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Another Voice: International students enhance U.S. society

By Lori DuVall-Jackson

I was looking through pictures on my phone at year’s end when I came across the ones I took on Halloween. As usual I had worn a werewolf mask to work. It was a lot of fun, scaring some unsuspecting international students and taking pictures of others who pretended to be terrified.

Later that day I had reluctantly pulled the mask off and changed into a more adult outfit, as I was receiving a Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Service from New York State.

I was nominated for my work with our graduate students, who in our chemical engineering program come from all corners of the globe to study and conduct research that is critical to our country’s well-being. They work on everything from carbon capture to stem cell therapy to clean water research.

Lately we’ve seen an increasing share of domestic students, who can usually find excellent jobs after their undergraduate careers and don’t continue on to graduate school. Many earn master’s degrees, which after a year or two enable them to begin even better careers in their field. The doctoral program is largely composed of international students who wish to conduct research and spend four to six years earning their Ph.D.

In this way we are like many of UB’s engineering programs, which has a high percentage of international students. My department, while small in size, has kept enrollment up, but it gets tougher every year, with many prospective students scared away by ever increasing immigration restrictions. This is a very bad state of affairs, not only for our country’s higher educational institutions, but for our society as well.

These students are our future. Many wish to remain in the U.S. after earning their degrees, attain citizenship and apply the knowledge gained in our programs to better the lives of U.S. citizens. They are valuable additions to our society, because without them enrollment would drop drastically and research would shrink. Most importantly, their scientific contributions would be lost or taken elsewhere.

In June, I will see our current students graduate and move on in their lives. They marry, start families and begin highly productive careers. Many apply for permanent residency and/or citizenship, and continue to contribute to American society. Some go home, but many wish to stay.

I follow their postgraduate endeavors and am thrilled to see their accomplishments, whether it’s groundbreaking research or moving into highly productive careers with great companies. To keep America great we need to encourage this process, not put up roadblocks.

Lori DuVall-Jackson oversees graduate students in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department at the University at Buffalo. 

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