Clarksville, TN – Caroline Clasby’s suitcases are loaded with brochures, t-shirts and little novelty items all stamped with the red Austin Peay State University (APSU) logo. One day she’s hurrying through the airport in Lagos, Nigeria, and the next she’s handing out Governors gear to potential students in Dubai.
“I travel about twice a semester for two weeks at a time, and I try to hit most continents – not all, but most,” she said. “I try to hit the Middle East area, Asia, and we do hit Latin America and South America. Even though it’s not a continent, we visit India quite a bit and we travel to Africa.”
When Clasby arrived on campus in 2017 as the University’s first international recruiter, Austin Peay State University had only 60 international students – the lowest in the state. This year, that number has more than doubled with 138 students from across the globe now pursuing degrees at APSU.
As director of Austin Peay State University’s Office of International Student Services, Clasby and her staff are now aggressively visiting college fairs in foreign countries, while also following the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s guidelines to make sure Austin Peay State University’s growing international population is coming to the U.S. safely and legally.
“Our international students are some of the brightest you’ll ever meet, and they bring a whole new enriched intellectualism to the campus,” she said. “They really help our domestic students, they enlighten them with new ways of learning, new viewpoints. They help globalize our campus, our nation and our world.”
Clasby studied French and European Union Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Arabic at the American Language Institute in Fez, Morocco. That background comes in handy when she’s meeting with potential students who have never heard of APSU.
“They really like the pictures because they think campus is very beautiful,” she said. “When I say that Nashville is nearby, they get very excited about that.”
Ultimately, the students she meets at the schools and college fairs want to know about APSU’s academic offerings, with most individuals looking for programs in computer science, mathematics, engineering and business. That’s part of what attracted several new Governors from Nigeria.
“Our biggest population is from Nigeria,” Clasby said. “We had an advantage because Dr. Samuel Jator (professor of mathematics) went to the University of Lagos, and he has a lot of connections there. We promoted Austin Peay State University to his colleagues who promoted it to his students. Now they’re telling their friends. They’re recruiting for us through word of mouth.”
In the fall of 2019, when other schools saw declines in international enrollment, APSU experienced a 17.5 percent increase in undergraduate international students and a 45 percent increase in graduate international students. Clasby plans to keep those numbers growing.
“We’ve been really blessed to go against that trend,” she said.