As part of an effort to become more global, the University is planning to open an office that will serve as a one-stop shop for international student services. By consolidating services, the University aims to create a more welcoming and stress-free environment for international students, said Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services. Though the plan is still in an early, exploratory phase, the University regards it as a top priority, administrators said.
The idea was raised at a January 2011 retreat with deans of the college, campus life staff, the director of the Office of International Student and Scholar Services and other international faculty. At the retreat, an international student panel pointed to the need to better coordinate services for international students in one location, Klawunn said.
Under the current plan, the international space will consolidate pre-existing services into one house and combine the “international efforts and supporting of (the) community” on campus, Klawunn said.
“It’s a strange way to be welcomed to a campus if the first place you go is an office that handles your visa problems,” said Katherine Bergeron, dean of the College. The proposed house will offer a warmer, more advising-focused atmosphere for international students, a contingent at the University that has doubled since 2006, she said.
According to Bergeron and Klawunn, the house will include a space for seminars, a reception area and other social spaces where faculty and students can gather. The house will coordinate a variety of resources, including information on legal issues and the international mentoring program. It will also provide international students with access to advisers in different offices.
In addition to centralizing preexisting services for current international students, the house would also provide new services for internationally inclined domestic students and for international students outside of the University.
Students with experience overseas would be able to use the house as a place to reacclimate, reconnect and find peer support on campus.
The office will most likely be located in an existing Victorian house next to the Watson Institute for International Studies on Thayer Street, said Deputy Provost Joe Meisel, though he added that the plan is “not a done deal.” Such a house would give a welcoming feel and mimic the qualities of already internationally designated spaces, such as the Third World Center, he said.
Despite support for the office expressed at the retreat, not all international students regard the house as a high priority.
Jules Kortenhorst ’15 expressed skepticism about the usefulness of providing such services in a unified location. Kortenhorst said he is worried this house will “institutionalize the divide between international students and American students.”
Lloyd Rajoo ’12 called the plan “somewhat unnecessary” and added that “everything done now is pretty good.” He said he is “not sure what a new building would add.”
Administrators said they could not specify when the office will be opened.