Danielle Guichard-Ashbrook was named director and associate dean for international students effective January 1, 2001. The appointment of Guichard-Ashbrook, who has served as interim director of the International Students Office since January 2000, was announced by Vice President for Research David Litster in May.
In her new position, Guichard-Ashbrook reports to Dean for Graduate Students Isaac Colbert, who said, "MIT is very fortunate to have a person with nationally recognized expertise in international student issues. Danielle Guichard-Ashbrook and her superb staff serve our international graduate and undergraduate students (about 2,600 overall) with professional distinction and with great personal warmth and caring."
The International Students Office serves as the first stopping point for all international students once they've been admitted to MIT. Guichard-Ashbrook explained that students coming from outside the country must be legally admitted, which means that her staff must insure that students have appropriate language skills, financial arrangements and visa clearance to spend time at the Institute. In the office's mandatory orientation program, new students learn what's required of them by the U.S. government; counseling on academic requirements is handled by other campus offices.
"We are the immigration experts on campus. We help the students with questions about travel, work, medical and family issues, housing or landlord difficulties. The simplest thing -- like wanting to take a leave of absence -- has immigration implications, and we help the students work through the issues," said Guichard-Ashbrook.
Her staff of six and a half also helps recent alumni make appropriate visa arrangements for working in the United States after graduation. For this and other aspects of the office's responsibility, she hopes in the near future to use technology to "make the office more efficient with the paper processing."
Another goal is to establish a larger mentoring program for international students, particularly graduate students, who now make up 40 percent of all MIT graduate students. She hopes also to hold cross-cultural programming to introduce students to American laws and mores on academic honesty, drug and alcohol use, dating, sexual harassment and domestic violence -- perhaps similar to programming the Institute now offers undergraduates -- and sensitivity training for front-people in offices around campus who deal directly with international students.
"These students are future world leaders in all fields and we are truly fortunate to have them at MIT," said Guichard-Ashbrook. "I'm hoping to develop programs for the entire MIT community that will celebrate that wonderful cultural diversity. I'm truly inspired by the depth of rich experience our international students bring. That is in fact why I love what I do."
Guichard-Ashbrook served as assistant dean for graduate education and international student advisor from 1988 until her appointment as interim director after the departure of former director and Associate Dean Milena M. Levak. Before that she was academic coordinator for a Japan-based U.S. educational company, and she worked as a program supervisor for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She holds a master's degree in education from Harvard University (1982) and a B.A. from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana (1977).
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on July 18, 2001.