Feature Story

International Students Make their Mark

international nursing doctoral student

They’ve traveled thousands of miles, leaving behind family and friends, to seek advanced education in an unfamiliar country and culture.

They’ve come to Widener, drawn by unique, flexible, and prestigious graduate programs.

They’ve been welcomed by a diverse and supportive campus – one of only 57 in the nation to join the #YouAreWelcomeHere scholarship program.

And after they earn their degrees, these international graduate students – and others like them at Widener – will return to their homelands equipped with the knowledge, experiences, and leadership needed to inform and guide their fields.

Mohammed Ambusaidi '20, Oman

Mohammed Ambusaidi wants to ensure that all nursing students in his native Oman face equitable and fair exams.

To assist in this work, Ambusaidi sought a nursing doctoral degree; none existed in the Middle East nation. Looking abroad, he found Widener’s PhD program, one of the few in America focused on nursing education.

“Widener was the only school where I could focus on test construction and administration,” he said.

Ambusaidi also wanted to study with associate professor of nursing, Darrell Spurlock, an expert in measurement and evaluation.

“Widener is a place where leaders teach others to become leaders,” said Spurlock. “Students like Mohammed are going back to reshape and influence their professions in their countries, and they’re prepared to do that.”

Ambusaidi’s goal is to develop countrywide guidelines for test development, and is poised to play a leading role in this field in Oman.

“My experience at Widener has been fabulous. Students have ideas and the school brings it to reality,” he said. “I feel well-advised and well-prepared.”

Chrysoula Iliopoulou ’20, Greece

There aren’t many accredited human sexuality programs in America; none exist in Chrysoula Iliopoulou’s native Greece.

“Widener brought me to the United States,” said Iliopoulou, who is pursuing a master of social work / master of education in human sexuality – one of the few dual degree programs of its kind.

Iliopoulou’s research is focused on LGBTQ youth experiences in Greek schools. Her country’s culture, she said, has created silence around gender identity, sexuality, and other topics.

Following graduation, she plans to return home to open a private practice and educational institution to help break this silence.

“I’m not the only one who does this work (in Greece), but I might be the only person trained on a graduate level by a fully-accredited U.S. university,” she said. “There’s a lot of opportunity to do new and innovative things.”

At Widener, Iliopoulou has benefited from impactful internships and strong faculty mentorship.

Widener really prepares you to work, makes you professional, gives you the skills you need to practice. — Chrysoula Iliopoulou '20

Social work associate professor Brent Satterly, who is actively working on co-publishing a paper with Iliopoulou, said she brings an invaluable “cross-cultural perspective” to class. “Her contributions in Greece,” he adds, “are going to be considerable.”

Clarice Mendonca ’19, United Arab Emirates

Clarice Mendonca’s interest in Dubai’s large, non-native (expatriate) population is personal. Though born and raised in the city, her parents are from India. Mendonca is, therefore, considered an immigrant in the United Arab Emirates.

For her clinical psychology doctoral dissertation, she sought to better understand how fellow expats from eastern cultures experience UAE’s westernized therapy system.

“Do they seek treatment? How do they react to therapists? How do therapists react to them?” she wondered. “No one has really given any thought to expat experiences.”

Mendonca was drawn to Widener’s friendly campus and status as the longest-running doctoral psychology program in America. “Dubai is a young city. To be associated with something that’s been around awhile, that’s research-based, was attractive,” she said.

Through courses and clinical experiences, Mendonca has gained a strong foundation in different psychology disciplines.

“Clarice, like many international students, has pursued things to have the breadth of knowledge… because back in her home country, her expertise might be tapped,” said Dr. Sanjay Nath, program director.

Following graduation, Mendonca will return to Dubai to further develop the psychology field and hopefully work with the international population.

“I have the opportunity to really influence the system at a macro level,” she said.

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