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Chuck France/University Relations

Malika Lyon is one of the first people internatinoal visitors to KU work with. She helps visitors learn their way around campus and helps departments in bringing international scholars to KU.

Campus closeup: Making KU home

Malika Lyon, coordinator, International Visiting Scholars

Years at current job: Five years

Job duties: I have the privilege of meeting and assisting visiting international scholars with initial and ongoing immigration advising and processing. This includes creation of a record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, preparation of documents needed for the visa application, extensive email correspondence with scholars in their home countries, check-in procedures and orientation when they arrive at KU and assistance with many other matters such as insurance coverage, KU online access and ID cards, the needs of accompanying spouses and children and maintaining legal status. Advising and working with KU departments and faculty members who want to invite international visitors is another aspect of my work. KU now has an International House, which offers a short-term housing option for some of our international visitors, and I take reservations for this house. I also serve as coordinator of Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholarship, and I organize the annual Picture the World Photo Contest. Finally, I built and maintain most of the International Programs website.

What’s one thing that would surprise people about your work? I think people would be surprised to know how many international visiting scholars come to KU, how many different countries and fields of study they represent and why they are coming to Kansas. In fact, many of KU’s programs, faculty members and collections are among the best in the world in certain fields.

How many international visitors does KU bring to campus annually, and how many countries have been represented? For the 2010-11 academic year, 66 different departments or units at KU hosted 235 international visiting scholars from 51 countries.

When giving international visitors an orientation on KU’s campus what are the first things you point out? I don’t actually take visitors on a tour of the campus, but we go through a folder of informational materials that I have prepared. This includes a brief history of Lawrence and a history of the niversity; a large campus map and “walking tour” provided by University Relations; brochures for the Natural History Museum and Spencer Art Museum; the monthly newsletter from the Community Mercantile; and my listing of places in Lawrence, accompanied by maps, which includes specialty grocery stores, good local restaurants, local coffee and tea shops, the downtown library and post office, Liberty Hall, the arts center and the farmers’ markets. If the visitor has a family, I may also provide information about Small World, local schools and other information as needed.

Anyone who has travelled internationally knows how daunting the paperwork and obstacles can be. What are the biggest challenges you face in securing visas and health insurance for visitors from other countries? The biggest challenge in securing a visa is the lengthy delay faced by some potential visitors whose applications are subjected to “administrative processing.” This is actually a check related to security and export control issues that is faced by virtually all visiting research scholars in the sciences, especially those who come from India. This can take from two to four weeks. Scholars coming from China or India also face long wait times for visa processing due to the sheer volume of people seeking visas from those countries, although priority is given to research scholars and students. Also, the requirement that all applicants for U.S. visas must appear for a personal interview can be challenging, requiring travel to the nearest U.S. embassy and possibly an overnight stay.

There are many companies that offer health insurance for visiting international scholars at affordable rates. However, they generally do not cover pre-existing conditions, which can present a problem in some cases, and rates for family members can be quite high. The government of China has worked out a special policy with United Healthcare that their citizens are encouraged to purchase, but many scholars find that companies based in their home countries offer the best coverage and rates.

Campus closeup
Malika Lyon, coordinator, International Visiting Scholars
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