SGA faces new challenges in 2015

Curricular Practical Training program sought for international students


John Kurecki, Features Writer

While an individual student may or may not have complaints about the state of UIS, the diverse nature of the campus means that the issues facing the student body are just as varied. With that in mind, new SGA President Josh Lawson hopes to bring the students together while addressing their individual concerns.

Lawson believes diversity offers a significant chance for the growth of the UIS campus. “We want to work on the diversity issue on campus. It can be an issue or it can be a really good thing for our campus. It can keep students really apart or it can bring us all together,” he said.

One of Lawson’s main goals this year is to work with the Diversity Center to increase event participation and the cohesiveness of the student body.

A large problem facing the campus community as a whole is the issue of transportation; those who frequent campus likely notice large collections of visiting international students waiting for buses to take them home.

According to Lawson, around 400 UIS students live in the Chatham Hills apartment complex. Without a driver’s license or a car, international students are left with no choice but to depend on public transportation. To alleviate this problem, Lawson hopes to work with the Springfield Mass Transit District to create more bus routes to and from UIS.

According to statistics released by the University, 4 percent of fall 2014 undergraduate enrollment was international students. For the graduate enrollment in the same semester, almost 30 percent of students were international. These students also made up a majority of enrollment in the two most popular UIS graduate programs: Management Information Systems (MIS) and Computer Science.

These students face problems in addition to living arrangements, namely work experience. Lawson hopes to pursue the implementation of a Curricular Practical Training program (CPT). A CPT is a special work-study program for foreign students that, upon meeting certain requirements, will allow them to maintain gainful employment off campus.

The program’s requirements would include that the experience be related to the student’s field of study and a signed letter from the employer, among others.

Describing the issues facing the foreign students, Lawson said, “They can’t get off-campus jobs. They can only get on-campus jobs…A CPT is about getting experience for the students and also getting them a Social Security number in the United States. There are more issues attached to a CPT than just experience like [an applied study term] for [American students].” The program will begin as a trial with the MIS students “hopefully within the next semester.”

For general problems on campus, Lawson wants to improve the wait times at food service locations during busy hours, and mentioned an idea he had been working on to have some pre-made “grab and go” options for students during the lunch and dinner rushes.

Lawson also hopes to encourage the university to improve the standards of roads on campus, much like the improved 11th Street and Toronto Road that students have surely noticed.

“Hopefully they’ll work with us and get some things done,” said Lawson. “It’s not just things that we want done; it’s for the better of the students and the better of the university.”