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  • ISSO Newsletter: October 2014

    The ISSO sends out a monthly web-based newsletter. It contains the latest information about immigration and ISSO services, as well as important reminders about work authorization, visa applications, and more. Please read it! View the ISSO newsletter archive here.

    Newsletter Contents:

    1. Welcome and Introductions
    2. Immigration News and Reminders
      2016 Green Card Lottery: Apply by Noon on Nov. 3rd!!!
      Graduating this semester? Apply EARLY for F-1 OPT!
      Graduating soon? Discuss Future Plans with ISSO!
      Travel Reminders: Leaving the U.S. at Winter Break?
    3. Upcoming ISSO Trips and Programs
      Fall Program Schedule
    4. The ISSO's Electronic Lists: A Summary
    5. Let’s Talk: CAPS off-site counseling at ISSO
    6. Community News, Announcements & Information
      Fraud Alert - Scam Phone Calls Target International Students
      Greetings from Gannett Health Services

      Live In or Work For the Language House
      International Students Board (ISB) Offers Funding for International Student Organizations
      Come to Ithaca's Huge Fall Book Sale
    7. Have Immigration Questions?: Come to ISSO Office Hours

    Welcome and Introductions

    Whether you are a new or continuing student, the ISSO welcomes you to the 2014-2015 academic year and to the first edition of our monthly electronic newsletter!

    Our newsletter contains immigration updates and reminders, and the latest information about ISSO services; it is very important that you read it! View the ISSO newsletter archive here.

    We thought this first newsletter would be a good opportunity to introduce (or re-introduce) you to each staff person in the ISSO team:

    Brendan O’Brien, Director
    Brendan O'Brien has worked in the ISSO since 1989 and became director of the office in 1998. He entered the field of international education after studying abroad in Kenya and Israel as an undergraduate, and in France as a graduate student. He enjoys travel and learning about the history and culture of other countries. Brendan's wife Sachiko works in the Vet College. Their two young daughters keep them very busy. Brendan enjoys all sports, particularly basketball, swimming, running, biking and American football. Brendan enjoys working in the ISSO and looks forward to meeting as many new students as possible!!

    Laura Taylor, Associate Director
    Laura has been at the ISSO for 19 years. She is a native of the area, but has also lived in England, Colorado and, briefly, Indonesia. In her spare time, she likes to dance, make music, bike, run, garden, paint and kayak. Laura loves the Ithaca community, and never tires of the beauty of the region.

    Sarah Hilsman, Associate Director for Student Immigration Services
    Sarah came to Cornell in 1980 for her undergraduate degree in Government, then transferred to Fine Arts and has worked at Cornell off and on since then. She started at the ISSO in 2002 after advising international students at University of Texas at Austin. Although Sarah grew up partially in Manhattan, she far preferred her adventures in the woods and fields as a kid in a tiny town in Connecticut famous for Lyme Disease (Lyme, CT). She has traveled in India, Turkey and Italy among other places. Sarah has a college-aged daughter and enjoys yoga.

    Adriana Rovers, Associate Director for Programming Services
    Adriana began working for Cornell in 1995, and at the ISSO a little over 12 years ago. She is the Associate Director for Programming Services. Coming to the ISSO was a great career move and has been a very rewarding experience. Her family is from the Netherlands, and her parents immigrated to Canada after the second World War. Her parents' experience has made her especially sensitive to the challenges that many internationals face when arriving in a new country. Outside of the office in her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her four grown daughters who are all world travelers, flower gardening, 1890's house restoration projects, traveling, and keeping physically active with swing and cajun/zydeco dancing, biking and hiking.

    Elizabeth Shedd, Immigration Advisor and Program Coordinator
    Elizabeth has been at the ISSO for a little over seven years. She's originally from the Washington, DC area but grew up in Ithaca, and has attended school in Ireland and France. She's traveled throughout Europe but unfortunately hasn't see the Scandinavian countries (yet). When she's not at the ISSO, you can find her cooking, writing, watching movies or dancing.

    Bill Webster, Immigration Data Specialist
    Bill is responsible for monitoring and maintaining international student and scholar data. He is an avid mountain biker, skier and motorcyclist.

