Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

International Student Affairs low on staff, high in demand

Anthony Pinder, associate vice president of internationalization and global engagement, hopes new staff will bring changes to the office.

The Office of International Student Affairs began a series of new hires after months of operating at less than full capacity—the changes come at a time when the college enrolled a record number of international students.

The college welcomed its highest percentage of international students this summer. Out of 900 new undergraduates, 16 percent, or 144, identify as international, a 5 percent increase from 11 percent last year.

The college narrowed the number of candidates for the OISA director position to three people this month and hired a program coordinator after having only one employee on staff for five months.

OISA responsibilities include processing international students’ paperwork, like passports and visas, and supporting intercultural events.

In an email sent to students on Oct. 15, Associate Vice President for Internationalization and Global Engagement Anthony Pinder outlined actions the college plans to take to provide more support to the record number of students, like hiring new staff to ease their transitions to Emerson.

Pinder said the college will hire a new director at the beginning of November.

“We have talked a lot here at the college about the global portals, global pathways, and studying abroad,” Pinder said to the Beacon. “What about the international activities that is happening right on this campus?”

OISA currently employs six part-time students and a full-time program coordinator. Student employees hold responsibility for answering phone calls and leading walk-in students to the related staff at the college.

Last year, two official staff members and one intern—Director Virga Mohsini, Program Coordinator Susannah Marcucci and Intern Sheena Loiacono—made up OISA. Marcucci left the college in October 2017 and Mohsini retired this February. OISA promotedLoiacono, its sole employee, to interim director in March.  

According to Loiacono’s Linkedin profile, she graduated with a master’s degree in International Higher Education and Intercultural Studies at Lesley University in 2017.

Ann Zhang, a junior from Tianjin, China and the International Pre-Orientation Chair for Student Government Association, collaborated with OISA for the preparation of international pre-orientation.

“I really enjoyed my work this summer, but I did not have enough supports from the [OISA] as the program deserved,” Zhang said. “I feel the [OISA] didn’t pay enough attention and time to us.”

Zhang said OISA was supposed to supervise and plan the orientation with her and her team, but Zhang said her team planned and implemented almost everything themselves, and OISA provided limited advice. Zhang sourced this to OISA’S understaffing, which only had one employee—Loiacono—at the time.

Pinder said Loiacono temporarily left the college for personal reasons at the end of last month and will return as the OISA assistant director in November. Between Loiacono leaving and the college hiring Yang on Oct. 15, only six student employees were considered part of OISA. The Office of Internationalization and Global Engagement juggled OISA responsibilities with their own.

Loiacono did not respond for a comment.

Yang began his position last week. Yang’s responsibilities include communicating with international students. After the college hires a new director, Yang will be commissioned to organize more intercultural programs designed to offer students a better understanding of different countries and cultures.

Yang, from Yantai, China, previously worked for the admissions office in the College of Fine Arts School of Music at Boston University, where he processed prospective student applications.

Yang also worked in offices for international students at two local high schools. One of the high schools he worked in was an international boarding school called Cambridge Arts Technology and Science Academy. Out of the 400 high school students enrolled there, 376, or 94 percent, were international students.

Pinder said with Yang’s international and bilingual background, he expects Yang to contribute more useful ideas and engage in the life of international students since he used to be in their place.

“I think for us to have some regional country expertise right here in the international office is a wonderful resource for us,” Pinder said.

After the new director comes on board, Pinder said the college may hire an international student advisor if they need more staff to support the international student population.

The three candidates for the OISA director position each have international backgrounds. The candidates fluently speak at least two languages and hails from a country outside of the United States or have experiences working abroad, according to Pinder.

They also each held the job of Principal Designated School Official, or someone with the responsibility of understanding an online system called SEVIS, which international students use to file personal information like visa statuses and passport numbers.

Each candidate had at least seven years of working experience as either a director, associate director, or senior official of the office of international students in their previous institutions of high schools and other colleges.

“Because of the delicate and scary political climate right now … We need someone who is a real expert on the law, on the SEVIS law,” Pinder said.

The candidates each presented their previous professional experiences and future plans at Emerson on Oct. 15, Oct. 19, and Oct. 22. These were open to all students and Emerson community members.

“Some of the areas we want to grow with the position is to do more intercultural programming, more co-curricular programming,” Pinder said. “[OISA will] not just be the office where you come to get your I-20 signed.”

An I-20 signature enables international students to return to the U.S. after traveling abroad.

The Office of Internationalization will decide the new Director of OISA based on feedback from the presentation, OISA members, and other departments.

“I think, at this point, I see us as having an opportunity to bring in people with new energy,” Pinder said.

Quan Do, a freshman from Hanoi, Vietnam, said his only interaction with OISA was when he recieved an approval of his Social Security Number for a job.

“[OISA] may be the last place I will go to,” Do said when asked about dealing with problems of cultural differences.

Pinder said the international students he met appreciate everything they have, but he also said students don’t feel fully valued or cared for by the college.

“I found that most of the international students are coming from the point that ‘We really like Emerson [and] we really care about it, but as it stands right now, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to come to Emerson because there is no real support,’’” Pinder said.

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