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Telling the Tech tale abroad to bring bright new students home

WVU Tech chemistry professor, Dr. Hasan El-Rifai.

Ask any student at WVU Tech about their first experience with the school and they’ll likely tell you a story of meeting with an interesting faculty member. It’s an important part of the University’s process for recruiting new students. For international students, it’s a rare glimpse into the small school that they won’t find online.

Dr. Hasan El-Rifai is an associate professor and chair of the Physical Sciences Department at WVU Tech. He teaches general and analytical chemistry. He’s also known for his memorable classroom chemistry experiments, including a fiery demonstration of how clean fuel combustion works.

El-Rifai grew up in Lebanon. As a kid, he said he had always heard about going to college in the United States.

“I know from when I was a student how important the education is in USA and that it is everyone’s dream to study there,” he said. “The problem was no one taught us, the international students, how to apply, where to go or what options these American universities have to offer.”

So when he got a chance to head back to the region this semester to talk to prospective students about WVU Tech, he didn’t pass it up.

His whirlwind tour included visits to high schools and evening recruitment events with stops in Amman, Jordan; Manama, Bahrain; Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Doha, Qatar; and Tripoli, Lebanon.

“I went on this trip to recruit international students and tell these students what Tech has to offer. My native language also helped me to communicate with the parents and made them more comfortable to chat with me about their kids’ future,” he said.

Dr. Hasan El-Rifai in Doha, Qatar during a recruitment event.El-Rifai speaks with students at an event in Doha, Qatar.

“It’s not that easy for these international students to travel abroad to a place that has completely different culture without their family and friends, but I was a live example for these students and their parents. I was telling them about my own experience and how I was successful in reaching my goals.”

Beyond recruiting new students, El-Rifai said his efforts are part of the cultivation of global diversity that enhances the WVU Tech student experience. 

“Recruiting internationally increases diversity in the university. America is the ‘melting pot,’ and I believe that universities are the base of that. It helps the international student to get introduced to a new culture, and it also introduces new international cultures from all over the world to our American students. It’s a win-win situation,” he said.

El-Rifai said that he was surprised with the turnout at each event and was blown away by student interest in studying abroad. What didn’t surprise him? The drive he found in those he met.

“The most memorable moment from this trip was when I saw how eager, serious and determined these students were. I had some wait in lines that would take me two to three hours over the original event time to finish,” he said. 

As a former international student, he said that the experience of being on the other end of that curiosity was remarkable. As a professor he called it a true honor, and said he was inspired to see so many young minds open to the idea of higher education.

“I want to thank Dr. Torbica, Dean of the College of Engineering & Sciences, who gave me the honor to represent Tech and supported that trip,” he said. “I’m looking forward to representing Tech in future international recruiting events where I believe that there is lot of potential.”