A university education can change the course of a student’s life, and yet so many incredible opportunities could easily be missed without the right map, tools, and support. Linda Amrou knows first-hand the unique intricacies of navigating higher education, as she was the first in her family to pursue an advanced degree in the United States.
The new managing director of UOP International at the University of the Pacific credits a strong network of mentors that has empowered her throughout her academic and legal career. Now, she is paying the favor forward by creating accessible and innovative opportunities for Pacific’s international students in Stockton and San Francisco, California, a short drive from Silicon Valley.
“I am lucky to have had incredible support from my professors, [the] administrative staff, and my family,” Amrou said. “Their investment in me inspired me to commit myself to international human rights and ultimately be of service to others by building creative educational pathways for international students needing the same.”
After graduating from the University of Toledo College of Law, Amrou practiced as an immigration attorney in New York City. While in New York, she used her expertise to defend refugees and immigrants adversely affected by the US travel ban policy. From the front lines at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where thousands gathered to protest the ban, she “saw firsthand the global implications domestic immigration policies have on millions of everyday people.”
Amrou carried that experience back into the education sector, accepting a role as senior program officer at Columbia University in 2017. There, she created programming for Columbia’s Global Centers and put her efforts into launching a first-of-its-kind scholarship program for particularly vulnerable international students. Established in 2019, the first-of-its-kind Columbia University Scholarship for Displaced Students provides full-ride scholarships at the university’s 18 schools, promising up to $6 million in annual support to as many as 30 internally displaced or refugee students.
“My aim is to always create holistic programs for the students,” said Amrou. “It is important to not only provide the opportunity, but also to bolster it with the tools students need to succeed once they begin their educational journey. This dedication to comprehensive student success is what inspires me most about what UOPI provides.”
Uncovering Opportunity for International Education During COVID
The pandemic has made international study difficult for many students wishing to attend university in the United States. However, according to Amrou, closing down campuses and shifting in-person classroom work to online videoconferencing has encouraged the development of creative educational solutions that benefitted global students.
“This is a big moment for higher education,” said Amrou. “It has allowed us to be more creative and to initiate a more permanent and necessary shift towards accessible inclusivity for global audiences.”
Witnessing and participating in online education initiatives helped Amrou broaden her view of what’s possible for students to succeed. Still, now that in-person learning has reconvened, she is excited to be back in person at the University of the Pacific.
“Pacific has everything that I love about a university,” said Amrou. “Old brick and mortar buildings, ivy vines, big trees, and that feeling of pride that comes with being a part of the oldest university in California.”
In addition to an idyllic university campus, the University of the Pacific in Stockton is a short drive to Silicon Valley, which offers exciting cultural and professional opportunities. Pacific also has a San Francisco campus located in the vibrant SoMa neighborhood, which hosts a competitive post-graduate program in data science.
“There are so many eclectic experiences available to students coming through UOP International. The extracurriculars are not only provided but promoted — everything from elite sporting events to cultural clubs and international student-centered, curated opportunities as well,” said Amrou. “And that is only amplified by the fact that our main campus is in Stockton, which has been named one of the most diverse cities in the United States.”
Committing to Individualized Attention and Student Success
Pacific’s individualized, experiential learning philosophy means students have more personalized time with professors and university staff. As a result, professors develop relationships with students and are invested in their long-term success.
“The unique, tailored experience that UOP International provides international students includes unparalleled benefits, such as small class sizes and the dedicated, well-connected instructors.” said Amrou.
UOP International staff help students get adjusted to their new homes and ensure they stay on track in achieving their academic goals. The support system starts before students arrive in Stockton, with dedicated professionals providing application guidance and visa assistance. Once students are on campus, they can access academic and English as a Second Language (ESL) tutors, career development mentors, and other professionals who guide each student closer to their personal, educational, and professional goals.
“We make sure that international students feel comfortable at every stage of their educational journey,” said Amrou. “Our team meets one-on-one with our students and is always available to answer questions. We understand that having a familiar face to turn to for guidance from day one can make all the difference. Our experienced academic advisors make sure students are enrolling in the right classes for their intended career paths, and we have brilliant student services advisors who help them with the mental and social intricacies of adjusting to a new educational system in a new country.”
Creating Meaningful Careers to Address Tomorrow’s Needs
University of the Pacific is consistently named one of the US’s best schools for value and a top private institution in California. Pacific has nationally recognized engineering, media, music, and business programs, and was named the number-one school in career earnings for low-income students in the United States. The Media X program is charting an innovative path at the intersection of storytelling and technology. Alumni from the Conservatory of Music find creative professional roles at Apple, Facebook, and Google; they perform at Lincoln Center; and administer programs at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. With so many opportunities, it’s not surprising that UOP International welcomed its largest-ever international class this fall.
“There is a great appetite for this specific kind of American education and what we offer in terms of both on-campus experience and post-graduation career opportunities at University of the Pacific. We’re going to continue growing, innovating, and expanding these programs that are of great interest to the world,” said Amrou. “Students can expect a true college experience with UOP International. I feel honored to be a part of their journey and we at UOPI are certain that when students graduate, they will walk away feeling proud and confident in the knowledge that their degree and the contributions they will make in the world are going to take them far and wide.”
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