Support for the Rising Complexity
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International students have found an astonishing number of ways to contribute to the culture and fabric of MIT. Activities range from serving as officers for their residence or the student government, to designing an innovative project to improve the quality of life in communities throughout the world via the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge (run by the Public Service Center), to organizing internationally-focused career fairs.
MIT is committed to fostering a caring and inclusive campus environment, which begins from the moment students engage in Orientation their first year. The International Students Office organizes an International Orientation for incoming freshmen with an emphasis on welcoming and informative activities. Sharing across cultures abounds in the residences, both in a casual way and through programs such as SPICE, the Sidney-Pacific Intercultural Exchange, co-sponsored by the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education. SPICE brings students together for approximately 85 dinner and discussion meetings per year on topics from norms and taboos, to holidays, to interracial and cross-cultural relationships. The Addir Interfaith Program, run out of MIT Religious Life, brings students of different faiths together to learn about each other’s beliefs, practices, traditions, and cultures. The International Students Office also organizes Jeanty Teas, which celebrate a specific theme, such as the Year of the Snake or Halloween, and the Host to International Students Program (HISP), which matches incoming international undergraduate students with MIT faculty, staff, alums, and friends. The matches then engage in activities that expose the students to aspects of U.S. life, and allow the hosts to learn about other cultures and perspectives.
Over 60 active cultural student groups also contribute to cultural understanding, including the Arab Student Organization, the Bulgarian Club, the Organization of Serbian Students, Sangam (association of Indian students), and Stammtisch (a German conversation group).
To improve campus culture for international students still further, the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education invites proposals from faculty, students and staff at any time (http://odge.mit.edu/finances/activities-community/).
Sources of support for career development for international students include the Global Education and Career Development Office (GECD) within the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education and activities organized by the Graduate Student Council Academics, Research and Careers committee, including the Fall Career Fair. Each year GECD organizes a workshop to introduce international students to the process of a job search in the U.S.; they also run a workshop on “Business Etiquette: Mastering Meals, Manners and Business Interactions” that is quite popular with internationals. They have career counselors with international experience who are available for one-on-one meetings, as well as an extensive career library and online resources that include hundreds of job postings that welcome international students.
The Office of the Dean for Graduate Education is pleased to announce that the International Students Office will add an additional International Student Advisor as of July 1, 2013, thanks to the support of the Provost and the Chancellor. The new advisor will join the team that counsels and advises MIT students and their dependents on all issues related to their stay in the U.S., including personal and family matters. The advisor will help not only to support the additional numbers of MIT international students, but also to help address the increasing complexity of supporting their immigration status.
To help foster an inclusive campus culture, the ISO enhanced the undergraduate International Orientation this past year. The number of mentors was increased, reducing the ratio to 1:4 (down from 1:8 in previous years). A session on academic integrity was added, the calendar was expanded with more evening social and bonding activities, and “USA 101” was enhanced. The GECD has responded to the needs of international students by adding targeted speakers to its roster of events: in April, Dan Baudry, author of “Power Ties: The International Student’s Guide to Finding a Job in the United States” came to share inside information with over 200 attendees. Initiatives in this arena sponsored by the ODGE have included the MIT-China Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (MIT-CHIEF); a China Urban Development seminar series; and the MIT-India Conference.
Many offices at MIT partner to form a supportive web for all our international students. As MIT increases its global reach and embraces the rich complexity of those interactions, there are many generous and capable staff members who stand ready to meet the challenge to support our international students. We are eager to engage in the continuing conversation about how best to support the changing needs of MIT’s international students, and we encourage you to contact any of the authors of this article.
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