At the end of March, School of Management Dean Kerwin Charles had been planning to go to Florida for a family vacation. But unlike those who remained on Miami Beach indifferent to the public health crisis, Charles instead installed himself in New Haven, equipped with a task force dedicated to a few questions.

“How many international students are here?” Charles pondered. “How can we help them? What assistance do they need? This is something that keeps me up a lot.”

Nearly half of his students are international, with the class of 2021 boasting representatives of 47 different nationalities between its 345 students. Many of these students’ experiences of the pandemic are shaped by logistical concerns not shared with their domestic classmates.

While all of the School of Management’s moving parts have been working hard to troubleshoot the pandemic’s impact on its international students, Charles is ultimately at the helm of the operation. Dean Charles maintains that the situation he first described to the News in late March remains “fluid.” 

Charles added that international students face greater uncertainty due to visa processing delays and travel restrictions but that the School has retained the services of immigration attorneys. In addition, SOM created internship assistance programs for the summer both as faculty-sponsored projects and small business internships. Charles said that the School set aside a “considerable” amount of money for these initiatives. 

One of the logistical casualties of the COVID-19 outbreak has been the suspension of visa processing at all U.S. embassies around the globe. For international students, any interruption of this process could introduce serious immigration issues; in some cases, certain students may not be able to matriculate on time for a fall return, according to Assistant Dean of Admissions Bruce DelMonico.

Yale’s Office of International Students and Scholars has been active in communicating visa statuses, Suneet Mohapatra SOM ’21 told the News. As a first-year MBA student, Mohapatra was told that his student visa status holds if he is still enrolled in school. The office has also organized sessions with immigration attorneys to help understand future implications of this scenario.

Avnee Jetley SOM ’21 said he plans on meeting with an immigration lawyer, virtually, to discuss visa status, deferral options and risks associated with travel. While he is a first year and is therefore secure in his visa so long as he is continually enrolled, he is still unsure what returning to his native Singapore would entail. Jetley’s father suffered a stroke last year and is still in the process of recovering. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Jetley had been able to visit his father in Singapore for a few days every two months. On account of school and travel disruptions, Jetley has been unable to see his father since December. 

“Other family members are also not able to offer support because of closed borders,” Jetley wrote in an email to the News. “It feels extremely frustrating to be so far away from the situation. I’m trying to navigate personal and professional motivations until I know what I am doing for work this summer and where that is going to be.”

Kfir Alon SOM ’21, who has been in contact with admitted students slated to join next year’s MBA class, said that they are really concerned about the obstacles posed by the pandemic. He added that he felt assured the administration is brainstorming ideas to relieve the extra stress caused by the pandemic.

DelMonico told the News that he and his team are considering what the contingencies are for the incoming class and how they can best allay concerns and support a new MBA class even if it means matriculating to an online semester.

“[We are considering] how we’ll approach it, how we’ll make decisions, the time frame upon which we will make decisions so that [incoming students] have as much information, as much clarity [as possible],” DelMonico said. “Even if it’s not about when we will start because we don’t know yet whether we’ll start on time on Aug. 17. And if we do, whether that will be online or in person, or if that will be pushed back.”

In spite of these uncertainties, DelMonico and his office have been collaborating extensively with the OISS to configure immigration solutions such that come Aug. 17, students have options whether or not SOM will be on campus. Whether the fall is on- or off-campus, there are still those who are stuck in limbo. 

Eiko Sumino SOM ’21 credited the University administration for its swift transition to online learning and its ability to accomodate students in a variety of time zones. Still, even when the infrastructure is in place to support online lecturing, it does not necessarily address the in-person collaboration that much of MBA education requires, Sumino said. 

University President Peter Salovey wrote to the Yale community this week reassuring that a decision on the fall would be made by July.

 

John Besche | john.besche@yale.edu