News, University News

University hires new international student experience program director

Christina Phillips will focus on expanding, improving support for international students

By
Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Christina Phillips was appointed the new program director for the International Student Experience to serve both undergraduate and graduate students as an “adviser, programmer and advocate,” she wrote in a community-wide email June 23.

For the class of 2021, about 17 percent of admitted students were international, according to the Office of College Admission’s website. Forty percent of the graduate student population is international, the Herald previously reported.

Phillips seeks to help international students transition to and maintain year-long support for daily life through prioritizing “programming, coordinating orientations and student organization advising” for her first year, she said.

“She’s going to bring an exciting, fresh set of eyes in terms of adding to the already great experience that students report that they’re having,” said Interim Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity Shontay Delalue. Delalue expects Phillips to focus on “orientation, supporting existing organizations and creating new programs based on the needs of the community.”

Though emphasizing that the experiences of international undergraduate students are diverse, Manuel Pereira-Arias ’19, president of Buxton International House, said that the international community lacks easy access to ongoing support after orientation.

“International students (are) left to their own devices, and there’s not a lot of continued support for us. We need a little more accessibility to resources regarding living in the United States and being far away from home,” Pereira-Arias said. He added that the international community “doesn’t have designated spaces to use, except Buxton.”

President of Brown International Organization, Cristina Belli ’18, echoed the need for better accessibility to resources for international students at the University. “International students have been having a few difficulties as a collective entity in terms of support services. Many students don’t even know some of these resources exist. Or if they do, they’re being pointed in different directions,” Belli said.

Graduate international students may face unique challenges as many are supporting families and attempting to build their careers in a new country, wrote Sophie Brunau-Zaragoza GS, the international advocate of Graduate Student Council, in an email to the Herald.

“Coming here from another country to work and produce high quality research can be really disorienting and stressful. The risk is to feel isolated, overworked and powerless,” Brunau-Zaragoza wrote. She added that international students are at a higher risk to be taken advantage of by landlords, car dealers and scammers.

“(Phillips)has already started some serious community-building work,” Brunau-Zaragoza wrote, adding that Phillips “is creating a stronger sense of belonging among international grad students.”

To help coordinate with and support both the graduate and undergraduate international community, Phillips is in the process of hiring four student employees. The four students will help coordinate undergraduate programming, cultural programming, outreach and communications and programming for the graduate community, Phillips said.

Phillips will also aid in the International Mentoring Program, which offers social, academic and educational support and is run by undergraduate students, according to the IMP website.

“Not only does Christina help us with the logistics of programming that goes into International Orientation, relieving us of a considerable amount (of) work, but she is also an advisor to us who has facilitated important changes,” wrote Beatrice Bugane ’18.5, an IMP coordinator, in an email to the Herald,

“It’s nice to have someone whose role is solely to advocate for international student needs,” Sisasenkosi Mandi ’19, an IMP coordinator, in an email to the Herald.

Phillips previously worked closely with the Office of International Students and Scholars at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where she served as an international orientation leader during her time as an undergraduate and graduate student, Phillips said. She also acted as the International Student Advisor at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.

“While everything’s a bit unfamiliar for the people that come here for the first time, for (international students) it can be just a little more unfamiliar,” Belli said.