The Story Behind #YouAreWelcomeHere
Throughout Fall 2016, many of us in admissions began noticing a swell in concerns from international students about whether the current climate in the U.S was friendly and safe. At the same time, I came across a video made by Study Group using the hashtag #YouAreWelcomeHere. Six of their university clients: City College of New York, James Madison University, Long Island University in Brooklyn, Merrimack College, Roosevelt University, and the University of Vermont, featured videos of students and staff repeating a clear and simple message, “You are welcome here.”
The video blew me away. I immediately realized that we could develop this message into a nationwide U.S. higher education campaign. I started by working with our marketing team to create a Temple University #YouAreWelcomeHere video. Staff rallied around the effort. Happily, the finished product elicited great enthusiasm from both current and prospective students. The results energized me and prepared me to advance this idea to others.
I knew the more universities that participated, the stronger our statement would become.
So I set about engaging others, at international conferences and across professional networks, to participate. Membership organizations like NAFSA and AIRC helped to share the message to their communities, and soon a few dozen schools had joined us with messages and videos of their own.
Picking up momentum
Over 200 participating institutions and organizations are now sending this message of welcome out in statements, photos, videos, events and other creative expressions that feature students, faculty, and staff. The repetition of, “You are welcome here,” by a broad array of people from different backgrounds - from college presidents to football players - is powerful and is demonstrating that we support internationalization across our campuses and across the country.
The campaign has become an important way to communicate that U.S. universities and colleges are diverse, friendly, safe and committed to the development of international students.
The videos, in particular, put a friendly face to the world of U.S. higher education. We have also gained media attention including a mention in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
What started as one video back in mid-November 2016 is now a continually growing national campaign. Today, Temple University manages the official #YouAreWelcomeHere Twitter account, Facebook page, and website. You can view all the videos and see the full list of participants on our site. In the meantime, view our very own Temple University video below.
As of mid-2018, there are now over 350 colleges and universities participating in the YAWH campaign.
Beginning in Fall 2019, nearly 60 participating colleges and universities will each offer two annual, renewable scholarships that cover a minimum of 50% tuition to selected international undergraduates (see our follow-up story about how we rallied institutions around the cause). Through the launch of this scholarship, it is our hope that the #YouAreWelcomeHere message will go even further, bridging intercultural divides and providing increased access to U.S. higher education for talented international students.
If you haven't yet participated in the campaign, please join us! Create a video. Host an event. Use the hashtag on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to demonstrate the ways your institution supports and values international students. To help you get started, visit our website’s toolkit of customizable flyers and stickers that institutions and organizations can use to show their support (see some samples below).
If you have any questions, you can reach me via the campaign website or my Author Bio here on FruitFame.