    Steve Shumway, Administrative Manager
    Steve has been employed at Cornell since 1989 and has spent the last eleven years at the ISSO. When not at work, he enjoys immersing himself in nature -- hiking, canoeing, and cross-country skiing are his favorite pursuits. He spends as much time as possible in the Adirondack Park of northern New York state. In fact, Steve and his wife Fran have successfully climbed all 46 of the high peaks of the Adirondack mountains.

    Scott Beemer, Immigration and Programming Assistant
    Scott has been with the ISSO for seven years. A Cornell graduate from the Class of 2003, Scott majored in government and history. He traveled to Japan after graduation and taught English in two high schools through the JET Program. He worked at the Johnson School from his return to the United States in 2005 until he joined the ISSO. Scott is the father of three young children. He enjoys travel, creative writing, and photography.

    Amanda Hooker, Immigration and Programming Assistant
    Amanda joined the ISSO in August 2009. She is originally from Whitney Point, NY, just south of Ithaca. Amanda started her career at Cornell in 2007 in the Student Employment office and has since worked in Alumni Affairs and Development and University Communications. When not at work, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, and also enjoys reading, sewing, finding hidden waterfalls, and wine tours in the beautiful Finger Lakes region. Amanda is extremely excited to be working in ISSO and enjoys meeting (and helping) people from all over the world.

    Adam Blakeslee, Immigration and Programming Assistant
    Adam is a native Ithacan who began his career with Cornell University in 2004 and with the ISSO in 2010. Adam has spent many years in the hospitality industry working both in Ithaca and Cape Cod, always striving to provide exemplary service. While not serving the international community at the ISSO, Adam enjoys spending time with his family and dogs Ocho and Odie. His other activities include; serving as captain of his billiards team, playing ice hockey, travelling, home brewing and completing projects on his house. He has spent time in Peru, venturing to both Machu Pichu and Choquequirao.

    Immigration News

    The online registration period for the 2016 Diversity Visa Program (DV-2016) began on Wednesday, October 1, 2014, at noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4), and will conclude on Monday, November 3, 2014, at noon, Eastern Standard Time (EST).

    Complete information can be found on the Diversity Lottery web page.

    The annual Diversity Visa program makes 50,000 permanent residence visas available to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States who meet the simple, but strict, eligibility requirements. Applicants for Diversity Visas are chosen by a computer-generated random lottery drawing. Go to the Diversity Lottery web page for all the details and how to apply.

    Please Note: A few internationals have received spam emails from a group pretending to be the Diversity Lottery Office, supposedly notifying recipients that they have won the diversity lottery. These emails are definitely fake! If you are selected for a green card by the diversity lottery, the diversity lottery office will notify you by regular mail NOT by email.

    Graduating after this semester? Apply EARLY for F-1 OPT!
    If you are graduating this fall semester, and you want to work on F-1 OPT after graduating, APPLY EARLY for your F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorization. The application does go to the immigration service centers and these applications have slowed down a great deal in recent months. It can take 3 months to receive their OPT work cards. You may start applying NOW if you will graduate after this Fall semester. Please read about OPT, and download an application from our OPT web pages or come to one of our workshops on F-1 work authorization.

    Fall 2014 Graduates: Discuss your Future Plans with ISSO!
    If you are graduating from Cornell this December/January and you plan to stay in the U.S. to either work or to pursue another degree, please come to the ISSO to discuss your plans. In order to maintain your valid immigration status in the U.S., there are specific procedures you will need to complete in order to do any of the following:

    Check with the ISSO advisor on duty about any of the above or any other plans you may have after you graduate.

    Travel Reminders: Leaving the U.S. at Winter Break?
    Make sure you have the correct Re-Entry Documents!!! If you will be leaving and re-entering the U.S., PLEASE be sure that you have all the documents for re-entry as described on these web pages:

    Upcoming ISSO Trips & Programs

    Fall Program Schedule

    A note about trips: Dates and times are subject to change. Prices and other details will be announced via e-mail on the iPrograms-L and International-L e-lists.


    10 Friday 
    "Postcards to Home" 
    11:30 am until 1:00 pm, The Tatkon Center in Balch Hall 
    Stop by the Tatkon Center to write a postcard home. We'll cover the postage! Refreshments will be served.

    11-13 Saturday-Monday 
    Fall Break Trip to New York City 
    Register for this trip, and purchase a ticket online beginning at 9:00 am on Tuesday, September 9th. Once details have been finalized, trip information will be available at:

    30 Thursday 
    Special Halloween International Coffee Hour! 
    3:30-5:30 pm, Big Red Barn 
    Enjoy "spooktacular" treats, pumpkin carving, games, and more. Prizes for those daring enough to come in costume! Open to international and US students, staff, faculty, and families.


    4 Tuesday 
    Safety Tips for Winter Driving/NYS Driver's License Workshop 
    5:15-6:45 pm in Myron Taylor Hall, Room 184 
    A must for all drivers new to driving in snowy, icy conditions! Cornell Police Officers, Beverly Jean Van Cleef and Lisa Van Horn will present tips on driving safely this winter on Ithaca's hilly streets. Afterwards, international and non-New York State drivers can learn how to obtain a New York State Drivers license. This event is sponsored by the Cornell Law School Graduate Legal Studies Program, the Cornell Police Department, and ISSO.

    27 Thursday 
    Annual Traditional American Thanksgiving Feast 
    12:00-4:00 pm (with seatings at Noon and 1:30 pm) 
    Robert Purcell Marketplace Eatery 
    This event is sponsored by the ISSO and CU Dining, and is made possible through the generosity of our many co-sponsors across campus. You are cordially invited to join other members of the Cornell community for the 27th Annual Traditional American Thanksgiving Feast! Tickets will be sold online. Once details have been finalized, information will be available

    Plus every Thursday while classes are in session, join us for International Coffee Hour from 3:30-5:30 PM in the Big Red Barn. Meet new friends over light refreshments and world music. All are welcome!

    Are you interested in taking one of our trips? Here is what you need to know! Prices and other details will be announced via email on the iPrograms-L and international-L e-lists. Spaces are generally limited and participants are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. In most cases, minimal trip fees will apply. We are now offering on line reservations for the majority of our trips. Unless otherwise indicated, interested participants will be required to complete a reservation form online. The link will be provided on this page on scheduled day of sign ups.

    The ISSO's Electronic Lists: A Summary

    The ISSO has three different electronic mailing lists, each with a distinctly different purpose. ISSO-NEWS-L is required all currently registered international students. The ISSO uses this list to send students important immigration-related updates and reminders, as well as our monthly electronic newsletter. Students are automatically added (or removed) from the list each academic year, and only ISSO list administrators may post announcements. If you are a currently registered international student and think you are not receiving list postings, please contact to request that we add you.

    iPrograms-L Join this e-list if you are interested in receiving announcements specifically about ISSO trips, programs, and non-immigration services. This list has open membership (meaning anyone is welcome to join), but only ISSO list administrators may post announcements.

    International-L This list has been established by the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) to facilitate communication and camaraderie within the international community at Cornell. Cornell's international community is comprised of international students and visiting academic staff (past, present & future,) their family members, and other members of the Cornell and Ithaca community who share an interest in international & cultural affairs.

    You may use this list to post announcements of upcoming events, find information, meet new friends, or discuss current events and issues of local or global concern. Anyone is welcome to join this list, and your opinions are welcome, but please be respectful of others. The ISSO reserves the right to remove members who post messages that are offensive, obscene, or personally attack a list member. Also keep in mind that replies to this list will go to all members of the list, so if you wish to respond privately to a message, please check your "TO" line before sending your reply.

    For information about joining iPrograms-L or International-L, visit

    Let's Talk: CAPS off-site counseling at ISSO

    Each Monday, from 2:30-4:30 PM, counselor Michelle Stoyell Psy.D., from Gannett Health Services will be available at the ISSO for free and confidential counselling and consultation. Michelle was born and raised in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. She moved to USA in order to pursue her undergraduate degree in Psychology at State University of New York at Buffalo. She then completed her psychology master’s and doctoral degrees at Wright State University School of Professional Psychology in Dayton, Ohio. Prior to joining CAPS, she completed her pre-doctoral internship at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. Michelle’s clinical interests include: diversity and social justice, international student issues, immigration issues, LGBTQA issues, trauma, interpersonal difficulties and mindfulness.

    No appointment is necessary! Graduate students, undergraduate students, and family members are welcome to come talk to her about:

    • personal growth and challenges
    • depression, anxiety and stress
    • relationship issues
    • family issues
    • cultural, racial and ethnic issues
    • sexual health concerns
    • academic concerns
    • financial concerns
    • any other issues of concern
    • referral and information

    In addition to Monday afternoons at the ISSO, CAPS counselors are available Monday through Friday at various locations on campus. For more information about Counselling and Psychological Services and a schedule of available times for off-site, walk-in consultations visit:

    Community News, Announcements & Information

    Fraud Alert: Scam Phone Calls Target International Students

    The ISSO and the Cornell Police have received numerous reports of a scam targeting international students. Chief Kathy Zoner of the Cornell Police has asked us to share the following information:

    Most times, the caller insists that you, the receiver, are in trouble (at risk for deportation, arrest or other official-sounding issues). In order to alleviate your troubles, the caller asks you to purchase a money card in a substantial amount of US Dollars and read that money card’s numbers over the phone to the caller, thereby allowing him to take the funds.

    This may happen once, or the caller may call back and try again. The caller may use increasingly persuasive or coercive language to threaten to take action if you do not comply. NONE OF THIS IS TRUE!  YOU DO NOT NEED TO RESPOND IN ANY WAY.

    If you have been contacted by a person pretending to be from an agency as listed above, and the caller attempts to get you to give him or her money for any reason, please hang up and call 607-255-1111 and ask to speak to an officer. You will be  put in contact with a real law enforcement officer who will ask you about your phone conversation and relay all information to our investigators for follow up.

    For more details, please see the full statement from the Cornell Police.

    Greetings from Gannett Health Services

    Welcome international students. Gannett is pleased to offer you a range of medical, counseling, and health promotion services that can support you in your academic pursuits and in your enjoyment of life at Cornell. We encourage to learn more about our services, as well as the topics listed on the left of this page, including tips for new international students at Cornell.

    Gannett staff members understand that seeking medical care can be a complex process, particularly in a new country where the philosophy and approach to health care may be quite different from what you are accustomed to. The Gannett web site offers specific information I hope will assist you in learning more about how the US health-care system and medical insurance work.

    Live In or Work For the Language House

    Become comfortably fluent in one of our target languages: Arabic, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese or Spanish!

    The Language House houses 54 undergraduate students, who are working to develop their language skills as well as 6 paid Native Speakers who serve as language mentors and activity coordinators.  Each section dines together 4 times per week, has weekly conversation hours and participate in other activities.  Activities might include debating in model UNs, cooking a traditional meal, playing board games, watching foreign movies, practicing calligraphy, taking salsa lessons, etc.  A Faculty Fellow also works with each language section to enhance programming.  Once a year each language section may also take a cultural immersion trip to a nearby area or a research trip somewhere more distant, funding pending. 

    We are currently recruiting students and Native Speakers for the 2015-16 academic year.

    Student residents must be full-time, enrolled undergraduate Cornell students and have a conversational grasp of the target language.  Interviews will be conducted to assess language skills, if necessary.

    Native Speaker staff must be Cornell graduate students or upperclassmen.  They serve as language mentors and activity coordinators and are compensated with a free room in Boldt Hall and a partial meal plan.  For more details, please visit the website.

    If you would like to visit the Language House to get a feel for the program, you are welcome to join us for an evening meal or other activity.  Please email me so that I can arrange a time for you come.

    We look forward to the possibility of your joining us.

    International Students Board (ISB) Offers Funding for International Student Organizations

    The International Students Board (ISB) is an organization of students from a diverse background committed to promoting dialogue and awareness about world events, cultures, and issues. To this end, ISB hosts cultural events, and also provides funding for student organizations and their special events.

    The ISB has served as an umbrella group for international and ethnic associations at Cornell University for over twenty years. ISB funds are available for undergrad and graduate student organizations. For details about applying for ISB funding for your event/program visit:

    Come to Ithaca's Huge Fall Book Sale!

    Did you know Ithaca is host to one of the largest annual used book sales in the United States?

    The Friends of the Tompkins County Public Library Book Sale is held twice each year, and the fall sale is coming soon, October 11-13, 18-20, & 25-28. More than 250,000 used books will be sold at very low prices, including many test prep books (TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, SAT etc) and ESL books for learning English.  509 Esty Street, downtown Ithaca, NY.

    Have Immigration Questions?
    Come to ISSO Office Hours

    ISSO Advising Hours:
    Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday: 9-12:00; 1:00-4:30
    Wednesday 1:00-4:30

    Advisors are available on a walk-in basis except from 12-1 P.M. daily, or by appointment. You may stop by to see us during office hours, check out our website, email us at, or call us at 255-5243.