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David Elwell to direct the International Students Office

David Elwell
David Elwell

David Elwell has been named associate dean and director of the International Students Office (ISO) in the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education (ODGE), effective August 31. Elwell comes to the position with over 20 years of experience in student and academic affairs, including 18 years as director of the International Students and Scholars Offices at both Brandeis University and Clark University. Elwell has been committed to advising international students for decades, has developed programming and support for international students and faculty, and is a nationally recognized expert at employment visa issues for nonimmigrant students and scholars.

In his current role, Elwell oversees institutional immigration compliance, visa processing, and international student and scholar (faculty/researcher) support services and advising. Elwell has developed experiential learning components of new programs targeting international student participation, partnering with academic departments at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. He has also served as campus coordinator for two international scholarship programs and as a member of a university advisory committee for global initiatives.

Elwell joins a knowledgeable and caring team of nine professional advisors and administrators, serving over 3,500 international graduate and undergraduate students, and their 600-plus dependents. These constituents come from more than 115 countries and are active in over 60 student-led international and cultural groups. Elwell has credited the breadth of representation and the participation in campus life as part of what drew him to the international community at MIT. 

The MIT International Students Office is the first stopping point for students from other countries. The office must ensure that students are legally admitted, which means 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 flows through other campus offices. The ISO also helps international alumni as they transition to life after graduation.

Elwell believes strongly in what he calls an “integrated global strategy” for universities. As he explains, to fully realize a global mission, a university “must build and support international initiatives across curriculums — through recruitment, enrollment, study abroad and experiential learning, and alumni and donor development — and engage an entire community in understanding its vital roles in support of those initiatives.” He has extended his university work to take on regional and national leadership positions for NAFSA, the Association of International Educators, with whom he has published and presented widely.

Most recently, Elwell spoke at the 2014 NAFSA Conference about crisis management for international students from the advising perspective. He presented at the 2013 Conference of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) his “Best Practices for International Student Services and Support.“ And last year, Elwell presented a guest lecture on the subject of “Undocumented Students and Higher Education” for the Brandeis Practicum on Immigrant Support Services. In Elwell’s recent directorship at Brandeis, he was also the school’s designated school official and responsible officer to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State.

Dean for Graduate Education Christine Ortiz states, “David Elwell brings a wealth of expertise, thought, and practical skills to this role and will lead an outstanding and dedicated team of professional staff in support of our international student population.”

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