International students adapt to McSorley’s departure

Associate Dean of Students for International Student Services Leah McSorley will leave Lawrence at the end of Winter Term for her new role as the International Student Advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison International Student Services office. The process to find a successor has started, but it is uncertain when the new hire will come on board.  

The office of International Student Services (ISS) is located in International House, and McSorley is the primary advisor for students with global backgrounds. The office maintains the immigration status of Lawrence to enroll international students, advises international students on how to follow immigration responsibilities and oversees cultural programs such as the Lunar New Year celebration. It is also meant to support students as they try to adjust to life at Lawrence through outlets like the new international student orientation and the international connections mentoring program, in which new students are matched with mentors to better navigate life at Lawrence.  

Headshot submitted by Leah McSorley.

McSorley’s primary concern about the transition is that international students may have familiarized themselves with her so much that they might feel anxious about losing the first point of contact and resource referrals for when questions or struggles occur. A large part of her job is meeting with students to help them understand what resources from campus offices, such as the Center for Academic Success and Career Center, are available. She added that the hardest part of leaving Lawrence is the emotional separation between her, the students and Lawrence. 

ISS student staff member senior Nalan Zhai expressed similar concerns. Having worked for ISS for almost four years, Zhai said that international students tend to reach out to people they are familiar with to ask for help, especially McSorley, who starts building relationships with them early and throughout their time at Lawrence.  

Looking ahead, spring is a busy time for ISS because students need to file taxes, seniors need to complete the Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization in order to work in the U.S. after graduation, and students with summer internships need to complete the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization. McSorley is generally the person who facilitates informational workshops and advises students to complete these annual procedures in order to maintain proper immigration status. She said that her departure could result in a need for students to take more proactive steps to research first and then reach out if questions remain unresolved.  

McSorley also serves as the advisor of Lawrence International (LI), a student organization which aims to connect the international community and the domestic community. Their major events include the annual Cabaret variety show, cultural dinners and dance formals. McSorley said that she is confident in LI’s ability to run events on their own, and students should be able to expect programs from LI like before, despite her leaving.  

Vice President of LI, junior Kayci King stated that LI will continue McSorley’s vision of providing a safe environment for people to share their culture in any LI events. Communication Chair of LI, sophomore Seung Hur added that LI will do so by encouraging people to participate and share their culture freely in any events including the Cabaret.   

In order to make McSorley’s transition out of ISS as smooth as possible, she has been working closely with Dean of Students Chris Clarke, who is also McSorley’s supervisor, to make sure that he understands the functions of ISS, immigration resources and annual procedures such as OPT and CPT authorizations. McSorley added that her colleagues from the student life division, such as the Associate Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life Terra R. Winston-Sage and the Associate Dean for Diversity, Engagement and Student Leadership Brittany Bell, also support students with global backgrounds.  

Students are still encouraged to reach out to ISS with any questions or concerns, because the Administrative Assistant for International Student Services Becca Hollinger and several ISS student staff will continue to serve international students. McSorley is confident in their abilities to help students because they all have experience working in ISS.  

Another resource for international students is the ISS Canvas page. This page consists of resources covering different topics: immigration responsibilities, work authorization options, immigration forms, health and wellness resources, tax responsibilities, the friendship family program and links to websites of important government agencies. All international students are enrolled in this page, and it is available at any time if they feel concerned about finding someone to talk to about their situation.  

As for finding McSorley’s successor, Clarke is in charge of this process. He is in the process of forming a hiring committee made up of faculty and students to review resumes, conduct interviews and invite candidates to visit campus. The job posting to fill McSorley’s position is open on a rolling basis, and Clarke is unsure when it will be filled. He added that if any students have concerns about the process, he is happy to answer any questions.  

McSorley has been preparing a transition manual to help her successor adjust to Lawrence. The transition manual contains ISS’s programming schedule and the job responsibilities in order to provide context about working at Lawrence. She added that although she is sad to leave Lawrence, she is also excited for Lawrence to have fresh perspectives.  

“Hopefully [my absence] won’t mean losing someone,” McSorley said, “because we can still maintain the connection [between me and Lawrence], and Lawrence will gain a new connection, a new international student support.”