September 24, 2020

A message from President Paino regarding ICE decision on international students

The University of Mary Washington is alarmed by the recent decision from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency barring international students from entering or remaining in the United States in the event that they are able to enroll only online this fall. UMW has and will continue to welcome international students as valuable members of our community. These changes to student visa policies are arbitrary and damaging to the University, our students, and our region.

While the University is and will continue to monitor the situation, ongoing developments, and current legal actions, UMW is also taking specific steps in response:

  • The University, with the assistance of the Attorney General’s Office, is exploring how best to support the Harvard/MIT lawsuit challenging the forthcoming rules that bar online study for international students.
  • The University’s Director of the Center for International Education, Dr. Jose A. Sainz, is closely following developments and has been in communication with and providing support to all UMW students likely to experience impact from these policy changes.
  • International students may continue to avail themselves of academic and social support services such as advising, virtual access to the library, the James Farmer Multicultural Center, and the Talley Center for mental health as long as they are enrolled at UMW.
  • As part of UMW’s plan to reopen this fall, and as documented in our submission to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), UMW has committed to materially supporting international students in meeting federal guidelines for self-quarantine following entry into the United States prior to the start of classes.

To start the 2020-2021 academic year, UMW intends to offer courses delivered in multiple modalities: online, hybrid, and face-to-face. The process of deciding which courses will be taught in which modality is ongoing and evolving as circumstances change. Such choices will always be made in the interest of public health, the well-being of our faculty, staff and students, and our commitment to high quality instruction.

A particularly pernicious aspect of the Department of Homeland Security’s decision is that it irresponsibly pressures institutions to make decisions about teaching modalities that have nothing to do with health or pedagogy. Institutions of higher education must remain flexible in order to best respond to trends in public health data and the wellbeing of students and employees. If circumstances warrant, courses that are currently scheduled to meet face-to-face on campus must have the ability to go online without derailing the educational attainment of international students.

Fall 2020 is clearly an exceptional one for the entire world. Higher education has repeatedly assured students and other stakeholders that this environment is an anomaly and adversity mitigated only when we share responsibility and work together as a community. Yet this ruling seems to indicate that international students are secondary contributors to American education. It is a misguided framework, and most educators will attest to their experience that international students stand equal with U.S. students in their intellectual, social, and financial impact. The richness and diversity of thought brought by a variety of cultures are crucial to a global perspective that benefits all students and this nation. Either we stand together during this pandemic or we are all fundamentally weakened and vulnerable.

Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteer Vows to Continue Global Service

At their swearing-in ceremony last summer, Sebrine Abdulkadir, left, and fellow Peace Corps volunteers wear clothing handmade from traditional Botswanan fabrics. Abdulkadir’s service was cut short when the Peace Corps evacuated volunteers due to coronavirus.

At their swearing-in ceremony last summer, Sebrine Abdulkadir, left, and fellow Peace Corps volunteers wear clothing handmade from traditional Botswanan fabrics. Abdulkadir’s service was cut short when the Peace Corps evacuated volunteers due to coronavirus.

For Peace Corps volunteer Sebrine Abdulkadir ’19, posted in the southern African country of Botswana, the upheaval happened fast.

On a Monday morning in mid-March, she received an email saying she and other Peace Corps volunteers worldwide would be evacuated from their posts because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In three hours Abdulkadir packed what possessions she could from her house in the village of Good Hope, near the South African border. She left other belongings in the care of colleagues who had worked with her on projects to educate young people about HIV/AIDS.

By Monday evening, she was on her way to Botswana’s capital, Gaborone. And Wednesday morning she began her journey home, flying through South Africa and the United Arab Emirates before arriving in Washington, D.C.

“I didn’t really believe it till I was walking onto the plane,” Abdulkadir said. “It was stressful. I didn’t really have the chance to say goodbye.”

After a two-week quarantine upon returning to the United States, Abdulkadir has joined her mother and 7-year-old brother at home in Alexandria, Virginia. From her independent adult life and her own house in Botswana, the 22-year-old finds herself once again under a parent’s roof and contemplating her next steps. Read more.

UMW Goes Global as Peace Corps Top Producer

Teenage boys can be a handful, no matter which country or culture they come from.

Amal Hajjami (front row, far right), who graduated from UMW in 2019, is among the dozen Mary Washington alumni currently serving in the Peace Corps. The University was just named a Peace Corps Top Producer.

Amal Hajjami (front row, far right), who graduated from UMW in 2019, is among the dozen Mary Washington alumni currently serving in the Peace Corps. The University was just named a Peace Corps Top Producer.

Amal Hajjami learned that fact within her first few weeks of Peace Corps training in Morocco, when the 2019 alumna encountered a young man who refused to participate or follow the rules – when he even bothered to show up – but she wouldn’t give up on him.

“During training, we’re taught that we shouldn’t push these individuals away,” she said, “but instead, give them leadership responsibilities.” Soon the teen was stepping up and helping out. “He showed me that once you start encouraging people, the outcome will change.”

Hajjami is among a dozen Mary Washington graduates serving worldwide in the Peace Corps, to which the University of Mary Washington has once again been named a top contributor. UMW jumped to number seven – up from 15th last year – among small schools on the 2020 Top Volunteer-Producing Schools list, released this morning.

Securing this prestigious ranking is a longstanding tradition for the University, which has earned a spot on the list since 2005. For 12 consecutive years, UMW has been included among the top 25 colleges and universities with fewer than 5,000 students. A total of 270 alumni have joined the Peace Corps since its 1961 inception.

“Mary Washington’s culture of service keeps fueling students’ interest in continuing their commitment to populations served by the Peace Corps,” said José A. Sainz, director of UMW’s Center for International Education (CIE). “It pushes their boundaries and offers many opportunities for them to become better global citizens.” Read more.

