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Abby Conder Lussier named Advocate of the Year by NAFSA, supports international students’ holistic OHIO experience

Abby Conder Lussier, an international student advisor with International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) and current Ph.D. student in the Patton College of Education’s Doctorate in Higher Education program, was recently recognized as Advocate of the Year by NAFSA, a nonprofit seeking to promote international education. As an international student advisor, Conder works closely with students to help them navigate the visa process and seeks to advocate locally, across the state, and nationally for other needs and considerations impacting international students in the U.S.

“I was very honored and humbled by the award,” Conder said. “It’s a little cliché, but advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes a lot of patience, diligence, and persistence to even make a ripple in the pond. Being recognized for all the tiny ripples I’ve been able to make along the journey was special to me.”

Jennifer Nisevich, the associate director for ISSS, nominated Conder for the award and praised her efforts. “Advocacy is one of those things that I think we all recognize as important and that we should be doing. But we get into our workloads and it gets pushed aside by most people because it’s not going to have immediate results,” Nisevich said. “I’ve been so impressed by what Abby has done. She has kept with it; it's never gone on the back burner. It’s always been one of her focuses and that’s remarkable in the work that we do. I really wanted everyone else to see what I saw.”

Conder’s work on the challenges faced by international students has led to her brushing shoulders with some prominent figures in American politics, including former U.S. Representative Steve Stivers, former U.S. Senator Rob Portman, and current U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown.

These elected officials have been prominent supporters of international education writing “Dear Colleague” letters and reading floor statements in support of international education. Conder also spoke in-depth with then-representative Stivers about easing the process for advanced STEM degree earners to gain permanent U.S. resident status.

“It’s a slow-moving process (working with elected officials),” Conder said. “Typically, what I do is meet with representatives annually through an advocacy day event and establish relationships with them that I keep active throughout the year. I keep them abreast of important issues happening in our state or our district, informing them of some of the academic, cultural, and economic values of international students on our campuses.”

Conder’s advocacy goes beyond the halls of Congress; she is currently working to make the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles friendlier for international students. Due to lack of alignment between immigration rules and BMV rules, transportation challenges at the end of a student’s program can make daily life difficult after graduation. Conder is at the very beginning of working to resolve this issue. 

Supporting the OHIO community, Conder also shares insight into how “It’s interesting (teaching advocacy),” Conder said. “It's something that you need to be passionate about, understand that it takes time, and that follow-up is critical. It's not a one-time event, you can’t just meet with a senator’s office and think ‘that's done, check that box off.’”

“Abby’s advocacy work has been informative for all of us at ISSS and across the campus community. She has encouraged OHIO faculty and staff to get involved and is always willing to take on additional conversations if there are things for which we see a need for advocacy. I have always admired Abby’s support of students and look forward to encouraging her advocacy efforts as she moves forward," Nisevich said.

Shauna Torrington, the graduate assistant for ISSS and advisee of Conder, praised her as both a coworker and an advisor. “Abby has always shown a lot of initiative and listened to your story. She works really hard to get your situation resolved. I know when I had to do an internship, I didn’t realize I was skipping a step in something, and she supported me and put in extra effort for me to get the appropriate permissions and protocols handled.”

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April 14, 2023
Staff reports