Staff Spotlight: Caroline Serçe, Associate Director, International Student Services
For our latest Staff Spotlight, we're pleased to profile Caroline Serçe! Caroline has been with International Student Services since she began as a student worker in 2010, and she was recently promoted to the position of Associate Director.
OU's International Student Services assists more than 2,000 international students and their dependents from over 130 countries. ISS provides advice on issues related to student visas and US immigration regulations, as well as activities and programs to help students get involved in the international, OU, and local communities.
As Assistant Director and now Associate Director, Caroline has become a truly invaluable member of the College of International Studies Staff, using her knowledge and experience to guide international students through ever-changing immigration laws and difficulties posed by the pandemic. We spoke with her about how she found her way to ISS, her love of working with international students, and current challenges facing staff and students.
First of all, can you tell us a bit about your position in ISS? What does your role as Associate Director entail?
It involves a little bit of everything, so it’s always interesting. I advise 175 international students on immigration issues, supervise the front office, and handle updates to our website and internal procedural manual. When there are changes to immigration requirements that affect our students (which has been pretty often in recent years), I do a lot of research and I work on communicating those changes to our students as clearly and concisely as possible. When we hire new international student advisors, I’m in charge of training. I’m now also supporting our international programming team, which is new to my role, so lately I’ve been learning a lot more about everything that goes into that.
What is your background and how did you come to work with International Student Services?
I came to OU in 2007 for an undergraduate degree in Linguistics and never left. As a student, I lived in Kraettli — where a very high number of international students live — because it was affordable. I absolutely loved meeting people from other cultures and learning about their backgrounds and helping them navigate the quirks of life in the U.S. At some point I had an epiphany that I might like a career doing that. I got a job in ISS as a student worker in 2010, then became the Front Office Coordinator after I graduated, then became an advisor, then the assistant director. ISS work involves a lot of nit-picky immigration compliance work as well as one-on-one student advising, which I’ve found suits my personality well as an introvert who likes people.
What do you enjoy most about working in International Student Services?
My favorite things are all student-related! We always have spectacular student employees, and I love chatting with them and having our professional development meetings. I also love advising appointments, when I get to help an international student navigate an immigration system that seems overwhelmingly complicated and high-stakes (probably a similar feeling to how I feel about my taxes). When a student and I are talking through a tricky immigration issue, it feels really rewarding when we’re able to find a solution that works well with their academic goals.
Looking ahead, what are some challenges ISS faces in the upcoming year?
If the pandemic winds down in the coming year (I sure hope it does), then I think it will be a challenge getting both ourselves and our international students re-acclimated to “normal” immigration regulation. The government tightened travel restrictions and loosened enrollment requirements during the pandemic, and we assume some (but not all) of that will shift again.
Would you like to share anything about your life outside of work?
Outside of work, I’m obsessed with my baby. I’m a new parent, so it’s my responsibility to talk about him nonstop and corner people with pictures. I also read a lot and am in the process of learning to speak Turkish and play the banjo.
For more information on International Student Services and staff contact information, visit www.ou.edu/cis/iss.