As the College community cries for greater diversity on campus, the administration has tried to respond. One of the administrative roles in this process that is not known well but is nonetheless very influential is the role of international student advisor. With the departure of the previous advisor Jen Hasenfus, Senior Associate Dean Rachel Bukanc has stepped up as the interim international student advisor, a position that she will hold until April. During her time in office, she has continued valued progressive programs enacted by the previous international student advisor while also bringing about some inspiring and fantastic programs of her own.
When asked to describe all of the work she has done, Bukanc humbly gives a great deal of credit to her predecessor. “Prior to my arrival, the international advisor, Jen Hasenfus, had enacted very important programs, such as creating the option of curricular practical training for international students,” Bukanc said. This program is crucial because it helps to make the process of working in the United States for international students much easier. Expediting the treacherous process of finding work in the States for roughly 10 percent of the College’s student population is no small feat. Such work is indicative of the international student advisor’s pinnacle role in acquainting international students with the Career Center.
A lot of the previous work done by the international student advisor has been to help out with basic practical issues that students who hail far from the United States have to face. Bukanc described one of the most tangible results of this work, the creation of “the option to stay on campus and cook communally during winter shutdown.”
For a lot of international students, simple luxuries such as going home for break simply are not feasible, and thus with programs like these the College is making a deliberate effort to take care of its international students, actively looking to accommodate each student’s situation and leaving no student behind regardless of where they grew up.
Continuing programs enacted by Hasenfus to engage and inform the greater College community, Bukanc has also continued to assist in Junior Advisor (JA) training to “help JAs be more aware of the needs and concerns of international students,” she said. By reaching out to JAs, the international student advisor is really reaching out to the entire College community, as that consciousness and care for the specific needs and perspective for international students will be spread through every class that enters the College.
While much of Bukanc’s work has expanded upon Hasenfus’s previous programs, she has tried to take her position one step further. “In supporting Jen’s work, I followed her direction in thinking about ways we can expand services to students through streamlining practices, increasing programming for international students and creating spaces to explore what an ‘international community’ means,” Bukanc said.
Since taking over the position, Bukanc has founded the International Coffee Hour. After speaking with many student leaders on campus, Bukanc thought “it would be a good idea to start a monthly International Coffee Hour where international students could interact more informally with domestic students as well as faculty and staff.”
By keeping her ear close to the ground and her mind open to the needs of the College community, Bunkanc helped develop a progressive and comfortable space for international students. Though she speaks of her role and accomplishments modestly, she admits that the International Coffee Hour “has been quite successful so far.”
Though her position is temporary, Bunkanc took on the responsibility of the international student advisor role and has used it to demonstrate the direction that the College administration is trying to go. Even though she said that her work “was an extension of ongoing work that [Hasenfus] initiated,” Bunkanc listened to students, opened her perspective and used her creativity to try and make the experience at the College as accessible as possible for international students. Like many students on campus, Bukanc is looking forward to a more diverse future for the College, especially from an administrative standpoint. She hopes “to see many more such initiatives when our new Assistant Dean starts in April.” Everyone in the College community should follow in Bunkanc’s footsteps and opens themselves up to the fantastic international student population on campus.