UCLA may soon have a campus-wide executive committee to address international student concerns.
The Dashew Center and the undergraduate student government Committee of International Relations held the first-ever Dashew Community meeting Friday to discuss how to better identify and address issues foreign students face.
The meeting, attended by Dashew Center officials and leaders from several ethnic and cultural student groups, is part of the center’s ongoing effort to improve communication with international student organizations.
[Read more: New USAC Committee holds international student forum]
Jack Guo, director of the Committee of International Relations, said he thinks international students have problems that are very different from the problems other students face. Undergraduate Students Association Council President Danny Siegel created Guo’s committee, which helped organize Friday’s meeting, to give international students more representation in student government.
Attendees discussed the merits of various proposals, including a formal campus committee, a student group coalition and a Dashew internship program for international students.
Guo first proposed creating a new committee to study the visibility and integration of the international community at UCLA. It would be modeled on existing campus committees and consist of faculty, staff and undergraduate and graduate student members, Guo said.
“We see that American students have very few international friends, and even international students tend to group together,” he said. “The committee can research issues like this and help enhance the global education experience.”
In addition to the campus-wide committee, attendees also considered Guo’s proposal to create a coalition of ethnic and cultural student groups as a way to improve communication between administrators and international students. The coalition would meet monthly to discuss international student issues and potentially send periodic reports to administrators.
Jennie Weingarten, Dashew’s assistant director of programming, said she thinks the coalition could help better inform administrators about the different events and programs cultural groups organize.
“We are not always connected with students and knowledgeable about what you guys are doing, so having a coalition that coordinates that information would be helpful,” she said.
Ashraf Beshay, president of the United Arab Society, said he thinks the coalition can help increase integration by including cultural groups that are not solely dedicated to international student issues but still have many international members.
“This coalition could be like a global alliance where we help each other,” he said. “Barely one-tenth of the cultural groups in UCLA are represented at today’s meeting, so the coalition could include more of them.”
Student leaders and administrators also presented upcoming opportunities for international students.
USAC General Representative 3 Inan Chowdhury promoted his office’s Sigma C.H.A.I. program, which holds events to facilitate discussions between different groups on campus. Chowdhury said he invited international student groups to attend Sigma C.H.A.I.’s events and thinks the program may help them integrate more into campus.
Amy Pojar, Dashew’s assistant director of research and special projects, said the center is looking to start an internship program for international students next quarter. The interns would research and analyze foreign student experiences, she said.
“The interns will help us get more information on people’s backgrounds and students’ stories,” she said. “They will also help us see what patterns are in the information.”
Xiao-Yi Chen, a board member for the Chinese Students Association, said she thinks the new program would help international students gain useful research experience.
“A lot of jobs these days want students to have research experience,” she said. “As international students, it’s difficult to get internships due to our visa status.”
Several student leaders who attended the meeting said they thought it was a good first start in mobilizing groups to address international student concerns.
Guo said he think the proposals discussed in the meeting will help bring attention to a group that is generally not talked about.
“While there is a lot of discussion of undocumented student issues, or LGBT issues or black student issues, we see there is a complete absence of discussion of international students,” he said. “I think that is very unfortunate.”