STEM Opportunities for International Students Start in Ohio

University of Dayton
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By Kate Sitarz
Last updated on August 8, 2023

Ohio has a long history of innovation — and with new statewide investments in STEM, international students can access challenging academics and valuable work experience. See how the University of Dayton is at the forefront of STEM opportunities.

University of Dayton

A UDayton female international student engineer sits in front of an AI tower device wearing head gear

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, otherwise known as STEM, continue to remain in high demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2018 and 2028, employment in STEM occupations is expected to grow by 8.8%. As technology continues to advance, the need for engineers, computer scientists, biochemists, and other STEM roles grows, too.

As a top-tier research university, the University of Dayton offers numerous STEM degree programs for both undergraduates and graduates, including two graduate programs as part of UDayton Live. And via UDayton Global, international students have a major opportunity to access the opportunities available in the area.

Dayton, Ohio, is fast becoming a major hub for STEM careers. As home to the Wright brothers, Dayton has attracted innovators in the aerospace industry for more than a century. The city is also growing in the health sciences and IT industries. It is why WalletHub named it #27 on its 2020 Best Cities for STEM Jobs list.

STEM Education at the University of Dayton

Currently, the University of Dayton’s STEM programs range from applied mathematical economics and psychology to biochemistry and computer engineering.

The University of Dayton graduate engineering program is one of the best in the country, ranked #47 by U.S. News & World Report. It is also the number-one university in the nation for federally sponsored materials research and development.

Growing STEM fields need employees who have the specialized skills and technical expertise that employers need. Several majors can improve your chances to secure optional practical training (OPT) to help you build a long-term career in the United States. OPT allows STEM students to work in the US for up to 12 months. International students can request to extend that for 24 months, for a total of 36 months. This allows you to bridge the gap between when your F-1 student visa ends and when your H-1B visa begins. 

UDayton also recently launched UDayton Live, a digital classroom experience that allows students anywhere in the world to begin their master’s degree at home, through real-time virtual instruction, before transitioning to campus to complete the program and qualify for OPT. Right now, UDayton Live offers Master of Computer Science and Master of Engineering Management degree programs. 

“I’ve worked for three and a half years in the IT industry. And that was the reason why I came here,” says Ankit, a computer science graduate student from India. “My previous experience — I wanted to enhance it, I wanted to add value to it.”

Finding focused subjects like Data Communications was a major draw for Ankit. “I believe the master’s program in Dayton is going to be a stepping stone for my career…the sky’s the limit.”

There is also flexibility built into each program so you can choose your path. “UD is the university where I found that the courses are pretty flexible,” explains Manasi, a master’s of computer science graduate student from India. “You are allowed to choose your subjects. You just go with your interests. That’s the great thing–they have a lot of options.” 

These options will increase as UDayton continues to invest in its STEM programs. For example, the university’s STEM Catalyst Initiative was created to offer financial support in the form of grants to faculty and student STEM research projects, particularly for research addressing multidisciplinary challenges.   

Support for STEM Studies at the University of Dayton

The University of Dayton has an outstanding career support program for international students, helping achieve a top 20 ranking for internship opportunities, according to The Princeton Review

Brittany Chill, a program advisor for the UDayton Global Career Accelerator, oversees all career planning activities and is a major catalyst behind the success of the program.

“I call myself a bridge,” she explains. “I look at my students and employers as two of my primary stakeholders and my main role is to match them and build that bridge. A lot of the services that I offer are intended to get students prepared for their interactions with employers.”

Offering comprehensive career services for international services, UDayton Global gives students access to group and one-on-one appointments, workshops, networking opportunities, and more. Activities may be as basic as updating a resume and cover letter, or as complex as narrowing down where they belong within their chosen industry.

“Something that we value at UDayton Global is making sure that every important aspect we think students should know about, we incorporate into every aspect of what they do,” adds Chill. Career courses are interwoven with the curriculum.

