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International Student Graduation Celebration

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On Monday afternoon we went to the CWRU "International Student Graduation Celebration" in the Tinkham Veale Center Ballroom. The first thing we did after checking in was receive a tiny button to pin to our lapel that read "You Are Welcome Here CWRU" with a little globe strategically placed where the "o" is in Welcome.

We also noticed a large banner that said "congratulations" in 20 different languages which the students which the students could use a backdrop for either serious or funny photo ops courtesy of Ms. Kristin Whitbeck, Office Manager of the International Student Center who was there along with others members of its staff like Mr. Alec Jokubaitis (Business Systems Analyst) who helped us clarify some statistics pertaining to the number of international students at CWRU and their graduation rates; Ms. Molly Watkins (Executive Director); Ms. Cami Ross (Coordinator of Programming); Ms. Judy Bonhard (Coordinator of Communications); Ms. Kaitlyn Lionti (Coordinator of Special Projects); Ms. Marielena Maggio (Director of International Student Services); Ms. Elizabeth Miller (Assistant Director of International Student Services); Mr. Adolfo Franco (International Student Advisor); Ms. Rachel Paiscik (International Student Advisor); Ms. Autumn Beechler Stebing, (Assistant Director of Education Abroad); and Ms. Sara Spiegler (Assistant Director of Education Abroad).

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We were welcomed by Mr. William "Bud" Baeslack, III, Provost of International Affairs, who said that this weekend there would be 370 international students graduating at various levels representing 38 countries. As for the student body as a whole, internationals make up about 20%. He urged those seeking future employment in the Cleveland area to take advantage of opportunities offered by the career center which works with Global Cleveland.

Mr. David Fleshler, VP Provost of International Affairs, congratulated the students on their achievements but also noted the help that they received from their families and friends as well as the faculty and staff of CWRU. He also said that he hoped that the International Student Center, which was founded in 2012, was seen by the international students as "your home away from home." He then asked the questions:

***When you first came to Cleveland, what did you think of the food?

***What did you think of the weather?

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***How was it to take classes in English?

***How did you adjust to lifestyle changes?

Mr. Fleshler then said that he believed that the answer to all of them would be "very difficult" and he recognized that international students face challenges that domestic students do not. Therefore, he "raised my hat to all of you!" He acknowledged that the political and legal environment in the United States at this time wasn't very welcoming to internationals but he certainly hoped that they all felt welcomed at CWRU.

Mr. Bradford Crews, Senior Executive Director of Alumni Relations, reported that at this time CWRU has 110,000 alumni members living in all parts of the world. He thus encouraged the students to join professional networks that can be of help to them in the advancement of their careers. He cheerfully stated that for the rest of the time allotted for the reception he looked forward to talking to as many students as possible and hearing their plans.

This is what we did too. Amongst those we talked to were two students from India (one was in engineering and the other was IT) who wished to remain in the U.S. Both have the comfort of several years of OPT with the ultimate goal of obtaining an H1B visa. Then we talked to a young student from China who would like to resettle in the U.S. Like the Indian students, she has some OPT time but was concerned because it has been her experience that many companies would prefer to hire someone with permanent residency or a Green Card instead of having to help someone like her with an H1B.

Lastly, we visited for a moment with Dr. Imre Treufeld (we have met him before) who immigrated to the U.S. from Estonia and is hard at work developing a device that will measure the amount of sodium in one's food. He was very excited about its prospects and we wished him success.

Just before we left, we talked to Mr. Brian Mathews, a career coach who has been working with CWRU for about 6 months now, who spoke for all faculty and staff when he said how fulfilling he finds it to work with such promising young people.

By:

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC