Grant helps Jamaican student remain focused on degree

Funding from Institute of International Education allows students to stay in U.S. for summer amid COVID-19 uncertainty
July 8, 2020

University of Wisconsin-Stout international student Crystal Peterson worried about paying her rent and buying food over the summer.

As a senior majoring in hotel, restaurant and tourism management in the School of Hospitality Leadership, the Jamaican native is one semester away from graduation. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the move during spring semester to alternative learning methods, Peterson lost her part-time job at University Dining. Because of restrictions on international students working off campus, she was unable to find other work during the spring or summer.

Help was available through a $2,500 grant from the Institute of International Education’s Emergency Student Fund to Assist International Students on U.S. campuses impacted by COVID-19. IIE is an organization developed to educate the next generation of leaders and serve as a lifeline to the world’s most imperiled students, scholars and artists.

IIE administers the Fulbright Program, Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program and the International Visitor Leadership Program on behalf of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

“The grant meant a lot to me,” Peterson said. “It really helped me cover rent and food and pay other bills.”

Peterson could not return to Jamaica and spend the summer with her family because of concerns about borders being closed, and her grandparents live with her family. “I didn’t want to risk getting them sick,” she said, noting she also was concerned about traveling in the spring.

Also receiving the grant, based on nominations from the university’s Office of International Education, was Ilkay Baseski, a graduate student from Turkey studying food and nutritional sciences.

A total of about 600 grants totaling approximately $2 million were given nationwide through two rounds of awards to help students with summer expenses, said Danielle Clarizio, assistant director of the Office of International Education.

“Students and their families have been affected by COVID-19. Many have lost work and had to move home,” Clarizio said. “The difference for our international students is they were in the U.S. and away from their families and support systems. They can’t go pick up a job due to work restrictions of their student visas. Some students couldn’t go home or weren’t able to get home because of travel restrictions.”

Some students were concerned that had they returned home they might not have been able to renew their visas because U.S. consulates remain closed or have limited services.  There was also uncertainty regarding whether they could obtain flights back to the U.S. this fall and/or might be required to quarantine upon their return, Clarizio said.

Economic impact significant

In addition to providing opportunities for cross-cultural learning and sharing, international students in the U.S. provide significant economic benefit to the community, said Scott Pierson, director of the Office of International Education. According to NAFSA: Association of International Education, international students at U.S. colleges and universities contributed $41 billion to the economy and supported 458,290 jobs during the 2018-2019 academic year.

In Wisconsin, more than 13,000 international students contributed $448.5 million to the economy, creating and supporting more than 5,300 jobs. 

Nonimmigrant students were ineligible for CARES Act Higher Education Emergency relief funding. Stout University Foundation and the Dean of Students Office moved quickly to establish an Emergency Fund, which has helped international students. “We are grateful to IIE and UW-Stout Emergency Fund donors for their continued support of our international students,” Pierson said.

In the spring semester, UW-Stout had 139 students from 30 countries.

“I was really excited when I got the funding,” Peterson said. “It felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I was struggling and wondering how I was going to make it through the summer.”

Hospitality, OIE programs

UW-Stout's Bachelor of Science degree in hotel, restaurant and tourism management program is accredited by Accreditation Commission for Programs In Hospitality Administration.

Other School of Hospitality Leadership programs include bachelor’s degrees in golf enterprise management and real estate property management.

The Office of International Education seeks to align and integrate policies, programs and initiatives aimed at cultivating global competencies through strategic international partnerships and mindful recruitment of international students and scholars. OIE provides opportunity for students and faculty to engage in high-impact study/work abroad practices. Hundreds of UW-Stout students take part in the Study Abroad program, and research by the IIE shows that it has long-term impacts on students’ career progression, promotion and job offers.



UW-Stout student Crystal Peterson received a $2,500 Institute of International Education Emergency Student Fund to Assist International Students grant to help her cover living expenses over the summer.

Danielle Clarizio

Scott Pierson

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