After several years of debate, Harvey Mudd College decided in December to end its partnership with the 5C international students office and establish its own Office of International Students and Scholars in an effort to provide enhanced support for international Mudders.
As a result, international students at HMC will no longer participate in orientation at the International Place of The Claremont Colleges (I-Place).
The $40,000 HMC previously contributed to I-Place is being redirected to supporting the international student office’s programming and staff on its own campus, according to HMC Dean of Students Anna Gonzalez.
In a November email to the HMC student body, Gonzalez announced that Evelyn Real was joining the Office of Institutional Diversity team as the new program manager for International Students and Scholars.
The creation of the HMC-only office will speed up the paperwork process, which is important for seniors who want to receive Optional Practical Training work authorization. OPT allows students to work in the U.S. without sponsorship for one year after graduation.
“Now my sole job is just to cater to the international students, [by] doing programming and doing the immigration work and anything else in-between,” Real said.
Before the split, I-Place managed all immigration and visa paperwork for HMC and Claremont McKenna College.
Real had already been assisting international students with acquiring visas and completing their immigration paperwork before the official change, according to her bio on HMC’s website.
“My actual paperwork process has become more streamlined because Evelyn is the one taking care of it and she’s [on campus],” Kanishk Tantia HM ’19 said. “Things move more quickly and are much closer to home.”
While the decision means sped-up paperwork, it also means international HMC students will no longer participate in I-Place’s New International Student and Scholar Orientation.
NISSO allows students to arrive on campus early, connect with other international students and receive information helpful to students who may have never lived in the U.S. before, according to NISSO’s website.
Since Pomona College, Pitzer College and CMC have orientations that start at a different time than Scripps College and HMC, I-Place traditionally had three separate orientations. HMC families would stay for the two days of international student orientation and go directly into parent orientation, which runs alongside student orientation.
Last summer, I-Place combined all the orientations into one 5C NISSO program, which started a week earlier than HMC’s all-student orientation. After participating in NISSO, HMC international students had to wait five days before regular new student orientation for HMC.
“Families can’t stay here for a whole week and then also do parent orientation,” Gonzalez said. “So we were finding that it was disenfranchising the students and their families at a cost that was only borne by the Mudd community.”
Harry Aung HM ’21 described NISSO as “a very positive experience for me … I made a lot of new friends.” He was a NISSO participant in 2017 and a leader in 2018.
Since NISSO served as Aung’s main connection to the 5C international community, he’s worried future students will not have the same opportunity to connect with international students from across the 5Cs.
“Once you get to Mudd, the international community really kind of splits apart and integrates,” Aung said.
HMC sent a survey to international students at the beginning of the academic year as Real and the other staff prepared to establish the Mudd-only office.
“What I found is that most of the students, if not all of them, are looking for a place on Mudd’s campus to call home,” Real said. “They’re looking for a place where everyone can just come and connect.”
For the first time, HMC will hold an international student graduation ceremony as well as spring break trips and activities for international students.
HMC still plans to continue coordinating with I-Place in some capacity; Mudders frequently attend the International Festival in the spring and International Gala in the fall, so Real anticipates supporting I-Place in planning those events.
I-Place declined to comment.
Jaimie Ding SC ’21 is from Vancouver, Washington. She previously served as one of TSL’s news editors.