Hung Le has been traveling throughout Asia this summer with the new president of Niagara University, Rev. James Maher, introducing Maher to his counterparts at universities in Thailand, Vietnam and China.
Now Le, the newly appointed vice president of international affairs at Niagara, is settling into his office at the Lewiston campus, ready to begin rolling out a prominent initiative. NU's Board of Trustees recently approved the creation of an Office of International Relations, which Le will oversee.
Le is the man responsible for increasing international enrollment at Niagara University, and he'll be doing so at a time of high competition, as colleges across the United States look overseas to boost lagging enrollment.
That means Niagara has to perform well if the initiative is going to work.
Le says Niagara must establish a brand, since most Asian families and institutions struggle to distinguish between U.S. colleges and universities. But he says it's harder than running a traditional marketing campaign.
The most effective international recruiting tool for a small campus like Niagara is the current students who are there, he says. Those are the ones who project their experience to their friends and families back home, whether it be through social media, phone calls or e-mails, or verbally when the students go back home.
So NU will institute a stronger focus on the individual progress of its international students, making sure they are in the right academic programs and helping them acclimate socially. Le contends that Niagara's small size will allow its focus to be more personal.
"The best way to brand ourselves is word of mouth," he says. "International students who come to the United States are very shy and timid, and I think we have a good team in place to calm those anxieties."
Le has long experience in the realm of international admissions, having served as director of Vietnam initiatives while n assistant dean at St. John's University from 2002 to 2007.
During that time, he helped craft a memorandum of understanding with several Vietnamese universities and began exchange programs with them.
Le is following a similar path at Niagara, having already identified several Asian schools as partners. Those partners can be invaluable, because the state-run Asian schools have specific enrollment quotas, and when those are met, potential students have to find somewhere else to go.
"There is high demand and the population is ever-increasing," Le says. "That's one of the places where NU can make an impact."
Le's most recent experience, as a partner and general manager at L&L Consulting Ltd. out of Hanoi will also be relevant. Many Asian families reach out to similar agencies to find the right fit for their children in the U.S., he says.
"We want to identify credible agents who can help recruit on our behalf," Le says.
Le says Niagara will work on which of its programs is most appealing to Asian students and make those programs the center of its marketing. He also says the college will focus efforts on dense urban areas such as Taiwan and Seoul, where there is very little of the space or vegetation that a campus near the Niagara Gorge can boast.
"That's a lot of green in one space," Le says. "We can offer them a more healthy lifestyle."
Le reached the campus last week, just before Maher. Maher has said he is similarly focused on strengthening Niagara's core strengths, maintaining its enrollment and academic standards while remaining financially viable. The new president is expected on campus Thursday.