By Anna Theodosis, The Daily Iowan 
Despite an already robust international student population on campus, University of Iowa officials are still looking to bridge the gap between the UI and other countries by hiring someone to focus specifically on recruitment in Asia.
The UI Admissions Office hired Ying Xu over the summer to take on the role of assistant director of Admissions for China and Asian recruitment. Xu told The Daily Iowan she was particularly excited to start working because the Chinese market of students is growing.
“I feel the Chinese market is huge, and we can do a lot more to recruit the best of quality students,” the UI alumna said. “We think it would be important for us at the University of Iowa to connect to the top Chinese high schools so that we can open a great pool [of applicants].”
One reason behind Xu’s hiring was the convergence of recruitment efforts between the UI Office of Admissions and International Student and Scholar Services. International student recruitment was previously handled by the latter but will now be handled by the Admissions Office.
UI officials have traveled across the globe to recruit international students. UI President Sally Mason traveled across Eastern Asia, making stops in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, and Taiwan from July 1-9 to network and recruit international students.
According to a profile of international students and scholars done by the UI in 2011, 3,275 international students enrolled at the university — 1,734 of those students were in the undergraduate program, and, in total, 1,737 students hailed from China.
Michael Barron, the director of UI Admissions, said Xu will be a strong asset in the UI’s efforts to bring international students to the university.
“She has a strong sense of wanting to recruit the strongest students from her home,” he said. “It just makes sense for us to make sure that we are establishing relationships with very strong high schools in China and having someone who has the knowledge in the educational system.”
With a B.A. from Beijing Normal University, Xu came to the UI to attend the Tippie College of Business for graduate school. She said making the transition from the Chinese school system to the system in the United States was not a particularly easy transition.
“I think, for me, my experience was a little different from the undergraduate students, because I came here as a college graduate,” the 36-year-old said. “I thought I was prepared, but I felt the first semester was a little hard for me because those business classes had discussions. But after [first semester], I think I handled it well.”
Xu said the nature of school in China prepares the international students for college in the United States.
“Chinese people have a profound belief in education,” she said. “Chinese students are academically strong because the Chinese primary- and secondary-education systems really award attributes such as self-discipline, respect, and hardworking.”
In addition to Xu’s experience with the Chinese educational system, officials say her ability to translate and her familiarity with the UI campus make her the right person for the job.
“We are definitely taking advantage of her translation skills,” said Becky Hanson, associate director of international outreach and recruitment. “She’s able to accompany us to presentations of the UI with larger groups of Chinese students and translate.”
Xu’s alumna status gives her a one-up as well, Hanson said.
“[Xu] is very familiar with the campus,” she said. “When she travels abroad [to recruit students and promote the UI], she has that credibility.”
Xu said she thinks American students can learn from the international students and expand their knowledge of different cultures.
“I think U.S. students are the same as Chinese students,” she said. “They leave their family to go to college — they all face a totally new environment.”