DSO for International Students Sara Mitchell Leaves Pomona

International students at Pomona College received an email on Oct. 8 stating that administrator Sara Mitchell would leave Pomona, effective immediately. 

Mitchell served as Executive Assistant to the Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid. She acted as the Designated School Official (DSO) for students with F-1 visas, according to Haruka Sano PO ’18, one of the International Student Mentor Program (ISMP) Head Mentors. Sano said that most international students had worked with Mitchell in the context of visas, social security, or other legal issues. Mitchell was also a resource international students could go to for guidance, especially when trying to get hired in the United States.

Seth Allen, Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, sent the email announcement, but he did not give a reason for Mitchell’s departure. 

International students were concerned that Mitchell's departure would jeopardize their standing in the U.S., since questions were raised about whether Mitchell's signature would remain valid on their visa documents, said Saad Nadeem PO ’17, another of ISMP’s Head Mentors. Especially with Fall Break approaching, visas could potentially have been an issue for students travelling out of the country. However, Michell's signature should continue to be valid for a year.

Since Mitchell left, Associate Dean of Admissions Joel Hart has taken over her role as acting DSO. Pomona has also hired a part-time administrator to support Hart and work as a DSO, said Nadeem.

Pomona has made efforts to increase its support for international students. Marilyn White has also been hired as an international student advisor and as an administrative assistant, announced Dean Feldblum at the meeting on Thursday. In addition, the newly freed space underneath Clark V will be used by ISMP, which requested a physical space on campus last year.

Sano said Mitchell would be missed by many students. She was a point person for issues that came up with these students, especially regarding work, since, according to Sano, the Career Development Office is oriented toward domestic students and is often an unreliable resource for students trying to navigate the international students' different hiring procedures.

Sean Ogami PZ '19 contributed reporting.

Originally, this article incorrected quoted Pomona College Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum as stating that Mitchell's departure was related to “self-assessment” at a meeting between students and administrators on Oct. 13. Mitchell's departure was actually unrelated to the upcoming review of services for international students at Pomona.

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