A cold, yet beautiful, day on the campus of Missouri State University. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

OPINION |

Correction: The United States issues visas to foreign students who wish to attend U.S. colleges and universities. The story originally named the wrong country.

I like working on the Missouri State University campus. I like the flow of students on foot or, these days, motorized scooters. I like the sound of the campanile, the little robots scurrying about to deliver food, and the messages in chalk on pavement.

In fact, next fall, right before homecoming, I’m going to bring chalk and encourage those on campus to vote for colleague Jackie Rehwald, who covers social causes.

My message will say: “Vote for Jackie Rehwald for MSU Queen — of Causes.”

MSU’s international environment hit home for me on Thursday morning.

Flags up in the morning, down at day’s end

I saw students put up the flags of various countries on slim metal poles along the quadrangle. The poles come apart at 4 or 5 feet, making the work easy.

“Easy,” I guess, if you don’t factor in the cold. It was about 25 degrees.

The students hoist the flags in the morning and take them down at day’s end.

The flags represent the countries from which students have come in order to attend MSU.

(As a reminder, the Springfield Daily Citizen is on campus, on the bottom floor of a residence hall.)

This semester there are 1,001 international students on the Springfield campus. They come from 87 foreign lands, according to an MSU report.

But there are only 48 flag poles. I counted them.

A group of about 6 students were taking down the flags on Nov. 10th, 2022. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

Flags have to be rotated

That’s why the flags are rotated, says Samantha Francka, coordinator of marketing and communications for MSU’s international programs.

The flags are put up sporadically, she says.

Did you know this week is International Education Week?

It is, and that’s why the flags are up.

They also go up during the university’s annual Public Affairs Conference, as well as International Student Orientation Day, which is a week or so before the start of the fall semester.

If you stand at Strong Hall on the MSU Campus, you can see all the flags. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

An international campus

The foreign students appreciate seeing their home flag, Francka says. She knows this because she often sees photos on social media where MSU students have posed with their flag in the background.

The students who put the flags up and take them down are from the MSU chapter of Chi Alpha.

Chi Alpha is neither sorority nor fraternity. It’s a campus ministry for men and women to connect with each other while seeking God, according to its website.

Wikipedia states Chi Alpha is interdenominational and international. It was founded here on the MSU campus in 1953 and is supported by the Assemblies of God, which has headquarters in Springfield.

The national flag of India shown here is one of the flags on display. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

It’s India, not China, with most students on MSU campus

China is no longer the No. 1 country of origin for international students at MSU.

Since the pandemic, the number of student visas issued to Chinese students who want to attend U.S. colleges and universities has decreased. Such visas are issued by the United States.

In August, The Wall Street Journal reported the number has dropped more than 50 percent between 2019 and 2022.

Instead, the No. 1 foreign country at MSU’s main Springfield campus is India.

Top 10 nations represented at MSU, by headcount

  • India — 307
  • China — 93
  • Vietnam — 68
  • Nigeria — 45
  • South Korea — 36
  • Bangladesh — 34
  • Nepal — 32
  • Japan — 26
  • Pakistan — 22
  • Canada — 20
Flags inside of Strong Hall on the MSU Campus. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

This is Pokin Around column No. 77.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at spokin@sgfcitizen.org. His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin