GVSU, West Michigan Tech Talent partner to promote hiring international students

University experts and business leaders advocated for hiring more international students during an event February 21 hosted jointly by Grand Valley and West Michigan Tech Talent.

About 80 people attended the "Demystifying the Visa Hiring Process: A Guide to Hiring International Students" panel discussion held at the DeVos Center for Interprofessional Health on GVSU's Health Campus.

Theodore Jones, senior director of talent initiatives for Global Detroit, makes it his business to connect international students with Michigan organizations and businesses. Jones said there are more than 33,500 international students at Michigan colleges and universities. 

"These are extremely motivated individuals who would be a great addition to any company," Jones said, adding that 50 percent of all international students studying in the U.S. are in STEM fields.

five panelists at a long table, woman second from left has microphone
From left are Anthony Chang, Stella Michael, Theodore Jones, Andres Ortiz-Estevez and Susan Im. The panelists advocated for hiring international students at an event February 21 at the DeVos Center for Interprofessional Health.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

Twenty years ago, Anthony Chang, founder and CEO of BAMF Health in Grand Rapids, was among those students, leaving Taiwan to study at Yale University. He now leads the cutting-edge cancer diagnostic and treatment center located on Michigan Avenue.

"International students have the motivation, the skills, the dedication to their work," Chang said. "To pack up everything and go to a school by themselves is not an easy decision. This is a group of people who figure things out and are excellent problem solvers." 

Andres Ortiz-Estevez, coordinator of international student services for the Padnos International Center, explained how international students can stay for up to three years and work for the same company. Students studying in the U.S. on a F-1 Visa can apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) to participate in internships, co-ops or similar experiences for one year then apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) in their field of study for another two years.

two people talking (woman with dark hair and man with tan suit) with two people in background, projection screen behind
Andres Ortiz-Estevez, international student services coordinator at GVSU, right, talks with Susan Im during the Demystifying the Visa Hiring Process event at DCIH February 21.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

After three years, the process becomes more difficult. Susan Im, immigration attorney at ImLaw, said students and their employer apply for H-1B Visa status, which enters the student into a federal lottery. Last year, Im said, there were 800,000 H-1B applicants for 85,000 spots.

Stella Michael, director of digital services for Corewell Health, urged employers to advocate for hiring international students and used her workplace as an example.

"We want our organizations to reflect the demographics of the community," Michael said. "There is a shortage of nurses and a leaking pipeline. We have grand goals to make Grand Rapids a tech hub. International students have the drive, the passion and the commitment to excellence."

Kate Stoetzner, executive director of the Padnos International Center, said there is an initiative in West Michigan to develop an organization that replicates Global Detroit. West Michigan Tech Talent leaders said leveraging the talents of international students is a key step in the creation of greater Grand Rapids as a prominent tech hub. 

overview of event with people seated at round tables, panelists at long table on right
About 80 people attended the event, jointly sponsored by GVSU and West Michigan Tech Talent.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills


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