Training on international students accelerates for graduate school staff

The training will teach basics about visas, as well as communication strategies for working with international graduate students.

A pedestrian walks by the International Student and Scholar Services center on West Bank on Tuesday, Feb. 4.

Parker Johnson

A pedestrian walks by the International Student and Scholar Services center on West Bank on Tuesday, Feb. 4.

Niamh Coomey

International Student and Scholar Services will offer its first training solely for University of Minnesota graduate school program coordinators and other staff later this month. 

The training on Feb. 25 is aimed at University employees who often work with graduate international students. It is intended to help them gain understanding about the international student population, learning basics about visas and communication strategies. 

Training for undergraduate and graduate staff used to be combined, but due to the unique needs of students at different academic levels, they will now be held in two separate sessions, said Beth Isensee, the assistant director for student engagement and intercultural initiatives. 

The amount of time that graduate students spend at the University, as well as how that experience is structured, is very different from the undergraduate level, Isensee said.

ISSS has been hosting similar training for staff and faculty for more than 20 years, Isensee said. 

The upcoming training will be at capacity with 36 attendees, and ISSS will likely host another session due to the demand.

Through this training, ISSS tries to highlight how staff and faculty can support students through the many restrictions and regulations for students with visas, Isensee said. These rules can impact required credit numbers and work authorization for students, among other things.

This staff training is “more needed than ever,” Isensee said, due to national conversations about immigration in recent years. 

“There’s just a lot of focus on immigration in the national politics, and that makes it very stressful for the students. It can create a really unwelcoming atmosphere,” Isensee said. 

Changes in the political climate have created more interest among staff to want to better understand some of the challenges international students face, such as the travel ban and changes to unlawful presence, Theresa GanglGhassemlouei, a co-facilitator of the training and assistant director of advising in ISSS, said in an email to the Minnesota Daily. 

“[Staff] want to know how to support students and what they can do to help them engage, be successful and feel appreciated and an integral part of campus,” she said in an email. 

It is important for staff and faculty at the University to practice cultural curiosity, Isensee said, and to listen to the individual stories and experiences of international students.

Undergraduate academic advisers also go through training focused on international students, said Claire Hilgeman, senior academic adviser in the College of Liberal Arts, in an email to the Minnesota Daily.

Annual training sessions often include panels of students who describe their experiences at the University and how advisers can best help them, Hilgeman said in the email.

Advisers also get timely updates on international events that could impact international students, Hilgeman said in the email. 

“What I see from faculty and staff is they really want to support students, and sometimes it’s just they’re not sure how,” Isensee said. “If we can help them in finding ways to better understand the students and to reach out to them, it’s a win for all of us.”