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Global Reach

by Marie Dilg


A multi-disciplinary initiative results in a dramatic increase in graduate student enrollment and expands SLU’s global identity.

At a time when enrollment of international graduate students continues to rebound to pre-pandemic levels, Saint Louis University is experiencing a surge.

Three college students celebrate Holi by dancing on the quad on SLU's campus. They are covered in colorful powders. A male student wearing white sunglasses raises his arms, dancing. He is flanked by two dancing females.

Students celebrate Holi, a Hindu festival of colors, on the quad in March 2023. Photo by Cristina Fletes

Three years ago, approximately 400 international students were pursuing graduate degrees at SLU in the United States. Today, more than 1,400 international graduate students from more than 20 countries are at SLU. They comprise 11% of SLU’s total enrollment.

The upward trend is the result of the Global Graduate Initiative, a University-wide strategy launched in 2020 to attract international students to graduate programs in business, technology, engineering and health. Through the five-year initiative, the University is partnering with universities, academic advisors and career counselors in countries previously untapped by SLU or where SLU had a low profile.

“We are motivated to elevate SLU’s status as a truly global university and to broaden SLU’s impact on the world,” said Dr. Eric Armbrecht, associate provost and one of the architects of the Global Graduate Initiative. “SLU is achieving this by putting talented alumni all over the planet.”

The University is investing $10 million in scholarships and work experiences to support Global Graduate scholars and is creating 30 new faculty and staff positions to teach, mentor and support their career development. SLU’s Career Services Center is forging new partnerships to create opportunities for international students who can work under a federal visa program.

“Not only are we welcoming students from around the world to St. Louis — we’re opening global learning to all our students,” said Kathleen Davis, vice president of Enrollment Management. “Creating a diverse, inclusive community is important to our mission. And our Global Grad growth will have a significant impact on the metropolitan community.”

“We are co-investing with our students,” Armbrecht said. “It’s remarkable what these students are doing and how SLU is responding with support.” 

Soft Landing

The Global Graduate Initiative is supported by the Divisions of Enrollment Management and Student Development, as well as the Office of the Provost. The Office of International Services plays a key role in supporting international students (graduate and undergraduate) from more than 80 countries. The Global Grad initiative has amplified their efforts.

Rebecca Bahan, director of international services, said the staff is managing an increase in F-1 student visa requests, assisting students with transition advice and serving as a resource for the SLU community’s understanding of immigration compliance.

A key component of the University’s mission of educating the whole person is helping international students integrate into SLU’s campus community. The Office of International Services has hired more international student ambassadors to serve as peer mentors and advisors. The ambassadors help introduce Global Graduate scholars to SLU student organizations as well as assimilate to life in St. Louis. Additionally, annual events like Holi, the Hindu festival of colors and the arrival of spring and the blossoming of love, have attracted more students than ever before. Seven-hundred students participated in Holi this March because of the growing international student enrollment. Other programs like food-tasting and invitations to SLU athletic events create opportunities for cultural exchange.

“Activities allow the flow of ideas and cultures to go both ways,” Bahan said. “Our international students get a taste of home and get to present their culture to the campus community. In turn, the students get a chance to immerse themselves into American experiences which helps to broaden their understanding of the world; a key aspect of global learning is to experience culture other than your own.”

A Second Home

According to the Council of Graduate Schools, India has surged ahead of China to become the leading source of new international graduate students in the United States. The scholars SLU is attracting with the Global Graduate Initiative mirror this trend. Of the more than 1,400 Global Graduate scholars, 85% are from India. Here, meet a few who are earning their degrees and helping others feel at home at SLU.

Alekhya Arcot Dhanraj

A profile photo of a female graduate student from India with long dark hair and wearing a burgundy top

Student Ambassador Coordinator, Office of International Services

Dheeraj Chava

A profile photo of a male graduate student from India, with short dark hair and wearing an orange t-shirt

Student Ambassador Coordinator, Office of International Services

Neeten Chawla

A profile photo of a male graduate student from India, wearing glasses and a dark blue collared shirt

Teaching Assistant, Business Analytics
Student Ambassador Coordinator, Office of International Services

For more information, visit the Global Grad Initiative.

If you are interested in providing work experience for Global Graduate scholars, contact SLU Career Services at

About Universitas

Universitas, the award-winning alumni magazine of Saint Louis University, is distributed to SLU alumni, parents and benefactors around the world. The magazine includes campus news, feature stories, alumni profiles and class notes, and has a circulation of 132,438.