“It’s also asking questions like, ‘What type of work-life balance do you value?’” says Chill. “The conversation may sound more life-skills based versus career-skills based.”

With UDayton Live, students are able to access the same services as students on campus using a cutting-edge digital learning platform that allows for real-time interactions with career services. This includes help preparing to move to the US after starting remotely and understanding the difference between curricular practical training (CPT) and OPT so students can maximize their time while pursuing their STEM studies.

Chill has started helping students explore alternative options to OPT and CPT, too. “OPT and CPT are only tied to the US,” she explains. “And with everything remote anyway, we’ve been exploring ways students can get experiential learning anywhere in the world. The variety of experiences is only going to help them.”

This innovative pivot will help students capitalize on more opportunities and make internships accessible, regardless of what happens with OPT.

Remote internships are possible for UDayton Live students, as well as students on campus. One student who worked with Chill, Nileshkumar, is currently in Dayton and interning for an information technology company in India as a software developer.

“I wanted to do an MS in computer science [at] one of the reputed universities in the US,” he begins, noting his research and recommendations from friends pointed him to UDayton. With his internship, he hopes to gain more knowledge around software development.

“As I am working with a startup, I get a chance to work on multiple technologies that will help me to apply for jobs in the US,” he adds. “The internship is helping me to achieve that goal.”

At the end of his internship, Nileshkumar and Chill will revisit what he learned and if it aligned with his values. If it did not, they will discuss what he may want to do moving forward. 

Nileshkumar’s ultimate goal is to start his own company. “But I think I will get some job experience after completing my degree,” he adds.

Ohio Economic Development Builds STEM Careers

As a top US city for STEM careers, Dayton offers a lot of opportunity. There are more than 100 tech startups in the city, with the top industries — aerospace, health sciences, and IT — mirroring some of Ohio’s major industries.

“Dayton is great in terms of innovation in general,” says Chill, noting the jobs, companies, and the fact that UDayton is a research-based university that is strong in STEM. Alongside Chicago and Detroit, “Dayton is part of the Midwest tech corridor.”  

Dayton is a doorway [to innovation].” —Brittany Chill, program advisor, UDayton Global Career Accelerator

For Yubo, also known as Tim, a computer science graduate student from China, deciding to study at UDayton came down to being able to learn what he needs to pursue his career. “Nowadays, the potential of the future is the exploration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) … My tutor, Dr. Tam, is concentrating on this field. I feel more energy working with him.”

For her part, Chill has been working with an immigration attorney to educate organizations within the city of Dayton about the benefits of working with UDayton’s international graduates.

“We work with startups and other organizations to facilitate the hiring of our students,” she says.

She notes that while many organizations are tied to Department of Defense contracts, which means they often cannot hire international students, there are numerous organizations that can. Building relationships with these organizations and working with the Dayton Development Coalition is key to creating pipelines of opportunities for UDayton Global students.

As time goes on, Chill imagines micro-internships and more project-based work becoming big. 

There is a need in Dayton for STEM students. There’s a skills gap with lots of large organizations missing STEM talent.” —Brittany Chill

“Regardless of what country a company is based in, employers are looking for multicultural competencies in their employees,” emphasizes Chill. “Being in a different culture, acclimating to different social structures, working in classes with different types of people — all those things look different on a resume than someone who stays in the same country.”

That is echoed by Abdullah, a student enrolled in the computer science graduate program, who brought his family with him from Saudi Arabia while studying. “It is very different to study abroad, I think, from your own country,” he begins. “We are actually trying to get familiar a little bit with the American culture, and I think it’s amazing, I think it’s nice.”

Chill also points out that the US remains a place for innovation. “One of our students became a business owner here on campus,” she begins. “His idea was international students don’t know all the US brands and products helpful to living in the US, so he created a rental service so students can test things out.”

“Opportunities exist and innovation is being looked for,” she adds. 

For so many international students, successful futures start in Ohio. 

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