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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University March 27, 2006 | Vol. 35 No. 27
Officials Discuss Issues Affecting International Students, Scholars

Goucher College President Sanford J. Ungar was the keynote speaker at Friday's conference, hosted by Johns Hopkins on the Homewood campus.

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Government officials and representatives from 198 colleges and universities came to the Homewood campus on Friday to discuss issues related to their international student and staff populations. Johns Hopkins hosted the full-day conference — an annual event that has grown in size each year — to provide a forum for university officials from Maryland and five neighboring states to discuss an ever-evolving set of federal regulations to which schools must adhere in order to stay in compliance.

Nearly a dozen government officials, most from the departments of State and Homeland Security, were scheduled to speak at the conference, called the Mid-Atlantic Immigration Workshop.

Nicholas Arrindell, director of International Student and Scholar Services for the Homewood campus, said that the event served as an information gathering opportunity for practitioners who are principally responsible for a school's international student and faculty population.

After 9/11, the U.S. government issued several new rigid immigration policies intended to more closely track and scrutinize foreign visitors for the sake of national security. The university currently has more than 5,300 visiting students, faculty and other scholars enrolled in its academic divisions.

"One reason an event like this is needed is that the rules are constantly changing and open to various interpretation," Arrindell said. "The government itself does not provide such forums for any part of the regulations, so there is always misinformation out there. We see this as a golden opportunity to get information right from the source."

Specific items discussed included updates regarding the J-1 exchange visitor's program and the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, the Web-based system for maintaining information on international students and exchange visitors in the United States. SEVIS is administered by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, a division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Also on the agenda were matters pertaining to permanent residency for internationals and a proposed new visa category designed to encourage people in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM, to come to the United States to receive advanced degrees and to conduct research.

The establishment of a new visa category specifically designed to increase visibility in STEM areas, with a direct path to permanent residency, Arrindell said, would encourage some of the best and brightest to consider the United States as a first-choice destination to pursue graduate education.

Given Johns Hopkins' profile internationally, Arrindell thinks that this new visa category can have a far-reaching effect on the university's graduate recruitment efforts.

The event, held in Mudd Hall, featured keynote speakers Sanford J. Ungar, president of Goucher College; and Victor Johnson, associate executive director of public policy for NAFSA: Association of International Educators. Panelists at the workshop included officials from the State Department, Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Maryland Department of Labor Licensing.

Johns Hopkins has hosted the Mid-Atlantic Immigration Workshop, which began as a forum for a handful of local schools, for the past 12 years. The event alternates between the Homewood and East Baltimore campuses.


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