Jane Etish-Andrews, director of the International Center (I-Center) and former advisor to the International House (I-House), will be retiring after 35 years of work at Tufts.
Shanice Kok (LA ’16), a Tufts Admissions counselor, Nidhi Rao, 2017–2018 I-Club President; and Chiamaka Chima (E ’14, EG ’16) all described Etish-Andrews as a source of support who went above and beyond to build personal relationships with international students.
“I think a lot of students will tell you [that] if they ever felt like they were in trouble or they needed anything … they could reach out to Jane and [she] would be there to support them,” Kok said. “She has developed this culture of our international center where … they want to get to know the students. They’re not just filing visas and sending them along the way. Even when I’m on the road for admissions … I tell them the I-Center are like my second family on campus.”
Rao also described how important Etish-Andrews was to her Tufts support network.
“I’ve met up with Jane numerous times, whether it means planning Parade of Nations with the I-Center, … [touching base with] her for resources for new initiatives we’ve tried to plan, or simply to seek consultation for I-Club mission and goal planning … Jane has been integral to our support system here at Tufts,” Rao said in an email to the Daily. “When we were going through a tricky time for I-Club, I consulted her for advice, and she was quick to give me her cellphone number. She urged me to call her if I ever needed someone to talk to, even if it was late at night. I took her up on her offer, and she truly meant it.”
Chima, who described Etish-Andrews as a “great connector” said that the entire international program she has run is an essential resource for international students.
“It did a great job being my gateway into Tufts,” Chima said. “[There’s] also the peace of mind it gives to international students. They really go out of their way to help international students who could not afford a computer when they come [to the US]… Imagine going to college but not having a computer.”
Etish-Andrews attributed the success of the international program to the staff she’s worked with over the years.
“I have a very strong, committed staff that does a lot with international education, loves working in this field with international students and scholars and does a lot to support people,” she said.
Etish-Andrews explained the way the center seeks to serve people beyond assistance with immigration and visas.
“We service people through helping them throughout adjustment [with] English issues, family issues, language issues, financial issues [and] anything that comes up,” Etish-Andrews said.
Chima said she found a similar experience with the international programs, seeing that they went far above the minimum.
“[Jane] said there are some students who work in a transactional relationship … like here’s your visa and goodbye, because you did your job and that’s fine … [but] that’s not Jane,” Chima said. “She goes above and beyond. You can see she really wants to connect to [each] person.”
Etish-Andrews explained the role of the international programs for graduate students, undergraduates and faculty in cultural adjustment. She described the main foundations of the international programs as the three I’s: International Orientation (IO), now known as Global Orientation (GO); International Club; and the International House.
Etish-Andrews said she was proud to work to sustain GO.
“Why I’m most proud of international orientation is because of its longevity. We always invited American students to it, and that made a very unique program because it was always … founded on the philosophy [that] if you make your best friends out of pre-orientation, then why not invite Americans,” Etish-Andrews said.
GO is geared toward involving a diverse group of students, including international students, dual citizens, Americans who grew up overseas and Americans alike, Etish-Andrews described. She added a global orientation should not just be for international students, but for a mix of students with different experiences and backgrounds. She noted that the program sometimes has American host advisors.
Kok said that her involvement with the I-Center began with her participation in what was then known as International Orientation, and she then went on to coordinate the program and become the president of I-Club her senior year. She said it helped with her transition into Tufts and beyond, building long-time connections.
According to Etish-Andrews, GO also helps students develop social and leadership skills.
“[The program] helps newly arrived international students to settle in [and] get adjusted while they’re making friendships with both international and American students,” Etish-Andrews said. “It’s a good place for people to really connect and then become strong leaders after … within the international community and outside of it.”
Rao said Global Orientation, and later I-Club, helped her develop as an individual and as a leader.
“I credit my smooth transition to college to Global Orientation- it’s where I made the majority of the friends and how I found my sense of home at Tufts. Through GO, I had a chance to interact closely with many students of the lovely international community at Tufts, so that’s what propelled me to get involved with the I-Club,” Rao said.
I-Club is another key component of the international programs. Etish-Andrews described how the I-Club has grown over time by becoming more autonomous, adding more leadership positions and emphasizing cross-cultural topics. She noted that the club has improved in the way it handles challenges.
“[Students are] questioning, ‘Is that still the right language to use?’ and ‘How is the club responding?’” Etish-Andrews said.
Etish-Andrews credits these new developments to changes within the I-Club.
“It’s become more than just a social club and it’s diversified economically [and] internationally with representation from different cultures and backgrounds,” Etish-Andrews said.
She also said that since the program encourages repeat involvement, she became close with the students she has helped over the years.
“Since I’ve been here for so long, I know so many of the alums and see them when I’m traveling or for Tufts, and we become friends. That’s a beauty for me that I have many personal relationships,” Etish-Andrews said.
Kok also expressed a sense of continuing connection to the International community at Tufts, describing Jane as the “rock” of the community.
