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Campus & Community - Society & Culture

At Drexel, #YouAreWelcomeHere

August 24, 2017

Drexel University’s international student community includes more than 2,000 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students hailing from 115 countries spread across six continents — and then there are the 700 or so international faculty and staff that work at the University. To ensure that all of these Dragons know and feel that they are truly accepted and appreciated on campus, the University recently released a video affirming that fact in more than 20 different ways and 20 different languages. 

The video, titled “You Are Welcome Here,” is Drexel’s entry into the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign, which was started in November 2016 as a way for U.S. colleges and universities to tell an international audience how they would be treated on campus.

“We want international students and faculty to feel valued, we want them to feel recognized, and we want them to feel welcome,” said Jeannie D’Agostino, director of international admissions, who appears in the video speaking French (she grew up in Belgium).

D’Agostino and her colleague Jim McLaughlin, associate director of international admissions, were aware of the national campaign and started making plans to shoot the video in the beginning of June.

“We thought that the timing of the message was perfect because our new students now are pretty much getting ready to travel to campus,” said McLaughlin. “We wanted to give them one last note to help them be really excited to come to Drexel instead of being overwhelmed by apprehension or anything like that.”

Image courtesy #YouAreWelcomeHere.
Image courtesy #YouAreWelcomeHere.

When planning the video, they collaborated with Lucas Quagliata, associate director of communication strategy in the Communications & Marketing department of Drexel’s Division of Enrollment Management & Student Success (EMSS). Nordin Ćatić ’17, who recently graduated with a B.S. in materials science and engineering and a minor in business administration, was brought in as the video director, since he had made a name for himself putting together internal end-of-the-year videos for the student ambassador program, of which he was a member. 

“We wanted to make something that was unique to Drexel but would still fit in with the larger campaign,” said Quagliata. “We wanted to be one of the many voices welcoming international students and still show that at Drexel we have such a diverse community.”

The resulting video features 24 Drexel students, faculty, staff and alumni speaking the titular phrase in a variety of different languages, including Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Romanian and Swedish. To find speakers, D’Agostino reached out to the committee of international programs as well as faculty members, students, student ambassadors and members of the Drexel Global Scholars program who are international. She said more Dragons replied to her request than those featured in the video, but they were ultimately unable to be filmed due to scheduling constraints.

The Dragons were shot at various locations on Drexel’s University City Campus, including Main Building, the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building and outside of the Daskalakis Activities Center — all the better to make people feel like they are a part of the Drexel community, according to Ćatić, who worked on the project before returning to the University of Cambridge in England, where he worked for his second and third co-ops, to start a master’s program in micro and nanotechnology enterprise.

“The video wouldn’t have been very welcoming if everyone was behind a desk or standing in front of a wall,” he said.

Nordin Ćatić, the video's director, speaking at the 2017 College of Engineering graduation ceremony.
Nordin Ćatić, the video's director, speaking at the 2017 College of Engineering graduation ceremony.

Ćatić, who was born in Croatia and grew up in Dubai, had worked a lot with Drexel Admissions before, both as a student ambassador and as an unofficial videographer (he also shot a video used to promote Drexel’s graduate program in materials science and engineering).

This time, however, was a little different, since he worked with more people, more locations, and many more languages than ever before. Plus, now he can add another video to his portfolio — along with some other skills.

“The exact phrase ‘You are welcome here’ doesn't work perfectly in every language, but now I can say it in multiple languages after watching all the clips dozens of times in the editing process,” he said.

Ćatić, D’Agostino and Quagliata worked together to set up all of the different filming locations and coordinate the shoots for the stars of the video. Once everything was shot, Quagliata offered direction to Ćatić, who edited the video.

“I ended up with way more clips than you see in the video, so it took a long time to figure out which ones would work best and make sure we covered a lot of the major languages,” he said.

The final cut of the video was published on Aug. 4 and premiered on the Drexel University Admissions Facebook page.

“We published the video so that incoming students could see that welcoming message and feel really welcomed before coming to campus,” said D’Agostino. “I think it’s great to have this video for an international population, but it speaks to a much larger domestic audience as well. We want everyone to know they’re welcome.”

Given that the University was started in 1891 by the son of an Austrian immigrant, was first presided over by a Scotland-born educator and has always been open to students of all genders, races and religions, it’s safe to say that at Drexel, you’ve always been welcome here.