two of our interview with Thomas Lavenir is coming soon.