March 3 - 16, 2006
Vol. 36, Issue 4
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IN THIS ISSUE
Arras and Fuentes win SCHEV award
Kaine to speak at finals

U.Va. tapped for innovative bioengineering partnership

Semester at Sea: Gies selected as U.Va.'s first academic dean
Digest
What wives want: Study finds commitment to marriage, emotional engagement key to wives' happiness
Darden's India program
Passing the baton: French now assists international community with immigration affairs
Last ball in U-Hall
Loncke's research helps people overcome speech problems
Poet Giovanni headlines Hues Conference
Acclaimed authors to discuss suffering

D'earth, Free Bridge Quintet jazz up orchestra

Geraldine Ferraro to speak
Ted Kennedy Keynote Speaker
Peace Corps to honor U.Va., volunteers March 15
'Edge of Empire' wins Duff Cooper Prize

 

Passing the baton
French now assists international community with immigration affairs

Photo by Dan Addison
Photo by Dan Addison
Marcia Taylor Dahlia French

By Mary Carlson

When Marcia Taylor retired from U.Va. this past December after 20 years in the International Studies Office, she had quite an impressive collection of thank-you cards and mementos from foreign students, faculty and researchers who have come to the University. In helping them negotiate the intricacies of immigration affairs, Taylor had become like a family member to many in U.Va.’s international community.

Since joining the ISO in 1985, Taylor said she witnessed major changes in its scope and direction. She credits Rebecca Brown, who was hired as the director in 2001, with steering the course. “She has brought us into the present,” Taylor said. “And we’re seeing the fruits of our labors.”

Also that year, the September 11 attacks ushered in changes outside U.Va. that would have a profound impact on Taylor’s work with faculty and students. Before the attacks, federal immigration regulations came packaged in a “thin, rack-size brochure,”, she recalled. Today, however, the Department of Homeland Security rules fill multiple volumes and impose many more restrictions on foreigners’ seeking entry to the United States. According to Taylor, these new rules cause added delays and stress for incoming scholars and students. “Things have changed so much, especially since 9-11,” she mused. “You see these gray hairs? They are from U.S. immigration.”

Helping international faculty and students navigate federal bureaucracy may not be easy, but Taylor has found great satisfaction in it. “I’ve seen many tears and frustrations. But I’ve also seen a lot of hope. It’s been a very rewarding experience for me.” Reflecting on Taylor’s 20-plus years of service, Brown praised her sense of commitment to U.Va.’s international community. “[Marcia] assisted many hundreds of people to work through the bureaucratic matters without anxiety and showed them the best of American hospitality and values. She stands as a model inter-culturalist.”

Taylor’s successor as the ISO’s lead adviser for international faculty and students is Dahlia French, a Howard University Law School graduate who initially trained in commercial and banking law but “got into immigration law by doing work” for herself and a family member. “I realized that I liked it,” she said, “and decided to become a full-fledged immigration attorney.”

A native of England who grew up in Canada and studied law in the United States, French knows first-hand what it’s like to leave one’s home culture and the uncertainties that go with it. “It’s easy to come to America and get lost.” Given that, she noted, more and more international scholars will agree to live abroad only if their families can join them.

As a result, American research institutions seeking to attract the best overseas researchers and students must provide increasingly more sophisticated help not simply to the researchers themselves but also to their families. At U.Va., French said, having an immigration attorney on staff who knows about changing federal regulations “puts the University in a better position to say, ‘come to U.Va. We can take care of your whole family.’” As she sees it, her job is part of the University’s “streamlined, total solution to meet the immigration needs” of faculty, students and their families.

Of French, Brown said that “the combination of her personal experiences and professional work make Dahlia uniquely sensitive to the concerns of U.Va.’s international community.” Her role has “the dual purpose of minimizing the anxiety of the immigration process and encouraging exposure to the richness and diversity of American society.”


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