Section: News

College rethinks class for foreign students

Anika Rodriguez, a sophomore from Sri Lanka, remembers the many promises U.S. universities made to her and fellow international students when she was applying to colleges.

“They have a lot to say about what they will help you do,” Rodriguez said, “but when you come here, you see there are so many barriers.”

Kenyon created more barriers for international students this semester when the Provost’s office eliminated “Connecting Academic and Intern Experiences,” a course offered through the Career Development Office, according to Rodriguez. The course, also known as EXPL 205, gave international students a way to get summer internships without running afoul of U.S. employment laws.

Most international students at Kenyon are here on student visas, according to Marne Ausec, director of the Center for Global Engagement. Student visa holders typically are allowed to work only where they go to school according to visa laws; if an international student wishes to have a paid internship off-campus during the summer, they are faced with two options. They can go through a process called Optical Practical Training (OPT), which requires a rigorous application process and costs $380. Alternatively, they can go through Curricular Practical Training (CPT), which requires that they receive school credit for the internship.

“Making an internship course meant that we could certify that doing an internship was part of international students’ degree program here, and then they could do internships,” Ausec said.

The elimination of EXPL 205 has made doing CPT more difficult for students like Rodriguez.

EXPL 205, which was taught by Director of Career Development Scott Layson, smoothed the way for students to get credit for their summer internships. The course met five times per semester and covered topics related to career development such as networking and the importance of LinkedIn. If a student took the course, followed by a summer internship, they would recieve school credit for the internship upon turning in an essay about their experience the following fall to a Kenyon faculty member.

“One of the benefits I got from the class was the ability to accept a summer internship at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. last summer,” said Qossay Alsattari ’15, an international alumnus from Ramallah, Palestine. According to Alsattari, eliminating this class may make it more difficult for international students to obtain long-term visas. In order to prove they are “qualified candidates with relevant work experience and huge-long term potential,” international students have to complete at least one internship during the summer, Alsattari said.

The class was eliminated this semester because it was not “successfully achieving its goals,” Associate Provost Ivonne García wrote in an email to the Collegian.

García said students didn’t always complete the class, often failing to turn in a final reflection essay. She also said the College is reexamining how the class fits into the 2020 Plan, which is designed to guide much of Kenyon’s future curriculum choices.

Rodriguez believes that international students’ needs were sacrificed when the class was eliminated.

“They took the class off because it wasn’t academically rigorous enough,” Rodriguez said. “When they did [cut the course], they were just thinking about Kenyon’s academic standard.”

Those who have already completed the class at Kenyon will still be able to get credit for their future internships. Peter Orlos ’18, an international student from Cancun, Mexico, took the course in spring 2015, and will be able to get credit for his internship with LegalShield, an American marketing corporation based in Oklahoma, this coming summer. 

Exceptions, such as Orlos’s case, are possible because García has agreed to authorize internship experience essays by students who have already taken the course. For those who did not get a chance to take the course there is no current alternative to receive internship credit, though that could soon change. 

“To be honest, our office is kind of scrambling to figure out if there’s anything we can do and how we can help,” Ausec said. “I think that administrators at Kenyon really do understand why a class like this was important, so especially as we move towards the 2020 Plan, we’re trying to figure out how to make something work.”

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