Saturday, September 26, 2020

GEO limits services, determined to continue to help students

Plattsburgh State has been scaling back resources as it transitions to distance learning alongside the rest of the SUNY system. The Global Education Office is no exception.

GEO announced to students Tuesday that the office will no longer accept walk-ins or phone calls starting Wednesday. While GEO will remain open with limited staff, it recommends students reach out through email instead.

GEO focuses on international admissions, international student services and study abroad and exchanges. Studying away from home, international students often rely on GEO to navigate through services on campus, legal issue inquiries, documents, transferred credits, options after graduation and more.

“Given the circumstances with staffing and COVID-19, we still recommend that students contact us via email, and we will follow up using the most appropriate communication tool,” Associate Vice President and Director of International Education Jackie Vogl said. “They can request Zoom meetings via email.”

International students were provided emails of individual GEO staff members to reach out directly if needed. Some staff members will also be available at the GEO office during regular business hours of 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to sign I-20s, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status forms, if needed.

Junior arts major Ha Minh Nguyen said closing walk-in hours has affected students, but because the staff is still available through emails, students are still getting services and information constantly updated by GEO.

“Amelia has been very responsive to previous problems of mine, so I have trust in her,” Nguyen said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandated that 75% of the non-essential workforce must work from home, Assistant Director Amelia Lushia said. GEO will only have essential staff working in the office while the rest work from home.

Lushia will be working from home while going into the office once in a while. As elementary schools to high schools are closed in New York State, she has to homeschool her kids in the morning, which makes going into the office at normal hours impossible for her.

“It’s not all 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. hour work. It’s not a typical hour job,” Lushia said.

Lushia receives emails from international students all the time. Lushia also said a positive outcome of this crisis is the staff being able to experiment with later hours and provide better services to the students.

GEO is still working on its staff schedule so it can let students know the availability of individual staff members. Lushia said the team is constantly communicating and have their own WhatsApp group chat as a better tool to keep up with the changes on campus.

The student workers and interns are also affected by this decision. Lushia said the student workers and interns will be working remotely as most of their job focuses on peer recruitment, and it can be done through emails and phone calls.

With PSU President Alexander Enyedi asking students to not return after spring break, Lushia also recommends students to stay home and not return to campus.

“It’s not just the international student,” Lushia said. “There are domestic students concerned about this too. Go home if you can.”

Nguyen said her plan for the semester was not set, as she has to consider the living cost of the semester and the summer. She was planning to pack and travel home to Vietnam in April.

“I thought since Plattsburgh is a relatively remote area, the virus wouldn’t spread here, but since there’s a case here already, plus things are going quite badly in New York State, I think it’s best to just go back home and be there for five months,” Nguyen said.

However, Nguyen’s flight was canceled today, and she will remain on campus for the semester.

While there are students remaining on campus and some planning to return after spring break, GEO will remain open to assist students as it can.

“We’re still here providing services to students,” Lushia said. “We’re not abandoning our students. Absolutely not.”

GEO will host a virtual town hall tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. via Zoom to answer international students’ questions as well as to provide them campus updates. 

Email Kai Bing Ang at cp@cardinalpointsonline.com


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