By Mindy McDowell
Trevecca administrators are beginning a search for a new international student advisor to advise around 80 international students on campus after the December resignation of Maria Petty.
“I have resigned from Trevecca this week! This was earlier than intended but the decision brought me an immediate peace and hope again. It has been awhile since I’ve felt that! I will miss working with my international students SO much. They were the highlight of my day,” Petty posted on Facebook on Dec. 19.
The international student advisor guides students through the entire college process from recruitment to preparing for graduation. They are responsible for advising students on processes such as securing and maintaining visa status, coordinating services that help students adjust to college, and maintaining accurate documentation of the international and nonimmigrant student population.
There are currently about 80 traditional undergraduate international students at Trevecca, according to Michelle Gaertner, associate dean of student success.
Along with Jared Austin and Michael Newland, both associate directors of admissions, the international student advisor serves as the Designated School Official (DSO) for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a database that maintains information on international and nonimmigrant students. The DSO is the only person on campus allowed to sign paperwork that is uploaded into SEVIS.
The position has been vacant since Petty’s resignation in December. The student development staff filled in to take care of the needs of international students while waiting for this position to be filled.
“We have all taken on different spots. We have plenty of resources that we can reach out to and help. I’m so thankful for the student development team we have here,” said Gaertner.
Jessica Dykes, associate vice president and dean of student development, called a meeting on Jan. 17 for traditional undergraduate international students to voice their concerns to student development officials.
“Our needs are being met perfectly fine, and I want to commend student development for taking the initiative of contacting international students and setting up a meeting,” said Luis Ortiz, senior accounting major from Honduras.
About 20 international students attended the meeting with student development officials.
“I think that our main concern in regard to our lack of an international student advisor was in the realm of the OPT applications. This is really extensive paperwork and a filing procedure and a lot of times we need our advisor to get all of our materials and requirements done correctly,” said Ortiz.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows international and nonimmigrant students to gain practical training in their field for twelve months after they complete their degrees.
The job is currently posted on Trevecca’s website. Gaertner hopes to find a new international student advisor by March.
“We would love to see someone who has had experience in higher education, Spanish speaking, and knowledge of the immigration system. Those are some of the things that we look for. We do a group interview with the candidates with our team to make sure it’s a good fit for our team. We’ll probably pull in some international students to ask questions to the candidates that we choose to interview,” said Gartner.
Student development officials said they are trying to send a clear message to international students that they are there to help however they can.
“We love you. We care for you. We’re here to help. You’ve just got to let us know when you need something,” said Gaertner.
Gaertner is the point of contact for international students seeking help until Brodrick Thomas, director of community engagement and reconciliation, returns from paternity leave in February