New international students director brings personal experience to UHV
When Ludmi Herath works with international students, she has a wealth of personal experience from which to draw.
Herath was an international student herself. After graduating from high school in her native country Sri Lanka, she came to the U.S. to attend Minnesota State University Moorhead and eventually started working for the Minnesota State University system.
“I originally wanted to go study in Australia with a lot of my friends,” she said. “But my parents had visited the U.S. before, and my father had gotten his master’s degree in Massachusetts. I knew from the beginning that the decision was already made for me to study in the U.S.”
That firsthand experience is one of the tools Herath brings with her to the University of Houston-Victoria. She joined the university in October as the new director of international programs.
“Ludmi Herath is a welcome addition to the UHV administration,” UHV Interim President Vic Morgan said. “Her expertise and passion for serving and encouraging international students will be a major boon for the university as it develops into a destination university.”
Herath is facing the task of building an international students program from the ground up, said Jeffrey Cass, UHV provost and vice president for academic programs. UHV already has a population of international students in Victoria and Greater Houston, and the university thought the time was right to create an office specifically to serve the needs of those students.
“The goal is to create a one-stop hub for these international students and scholars to come and receive the assistance they need,” Cass said. “UHV has forged some important international connections in the past, and an international programs office will help us maintain those relationships while focusing on important topics including recruiting, visas, legal issues and making connections in the Victoria community.”
Before Herath came to UHV, she worked at Minnesota State University Moorhead as the international programs coordinator. Her office served about 550 international students and scholars from before they arrived in the U.S. to after graduation. She covered a variety of needs including recruiting, immigration, counseling and more.
Not much has changed in the actual procedures since Herath was a student coming to the U.S. Some immigration regulations are stricter and the fees have risen, but many of the students’ needs and questions are the same, she said. Every time she talks and works with the students, it feels like she is going through the process all over again.
“It’s good to have that experience because I’m not just a university official telling them what to do; I’m an actual international student telling them the pros and cons from personal experience,” she said. “Students can develop a much closer relationship and trust because they know I’ve personally gone through the process and understand what they’re dealing with.”
When she was a student, her mentor went beyond just making sure she had her paperwork and other steps taken care of. The mentor also made sure she was happy and comfortable. Herath hopes to do the same for international students at UHV.
“My favorite part about working with international students is seeing their personal growth and success,” she said. “I get to experience how they apply, ask questions, arrive here for the first time, go through homesickness those first weeks and then see them blossom into independent, amazing global citizens. It brings me joy because that is a huge change, and it means I made a significant difference to that student.”
As her office grows and develops, Herath hopes to host events that will educate UHV faculty, staff and students as well as the community about the international cultures represented at UHV.
“My goal is to create a hub for international students and scholars and make sure that office is always available and provides the best services,” she said. “I want UHV to feel like a home away from home for them.”
The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973, offers courses leading to 70 bachelor’s, master’s and specialist degree programs and concentrations in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.