International Office

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The University’s International Office was one of 72 institutions that “came out” Tuesday for the first National Institutions Coming Out Day, an effort to provide safe spaces for undocumented students.

The International Office and the University Leadership Initiative (ULI) — which participates in education advocacy intiatives for youths — hosted the event, which is planned to occur annually.

Linguistics senior Diana Morales, ULI’s Dream Education Empowerment Program coordinator, said many institutions have scarce resources for undocumented students, and educators aren’t always aware of the rights accorded to these students

“With NICOD, we are able to identify which institutions are ready to take a step forward and are interested to advocate with their students at the institutional level,” Morales said. “[We want to] challenge institutional policies and make sure that our undocumented brothers and sisters are able to feel comfortable in their own campuses, as many feel unsafe anywhere else because of the political climate or the fear of one day being deported and separated from their family.”

Morales said the International Office made commitments to participate in “National Educators Coming Out Day” in November and co-host a “Know Your Rights” training session for educators, so they can better assist students.

The ULI has had a long-standing relationship with the International Office, according to Meghan Merchant, program coordinator at the International Office. Merchant said the International Office demonstrated support for undocumented students by showing a film screening of the short documentary “Living Undocumented.”

“Other ways [of supporting ULI] include maintaining the Longhorn Dreamers Project website, supporting Undocumented Longhorns Week and having a special orientation in the summer for new undocumented students to connect them with campus resources,” Merchant said.

Rhetoric and writing junior Maria Reza, United We Dream officer for ULI, said she enjoyed seeing the diversity in the documentary “Living
Undocumented.”

“Immigration is not just a Mexican issue; it’s not just an issue for Latinos. … It’s a global issue,” Reza said. “That’s something to always keep in mind — you should never assume that someone’s undocumented based on what they look like or how they speak.”

Reza said she is an advocate of ending the use of the term “illegals” in reference to undocumented immigrants. 

“Even if they don’t mean it, it’s just — words hurt, right?” Reza said. “We kind of prefer ‘undocumented. If you don’t like ‘undocumented,’ ‘unauthorized.’ If you don’t like ‘unauthorized,’ just my name is good.”

UT ranks second in the nation for the number of students studying abroad, according to a recent report by the Institute of International Education. According to Fiona Mazurenko, a public affairs specialist at the University of Texas’ international office, studying abroad is both rewarding and affordable.
Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

According to the Institute of International Education, UT ranks second in the nation in number of students studying abroad. The University is also in the top 25 for international student enrollment, with more than 6,000 students enrolled.

“We realize the importance of international and hands-on experience in education,” said Fiona Mazurenko, a public affairs specialist at the International Office. “It turns students into global-citizens, and this is important in an increasingly global marketplace.” 

UT sends more than 2,800 students to more than 80 countries each year. The destinations with the highest enrollment include Spain, France, China, Brazil, South Africa and Australia. Program lengths range from three weeks to an entire semester, and many programs offer internships or are linked to existing classes at the University.

According to Mazurenko, students who study abroad enhance their educational experience, cross-cultural communication skills and personal character. 

“Living alone in a foreign country and studying among peers from different nationalities taught me to adapt, be independent and work with diverse groups of people,” said finance senior Yaffa Meeran, who studied in Paris in spring 2013.

Meeran now serves as a peer advisor for the International Office.

“It was cool because you won’t get this opportunity at any other time of your life,” Meeran said. “It was the best decision I made in college.” 

Mazurenko said she advises students not to be apprehensive about studying abroad. 

“Students have the most apprehension over the cost and being alone,” Mazurenko said. “It’s scary, but it’s so rewarding. You learn to trust yourself and be prepared for anything.”

According to Mazurenko, the International Office emphasizes proving flexible and accessible options so that the barriers financial need poses are collapsing. NAFSA: Association of International Educators recently recognized the International Office for its First Abroad Scholarship, which provides first-generation college students the opportunity to study abroad by reducing the overall financial cost. English senior Omar Gamboa received the Gilman Scholarship, which is awarded to undergraduates who otherwise would not be able to study abroad, in 2014 to pay for his summer researching literature in Argentina. 

“The study abroad office was helpful in presenting students with the numerous financial aid options,” Gamboa said. “Though, besides merely presenting them to us, they really encouraged students to follow through with applying for them.”

UT alumnus Manuel Ramirez is the first and only undocumented student with deferred action to study abroad.

Photo Credit: Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

Following President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration Thursday, immigrants’ rights advocates say restrictions for eligible undocumented students to study abroad could be eliminated, but UT’s International Office says the program’s requirements will likely remain unchanged.

Starting in 2012, undocumented immigrants with deferred action status, which grants eligible undocumented youth temporary lawful presence, could travel abroad for education, employment or humanitarian purposes, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This opened up the opportunity for UT’s estimated 400 undocumented students to participate in a study abroad program.

The Department of Homeland Security has not announced the details of the executive order, but Deborah Alemu, a UT alumna and member of the immigrants’ right organization University Leadership Initiative, said she expected the department would strike the advanced parole permit needed for undocumented immigrants to travel abroad. 

Striking the advanced parole permit, which costs $445 when including a biometric services fee, could ease the study abroad process for undocumented students. 

“The changes pertaining [to] study abroad are going to be for the better — to make travel easier,” Alemu said. “We’re thinking they’re going to say having deferred action is sufficient and you don’t have to apply for additional permission.”

Over the summer, alumnus Manuel Ramirez became the first and only undocumented student with deferred action to study abroad. When he applied to travel to China, Ramirez said the advanced parole permit application was “stressful” and “took a lot of patience,” requiring him to submit recommendation letters, other documents and information about all of his intended whereabouts in China.

