The Oklahoma Governor’s International Team today announces that Jared Scism will serve as executive director effective May 1, 2019, on a part-time basis.

As executive director, Scism will manage several global events for the OKGIT that promote international economic development, cultural, diplomatic and education initiatives in close cooperation with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and other agencies. Each year, the OKGIT hosts a Consul Summit attended by 10 or more nations that are interested in doing business with Oklahoma companies and an International Student Recognition Day at the Capitol for 50-60 selected international students to experience democracy in action.

“Jared brings a breadth of international experiences to the executive director position,” said OKGIT Chairman Dr. Douglas Price. “As an active member of the OKGIT board coupled with his passion for international work and strong organizational skills, he was a natural fit for this position.”

Scism has been a member of the OKGIT since 2016. He has served as marketing chair, education and culture committee chair, and co-coordinator of the OKGIT’s International Student Recognition Day at the State Capitol. This year, more than 60 international students currently studying at Oklahoma colleges and universities attended the event where they engaged with Gov. Kevin Stitt, Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, Rep. Mark McBride, several Supreme Court justices and legislators.

Currently, Scism serves as the Assistant Director of the International House and Programs at the University of Central Oklahoma. He is the co-founder and president of the Japan-America Society of Oklahoma, a member of the Edmond Sister Cities Board and former president of the World Experiences Foundation. He has also volunteered for Let’s Start Talking, an English-teaching program in Tanzania, participated in a fellowship program as a United States delegate with Oklahoma’s sister state in Gansu Province, China, and studied as a foreign exchange student at Ibaraki Christian University and returned to Japan after graduation to be  a full-time English teacher.

“I have a deep, rooted passion to work with people from all over the world,” Scism said. “I want to make a difference in our state, and I’m excited to pursue my passion in this new position.”

A visiting consular delegation from the Korea led by Ambassador Joohyeon Baik, Ph.D. visited the Sooner State on November 3, stopping by the University of Central Oklahoma and the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Shawnee. Many thanks to Dr. Dennis Dunham at UCO’s Global Affairs Department for assisting in the delegation’s visits!

Walking across the University of Central Oklahoma, it’s not uncommon to hear a number of languages spoken as students traverse the Edmond, Oklahoma-based campus. Home to students from a wide range of destinations, UCO has become a premier draw for international students seeking an affordable and well regarded education. One of the first stops for many of these students is the UCO International House, a place focused on facilitating global engagement between students, professors and staff from the U.S. and abroad.

The OKGIT spoke with the UCO International House’s Jared Scism, international activities specialist, about his organization’s mission inside the wider UCO community.

What is the purpose of the UCO International House? Practically speaking, why is it important for an Oklahoma university to have these international connections?

 “The UCO International House facilitates global engagement and intercultural proficiencies by bringing UCO’s students, faculty, staff together with the Edmond and greater Oklahoma City community. Having these international connections at UCO provides UCO and the Oklahoma City metropolitan community with an unmatched intercultural environment as well as showcasing UCO as a center for globalism.”

What are some of the activities and services that UCO International House provides to students? Is it only for those students who are from abroad, or are the American students welcome too?High Tea

“Whether it is to celebrate a holiday from their home country or to promote their culture, at least one or two country associations from UCO’s International Student Council host a cultural activity each month. The International House can also be reserved by students, domestic or international, to host their own events, such as student association meetings, fundraising events and personal gatherings.

“Every Friday from 1-4 p.m., the International House staff conducts a British high tea ceremony. This cultural experience allows guests to learn about and taste tea from high mountain areas of different parts of Asia, as well as providing them the opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with people from around the world.

“The International House also provides accommodations for international students in emergency situations as well as visiting professors and delegates from all over the world.

“Although the main purpose of the International House is to facilitate global engagement, it is open to the entire UCO community as well as members of the Edmond and Oklahoma City metro.”

Why has UCO, a university in the middle of the country and hours away from the nearest international border, become home to so many students from abroad?

“There are several reasons for UCO becoming home to international students, one of which is the International House. International students also appreciate the affordability, hospitality, small class sizes, the interaction they have with their professors and UCO’s intercultural programs. There is also a lot of intensive recruitment and retention taking place at UCO.”

How often do students that are affiliated with the International House stay in Oklahoma after graduation? Are there any “success stories” that come to mind of former participants who are now succeeding in OK or the nearby region?

“The story below is a success story about the former manager of the International House, Nela Mrchkovska:

“I am currently an occupational injury examiner at Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. Risk Management Department. UCO in general helped me to become the person I am and to have the passions and aspirations I now pursue. The welcoming environment, the quality of education and the evident diversity on campus helps every student, and international student in particular, to feel welcomed and motivated to learn and grow. The UCO International House was an especially important involvement of mine during my college years. I believe that the UCO International House’s vision embodies all of the characteristics that I cherish about UCO, and I believe that when I write this, I speak on behalf of the majority of students who have had a chance to be guests of the International House. Being a manager of the International House, interacting with such a diverse community and being a part of something so unique, definitely gave me the confidence I needed to pursue what I sometimes would forget was entrenched in me, and that is the desire to help create equal opportunities for all of the children and young people by expanding the borders of opportunities for all.   

“I will be forever grateful for the opportunities I was given here in Oklahoma. Because of that, my plan is to continue grow in this state and hopefully with that, give back and contribute to the well being of it.”

What is the biggest challenge that you and your staff face in stemming from your experience working at the UCO International House?

“The biggest challenge the International House currently faces is lack of funding. While we are very pleased about the success the International House has had thus far, limited funding prevents us from fulfilling some of the visions we have to bring the House to its full potential. We hope to see the International House continue to grow and carry on as a “rising showpiece” of the University of Central Oklahoma.”

For many undergraduates hailing from the state that is the namesake of the University of Central Oklahoma, their time on campus is often a first chance to interact with fellow students from across the globe. At first glance, Edmond, Okla. does not appear to be a hotbed of international culture, but the presence of international students and faculty at one of the state’s oldest higher learning institutions fosters an inviting atmosphere for learning and cultural exchanges.

According to an article in the Edmond Sun, UCO’s international students hail from 84 countries and make up nine percent of the student body a total of 1,525 international students; 67 percent of those come from Saudi Arabia, China, Korea, Nepal and Vietnam.

From the Edmond Sun:

“UCO is a great place for international students — it stands out as a first class university in a growing metropolitan area. In addition to the amenities Central’s location offers, it is the only university in the state with an International House, which focuses on bringing American students and international students together for understanding and friendship,” said Dennis Dunham, Ph.D., executive director of the Office of Global Affairs at Central.

The university’s ranks thirteenth in the latest Open Doors Institute of International Education Report, is the only institution in the state to be ranked in the top 40.

According to Open Doors latest data from 2014 on Oklahoma, the state is ranked twenty seventh out of fifty one (including the District of Columbia) in terms of the number of international students, a total of 8,913 persons. Oklahoma State University (2,324 students), the University of Oklahoma (1,985 students), the University of Tulsa (1,291 students) and Oklahoma City University (401 students) are the state’s other top institutions for international students. Chinese nationals make up the largest contingent of those studying in the Sooner State at 23.6 percent.

To read the full article about UCO’s ranking as a top destination for international students in Oklahoma, please click here.

Old North at UCO – Photo courtesy DrinkOmega at Wikipedia Commons.