THOUSAND OAKS — Nestled in the rolling hills of Thousand Oaks is a community whose members come from 30 countries and speak more than a dozen languages.
They are the foreign students at Cal Lutheran University, students who shunned the name-brand schools for the smaller, more personal setting of the private college. Most of them come from Asian or Scandinavian countries, but others have traveled from as far away as Croatia, Peru and Zimbabwe.
And the college is re-evaluating its recruiting program to attract more of them, a plan that recruiter Darryl-Keith Ogata said will benefit all students.
"If you look at the world today and how we're going to be in the future, it's important that the American student experiences the different perspectives that there are in the world," he said. "That experience begins at the institutions of higher education."
Increasing the foreign students also benefits the school financially. They pay an extra foreign student fee of $300 and usually do not receive financial assistance from the college. About 8% of the school's 1,800 students come other countries.
In the past the school has recruited students by sending mailers and ads to the counselors at foreign high schools and colleges--followed by recruiting trips to some of the schools.
But after evaluating the process, Ogata said, he found that word-of-mouth referral is often the school's most effective recruiting tool. As a result, he said, he will be making more visits to schools, businesses and Lutheran organizations--chiefly in Europe and Asia--that have already sent students to Cal Lutheran.
"We have found that you need to be really consistent," he said. "You can't just go one year and then give it up the next."
The college already has ties to many church groups in foreign countries that encourage students to attend Lutheran schools. Nearly a quarter of the college's foreign students are from the primarily Lutheran Scandinavian countries.
Ogata said the school also is eager to capture the attention of Asians seeking an American education; they make up about 40% of the international student population.
Takayuki Imaoka learned about Cal Lutheran from Uyeno, the shipping company that employs him in Yokohama, Japan.
Uyeno has sent four other employees to the school in recent years to study English and pursue their master's degrees in business administration. Imaoka said he chose Cal Lutheran because his company had a good relationship with the college.
"This also helps us to speak better English," he said. "In Japan, everyone studies English for 10 years, but many don't speak very well because they only study the grammar."
Imaoka, like most of Cal Lutheran's foreign students, said he plans to return to his country when he completes his studies.
Roeline Hansen plans to return to Namibia when she graduates this winter to pursue a career in international relations. Like many students, Hansen learned about Cal Lutheran through the Lutheran Church in her country, which lies on the northwest border of South Africa.
She is attending the school on a full scholarship provided by the Lutheran World Federation. But Hansen said she might have chosen Cal Lutheran on her own if a recruiter had come to her school to tell her how a small college could be less intimidating than the larger schools.
"I'm a quiet person and would have been lost," Hansen said. "I would have made friends eventually but it would have taken me longer at a larger school, plus I have more contact with professors."
Ogata said a smaller school like Cal Lutheran has to work much harder than the big-name schools to attract students. He said college officials are beginning a push to inform students about the individualized attention they will receive at a smaller college.
College officials are coordinating the recruiting, admissions and international offices to track foreign students from their initial search for a college to their graduation from Cal Lutheran.
"With a name not as recognizable as a UC or USC, a small school has to have a commitment to its foreign students," Ogata said. "It all has to work together. It can't be ad hoc."