OISA hires new director to address student complaints

In+addition+to+the+new+director%2C+Andrea+Popa%2C+OISA+hired+two+new+program+coordinators+to+help+meet+student+needs.+Xinyi+Xu+%2F+Beacon+Staff

In addition to the new director, Andrea Popa, OISA hired two new program coordinators to help meet student needs. Xinyi Xu / Beacon Staff

By Daniela Lobo-Rivera

The Office of International Student Affairs appointed Andrea Popa as the new director following student complaints about staff vacancies during fall 2018.

The college also reassigned former Interim Director Sheena Loiacono to fill the vacant program coordinator position, and hired an additional program coordinator, Jason Xin Yang. Popa said following the new hirings, OISA is fully staffed.

The college announced Popa’s hiring on Dec. 3 in an Emerson Today article, and she officially started as director on Dec. 10. Popa previously worked in Boston University’s International Students and Scholars Office for 16 years as an associate director for student services.

Popa said the office historically had one director and one program coordinator. However, considering the increased international student population—16 percent of new first time students are international—OISA decided to add a second program coordinator.

“We’ve gone from being sort of one person down to being one person up,” Popa said in an interview. “Now that the spring semester has begun, we’re fully staffed and prepared.”

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During the fall 2018 semester, Loiacono was the only OISA employee—serving as a program coordinator and acting as an interim director. In a previous Beacon article, a group of international students said they experienced difficulty receiving their federal documents, such as their F-1 signatures and Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) updates, on time during Loiacono’s duty as interim director.

Popa said the college notified her of some of the office’s shortcomings related to the vacancy as she was coming into the position.

“I think there were months where perhaps students were not feeling like they were getting the support they needed and I’m glad that I’m here and that Emerson was able to fill my position,” Popa said.

Popa said she also read articles from last semester and gathered information from the different student groups that expressed their concerns and need for action.

“As we rolled into the spring, I tried to take those specific concerns that were expressed and try to prioritize what things needed to happen immediately, and what things were going to need more time to develop,” Popa said.

Popa said OISA wants to make sure the international student community receives the help, advice, and information they need.  

“We’re also spending a lot of time speaking about communication and transparency,” Popa said. “For this, we’ve established walk-in hours on Wednesday mornings and Thursday afternoons for students to come in with their concerns.”          

Chuchu Yue, a freshman Chinese international student, said OISA helped her clear financial holds on her student account, and keep her F-1 visa updated. Yue said the office improved since the fall semester.

“I think the efficiency is really good,” Yue said. “They have given really good support, advising, and help. You can see a big improvement within the office.”

Popa said OISA will work with other offices on campus, including the Career Development Center.

“International student success is a collaborative effort around campus,” Popa said. “We’ll be doing a list of seminars throughout the semester that will help prepare students for their future careers.”

Popa said she is confident that a fully staffed OISA office will give the international student community the services they deserve.

“We’re fully staffed and ready to start a new chapter. We’re looking forward for students to feel an immediate change,” Popa said. “We’re taking very seriously all the types of activities and initiatives that will provide the type of support the students need.”