“I was the guinea pig in to how to apply: money, visas, paperwork, what kind of documents are needed,” Ramirez said. 

He said he was most unsure of his probability of successfully making it back into the U.S.

Fiona Mazurenko, a spokeswoman for the University’s International Office, said Obama’s announcement did not clarify which changes would be made for study abroad programs. She said there could be some changes to the deferred action application or advanced parole process, but the study abroad program would most likely remain the same. 

“It is likely not to be affected much, but the presidential executive order did expand DACA to more individuals, and about 290,000 individuals will now be eligible to apply, which could potentially increase the number of DACA students at UT,”
Mazurenko said. 

According to Mazurenko, “several” undocumented students were interested in spring and summer 2015 study abroad programs, and more than 65 students participated in the International Office’s information sessions for deferred action recipients. She said the International Office hopes to increase access to study abroad for underrepresented groups.

LBJ School of Public Affairs Masters graduate Jared Hall hosts a watch party with friends and coworkers for his own appearance on “Jeopardy!” trivia gameshow at Cain & Abels on Tuesday afternoon. 

 

Photo Credit: Debby Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

Former UT graduate student Jared Hall appeared in his fourth episode of the quiz-style game show “Jeopardy!” on Tuesday night as friends and co-workers gathered to cheer him on. 

Hall graduated with a master’s degree in global policy studies from the LBJ School of Public Affairs in May 2013. He currently works as a researcher in UT’s International Office. Hall will appear in several more episodes this week and may return for a champion tournament match next year.

Hall said both his research and studies at the University have played a large part in his success on the show so far.

“I think the coursework that I had at the LBJ School exposed me to a wide range of different subjects in terms of current affairs, history and economics that helped to further broaden my horizons,” Hall said. “It exposed me to all sorts of different facts and bodies of knowledge that came in handy as I competed on the show.”

Hall’s journey began in March 2012, when he took his first online trivia test.

“I didn’t know what to expect going into it,” Hall said. “I really had no idea what it would be like.” 

After passing two written trivia tests, Hall joined other prospective contestants from the region for an audition in New Orleans. In the months leading up to the audition, Hall said he prepared by routinely watching the show.

“I saw what types of questions were asked and worked on how I play the game,” Hall said. “I used a reference book, I used different trivia guides, I made flashcards and I read a lot of Wikipedia articles.”

In March 2013, Hall received a call from a contestant coordinator in Los Angeles and taped his first episode a few weeks later. 

“I was pleasantly surprised by all of the people involved in the process: the contestant coordinators, the producers, Alex [Trebek] himself … They’re all just really great people and really friendly and want you to do well,” Hall said. 

Liz Smith, who serves as assistant director of sponsored student programs in the International Office and Hall’s supervisor, said Hall excels in high-energy environments. Smith said Hall’s work often involves creative problem-solving. 

“In our office, you have to think fast on your feet,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of problem-solving that’s involved – you have to react quickly, and I think that’s something [Hall] also had to do on ‘Jeopardy!.’”

Current graduate student Laura Struve worked with Hall in the International Office and said Hall gained an advantage from working with a diverse student body.

“I think his cultural competency is higher or more nuanced as a result of working with the International Office,” Struve said. 

Hall said he had always liked “Jeopardy!,” but he only began watching the show regularly during college. 

“It was just one of those things that had always been a goal of mine,” Hall said. “I was like, ‘Hey, I could be on “Jeopardy!.” I should give it a shot.’” 

UT is currently building a 16-story tower on Nueces and 24th street, which will provide 622 beds, a swimming pool, a fitness center and a rooftop patio. The $63.9 million building will be ready for occupancy in Fall 2013.

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

A new addition to West Campus is scheduled to open in the fall semester of 2013.

2400 Nueces, the new student and faculty housing, will consist of 304 units that will provide 622 beds ranging from studios to four-bedroom apartments.

“It’s not a [typical] UT housing development,” said Amy Wanamaker, campus director of real estate. “UT owns the property, and we saw the opportunity to generate return on the property and the need for student, faculty and graduate housing within two blocks of the University.”

UT has ground-leased the property that was once old Wooldridge Hall to Education Realty Trust, one of the largest companies in the U.S. involved in developing and running collegiate housing. Architectural firm PageSoutherlandPage designed 2400 Nueces to go along with the modern look of the University.

“PageSoutherlandPage are local, well respected architects that came up with a beautiful design,” Wanamaker said.

EDR is developing this new 16-story high-rise for the UT System Board of Regents and will proceed to own and manage it, said Susan Jennings, spokeswoman for EDR. The $63.9 million production will provide amenities such as structured parking, a swimming pool, a fitness center, a rooftop patio, granite countertops and ceramic tiling, she said.

“The apartments are designed and marketed for graduate students, staff and upperclassmen, but we abide by all Fair Housing Laws,” Jennings said.

In addition to apartments, the University Neighborhood Overlay requires that the ground floor contain a “high percentage of local uses.” These uses may include retail and the possibility of the International Office moving into the building.

“[The] UNO requirement is for either office or retail, and we’re proposing that the International Office relocate back on the property for the board to approve in their Nov. 10 meeting,” Wanamaker said. “It’s not a guarantee until the lease has been negotiated and executed, and the board has approved the request.”

The International Office staff has been temporarily moved off campus. Candace Shye, International Office director, said they are excited about the possible transition to a new building.

“We used to be in 27,000 square feet. We’re in less than 18,000 now, and we’re in three different locations so they had to split our offices up,” Shye said. “One of the things I’m looking forward to if we get our office is that our whole office will be back under the same roof again.”

Printed on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 as: More housing added by campus for 2013