by Jason Moody
Earlier this semester, leadership from the Center for Global Engagement at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, visited the newest campus in the state system, the University of Tennessee Southern located in Pulaski.
The group visit stemmed from a recent challenge turned into an opportunity for collaboration between the two campuses.
One area of work in CGE is the International Student and Scholar Services team. This team team benefits the international community at UT by helping students navigate the visa process and assisting the campus community with the sponsorship and retention of international faculty and staff. Currently there are 703 international faculty, researchers and staff at UT.
Mattiello Overcomes Immigration Challenges with Support from UTIA, UTS, CGE
The purpose of the delegation visit was to meet Samara Mattiello, now an instructor of biology at UTS specializing in microbiology and bacteriology.
Mattiello, originally from Brazil, was previously in the United States as part of the J-1 Student and Exchange Visitor program sponsored by South Dakota State University when she was offered a position at UTS as a spousal accommodation for Saulo Zoca, assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science at UTIA.
Zoca is based in the Middle Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center at Spring Hill, which is located about 40 miles north of Pulaski.
Shortly after Zoca began his new position in Spring Hill, Mattiello learned that UTS was not authorized to host people in J-1 status. This jeopardized her ability to become a faculty member in Pulaski.
Zoca, UTIA and UTS human resources staff and eventually, Justin Rhinehart, assistant dean for UT Extension, reached out to Gretchen Neisler, vice provost for international affairs, to explore options for addressing this challenge.
Zoca stated that, “It was a hard time for me having Samara and our two-year-old daughter in South Dakota while I was already in Tennessee. Luckily, I was surrounded by very competent people that really care about their employees and with the help of UTIA, UTS and Rhinehart’s leadership, we were able to find the right people and the right ways to get Samara to UTS.”
Neisler brought the opportunity to the ISSS team on the Knoxville campus, and they provided the creative solution of using UT’s J-1 program to host Mattiello as a UTS employee.
“The Center for Global Engagement is committed to our ability to enhance the generation of science that positively impacts all citizens of the world,” Neisler said. “We are happy to share our mission and expertise with partner institutions in Tennessee. Enhancing the global engagement of one organization enhances global outreach for us all and this positively impacts Tennesseans.”
Director of ISSS William Vittetoe and his team were integral in working with Mattiello’s previous institution to transfer the J-1 status to allow her to work at UTS.
“The collaboration between CGE and UTS embody the values that established the J Exchange Visitor Program in 1961 through the Fulbright-Hays Act,” said Vittetoe. “It is a great pleasure to assist with this process and to see the people of Tennessee benefit from international cooperation and educational advancement.”
CGE Builds Relationships with UTS, Meets Mattiello
Upon arriving in Pulaski, the CGE and ISSS representatives visited with Interim Chancellor of UTS Linda Martin to discuss future collaborations for internationalization and aspirations for building global communities across both campuses.
The UT leaders were then welcomed by UTS senior leadership from academic affairs, advancement, athletics, admissions and human resources. Over lunch the group discussed future partnerships for ISSS support to international students and scholars across the UT System, opportunities for implementing Collaborative Online International Learning into UTS courses and the chance to recruit business and medical Spanish teachers to Tennessee’s Grow Your Own program.
Following the working lunch, the CGE delegation had the opportunity to meet Mattiello and speak about her experience in Pulaski, her research in bacterial resistance and persistence and the lovely middle Tennessee weather as compared to the harsh climate in South Dakota.
Mattiello expressed appreciation for the support she received from UT, UTS and UTIA by saying, “I am very grateful for all the people who helped us find the best way to transfer my J-1 visa from South Dakota State University to the UT System. I’m very happy to be part of UTS and be able to share all my experience with undergraduate students.”
CGE and ISSS Essential in Recruiting and Retaining International Faculty and Staff
While the visit to UTS stemmed from a challenge, it created opportunities for collaboration across all UT System campuses. The initiative shown by CGE highlights their commitment to service and leadership in Knoxville and to building communities across the state.
The ISSS office’s experience and expertise in immigration regulations and willingness to help created the opportunity for Mattiello and Zoca to call Tennessee home. The office was key in efforts to recruit and retain Zoca in the Department of Animal Science at UTIA. The ISSS team is vital to recruiting and retaining international faculty on the Knoxville campus and continues to open new doors for collaborations with the UT System.
CGE and the ISSS team have given Mattiello and Zoca the opportunity to impact the state with their expertise. Their presence, and the presence of other international faculty and staff, make all Tennesseans better global citizens.
For more information on how the International Student and Scholar Services office can offer support to international scholars, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-974-3177.
Jason Moody (865-974-5752, email@example.com)