UMW to Offer Japanese Language Courses

Japanese Minister of Public Affairs Takehiro Shimada (second from the left) and Takeshi Yoshida of the Japan Foundation (far right) visited UMW today to celebrate the announcement of the University’s new Japanese language program, funded by a grant from the Japan Foundation. From L-R: Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Betsy Lewis, Mr. Shimada, Provost Nina Mikhalevsky, Center of International Education Director Jose Sainz, Professor Steve Rabson, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Keith Mellinger and Mr. Yoshida. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Japanese Minister of Public Affairs Takehiro Shimada (second from the left) and Takeshi Yoshida of the Japan Foundation (far right) visited UMW today to celebrate the announcement of the University’s new Japanese language program, funded by a grant from the Japan Foundation. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Spending a semester in Japan, UMW senior Kaitlin Viloria was in a shop when a young woman asked her a question. The woman spoke no English and Viloria’s Japanese was limited, but they still managed to strike up a conversation.

Viloria wishes she was more proficient, she said, “but in that moment, I was proud of my ability to overcome the language barrier.”

Future Mary Washington students who travel to Japan will be able to communicate with confidence, thanks to the Japanese language courses UMW will offer starting this fall. Earlier today, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Keith Mellinger and Center for International Education Director Jose Sainz joined guests from the Japanese Embassy, faculty, administrators and city officials at the Jepson Alumni Executive Center to announce the new program. Japanese Minister of Public Affairs Takehiro Shimada gave a talk after the ceremony. Read more.

Peace Corps Top Producer: UMW Alums Serve Globally

2019 Peace Corps Top College

Once again the University of Mary Washington’s alumni commitment to global service has earned UMW recognition as a Peace Corps top producer.

Mary Washington took the 15th spot among U.S. schools with fewer than 5,000 students. The distinction marks the 11th consecutive year UMW has made the top 25. More than 260 Mary Washington alums have served the Peace Corps since its 1961 inception. Read more.

 

A World Class Education

Experience inspires Professor Jose Sainz to guide students abroad.

Faculty-Led Study Abroad Trips Reach Milestones

A group of students during the 2011 “Spain for All” trip.

Carol Quinn has been back in the United States for less than a week and she is already thinking of her next trip to Europe.

The University of Mary Washington senior was one of nine students who visited London, Amsterdam, Wurzburg, Munich and Vienna with the Psychology in Europe study abroad trip. The students, led by Associate Professor of Psychology Dave Kolar, spent two weeks at historical and cultural sites relevant to the study of psychology.

“The trip inspired me to return and do some of my own traveling in Europe,” Quinn, a psychology and sociology major, said. “I’m eager to go back. I wasn’t ready to leave at all!”

This summer, more than 100 students are studying abroad, either as part of UMW faculty-led trips, or through programs at other universities or organizations. Members of the UMW field hockey team recently traveled to Italy with Coach Lindsay Elliot to train and compete on an international scale.

Some trips have become UMW staples, like “European Capitals – London, Paris, Berlin, Prague and Vienna,” now in its 20th year, “Spain for All,” celebrating its 10th anniversary and “Psychology in Europe,” in its fifth year.

Students in the 2012 Psychology in Europe program visit the Camden Lock Market

Denis Nissim-Sabat, professor of psychology, developed the Psychology in Europe trip to expose students to the history of psychology they learn about during the year.

“History comes alive for them,” he said, noting the students’ opportunities to visit sites from a Holocaust concentration camp to Sigmund Freud’s house.

For Jose Sainz, director of the Center for International Education and associate professor of Spanish, the Spain for All program’s success is due to its emphasis on academic, cultural and personal experiences and its ability to adapt to students’ needs. Although the program started 10 years ago solely with Spanish courses, now it offers courses across disciplines, as well as service learning opportunities and internships.

“After a decade leading students, we still get messages on Facebook and emails from students who are now long gone from campus indicating that attending the program was one of the highlights of their time at UMW,” Sainz, leader of the trip, said.

Sainz and Associate Professor of Spanish Marisa Martinez-Mira will take 34 students to Spain this summer, from June 24 through July 27.

For two decades, the European Capitals program has been going strong. This year’s group of 16 students, led by Jack Kramer, distinguished professor of political science, and Porter Blakemore, associate professor of history, will return on Friday, June 8 after four weeks of travel.

The European Capitals trip makes a stop at British Parliament in London

According to the political science department’s newsletter, the trip includes a briefing with a member of the British Parliament, a private tour of the Palace of Westminster, a tour of Versailles, a concert of classical music provided by the Imperial Orchestra in Vienna and a briefing at the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin.

According to Kate Jordan, study abroad program assistant in the Center for International Education, summer study abroad programs like Spain for All and European Capitals are appealing for students because they require less time commitment than a semester-long or full-year program, while offering unique coursework.

“Not only do short term faculty-led study abroad programs give students flexibility in their course choices, but they have the opportunity to have an amazing intercultural experience at the same time,” she said. “Summer study abroad is also less expensive than many semester abroad programs, making it more attractive for some students.  In today’s increasingly competitive job market, students with international experience definitely have an edge.”

Summer in Spain

The students who have been studying in Bilbao, Spain for the past month are about to make the journey home. This is the ninth summer that a group of students has traveled to Spain as part of the UMW in Spain summer program.

Jose A. Sainz, associate professor in the Center for International Education, has led the group through classes, tours and trips. The students, who will receive academic credit for their coursework, have documented their experiences in UMW Blogs.

Read the blog entries

 

 

 

 

Jose A. Sainz