“Everyone is really open to being supportive of each other… [I] had a community of students that’s a part of the international community that I knew I could always rely on and go to,” Kok said.
Chima recalled when Etish-Andrews arranged a place for international students to stay during winter break.
“She goes above and beyond, and everything she does [is to] make a change and impact for international students. The connection, being a good resource for students, providing students with a place for them to stay during the winter … That wasn’t guaranteed … That was definitely one great thing she did,” Chima said.
Maureen Kalimba Isimbi, a sophomore, also the efforts Etish-Andrews made to ensure international students felt at home during the holidays.
“There is a Thanksgiving dinner that is held every year where international students don’t feel alone when everybody else goes home,” Kalimba Isimbi said. “Jane [also] made sure that every fall students [especially] first-year students received help with winter clothes through donations from faculty and international center friends.”
Rao emphasized how her positive experience with Etish-Andrews is far from unique, citing an experience in her Arabic Music Ensemble class where she bonded with an alum over fond memories of working with Etish-Andrews.
Thirty-five years of work at Tufts has given Etish-Andrews a far-reaching perspective. According to Etish-Andrews, while the programs have evolved over time, common challenges have remained the same.
“It’s not that much different in terms of getting legal work permission and to remain in the U.S. People still struggle to try to get internships and jobs, experience to get them the right jobs and visa sponsorships. Those stories don’t change that much,” Etish-Andrews said.
Etish-Andrews expressed that her mission is ultimately to make a “welcoming environment for all international people.”
“That’s been the philosophy and it will continue into the future, even in spite of the restrictions,” Etish-Andrews said. “The administration [has] been very responsive … to the international community and really wants to support it and make Tufts a viable and friendly and supportive environment, not only academically but also socially and emotionally.”
Etish-Andrews also expressed pride in the scholarships now available to international students. These funds were created by the international hosts and I-Club and served students who needed aid, a development that continued when Tufts began to admit international students who needed financial aid, Etish-Andrews added. She emphasized that the stereotype that all international students are affluent is not true and added that students on aid often give back during their time at Tufts.
“Students who come on aid … truly prove themselves to be really good students and really good citizens, like giving service back to Tufts and the local community,” Etish-Andrews said.
Kok, who worked with Etish-Andrews to produce a video about financial aid for International students, stated that greater international diversity positively impacts the entire student body.
“I think that in general international students on financial aid brings such a wealth of diversity to the campus, brings so many different perspectives and really add to the richness of the campus community,” Kok said.
Etish-Andrews has also worked with the Group of Six to include diverse voices.
“[It’s about] giving a voice and representation to international students who don’t always come with the understanding of what American diversity is about and then really understand it … or not, but at least be exposed to it as a part of their American education,” Etish-Andrews said. “I build relationships with people and I feel like … [that’s] really important when you’re advocating for students.”
One notable scholarship, which emphasizes leadership, is the Oliver Chapman Fund, which has made a difference in many students’ lives, Kok described. Named for an international student from Panama who passed away unexpectedly in 1992, the fund is an emergency fund for international students. An Oliver Chapman Award is given to a senior on campus with leadership experience and involvement in the international community, according to Kok.
The older brother of Oliver Chapman, Guillermo Chapman III (LA ’84) stated that the Oliver Chapman Fund of which Etish-Andrews was the “great mastermind” has served to bring people together and continues to do so.
“[Jane] has been able to keep alive the spirit of a student that over 25 years ago was able to bring together fellows from all corners of the world to learn more about each other while caring deeply about their community,” Chapman said.
There is still room in the international programs for improvement and growth. Etish-Andrews described Tufts’ plan to centralize the three international offices in Boston, Fletcher and Medford to unite all staff and locations under Diana Chigas, a senior international officer for the university and associate provost, as of July 1. She hopes this consolidation will improve their efficiency.
Etish-Andrews also expressed a desire to see a fund created to help international students with off-campus internships, who have to pay for a class to get legal permission to work.
“I see such an improvement when students have been able to get jobs over the summer like in their sophomore/junior years. They get jobs at the end that will give them permanent jobs, really good jobs after they graduate Tufts. Students get better jobs now but the path is still really challenging,” Etish-Andrews said.
Chima described how helpful the international program was in helping her secure internships and opportunities.
“I had the great opportunity to do multiple internships while at Tufts without having to … worry about my background [and visas],” Chima said.
Etish-Andrews described her plan to continue helping with immigration after retirement through serving as an internship and college supervisor at Lesley University and helping more day-to-day at the Irish International Immigrant Center, which serves immigrants of all backgrounds. Etish-Andrews stated that working with the Irish International Immigrant Center as a member of the Board of Directors since 2012 has given her the opportunity to work with individuals with different experiences and backgrounds than those at Tufts.
Etish-Andrews said her motto has applied to both her work at Tufts and for these other organizations.
“Beyond just immigration, my philosophy is holistic, [about] the whole person. You’re not just going to help them with their immigration, which is critical, but help them adjust to getting some job skills [and] language skills so that they can land jobs here in the U.S.,” Etish-Andrews said.