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March 4, 2013

Purdue Profiles: Maureen Doyle

Maureen Doyle

Maureen Doyle, assistant director for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) compliance in the Office of International Students and Scholars. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
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While living in Japan, Maureen Doyle learned that even everyday tasks could become ordeals for those living abroad.

Now Purdue's assistant director for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) compliance in the Office of International Students and Scholars (ISS), Doyle makes sure each international student understands the federal requirements necessary to attend a university in the U.S. In addition to using her personal experience to help students from other countries, nearly five years ago she helped start a still-thriving program, Boiler Out!,  which connects Purdue's international students with local volunteer opportunities.

How did you become involved in the international community?

I've always been interested in other countries and cultures, and so while I was an undergraduate at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, I studied international business. I completed a study abroad program in Japan during my junior year. I truly fell in love with learning while immersed in another culture. After graduation, I returned to Japan after graduation, and I also learned how difficult living abroad can be.  For example, I had to rely a lot on the help of others. Even then, ordering things -- such as heating oil for my house -- was an ordeal because of the language barrier and the culture barrier.

Ever since I spent time in Japan, I wanted to give back to students who are traveling abroad in the U.S. I know what they're going through from personal experience, so I help them and provide information to them as much as I can.

What does your job entail?

Twice each year, we have to report to the federal government whether our international students are in compliance with all visa requirements, including if they are taking enough credit hours and whether they have assistantships. We also have to make sure students have their correct majors, addresses and other information updated in the internal ISS system. 

Before we complete our reporting period,  we contact students who might be in noncompliance and give them the opportunity to update their information.  Doing that requires a lot of communication, but it's worth it. We don't want to report anyone as noncompliant unless necessary.

How did you get involved in this work?

I was actually promoted into this job in fall 2011. Before that, I was an immigration counselor here at Purdue, and before that I was an international student advisor at Washington College in Maryland. In those positions, I answered a lot of the same questions I had when I studied abroad -- such as whether students could work, how to handle visa issues and others. Even if I didn't have the answer, I could point the students in the right direction, and that was very rewarding.

Why did you decide to help start a volunteer program for Purdue's international students?

Along with Sara Randrianasolo, who is a former colleague, we started Purdue's Boiler Out! Volunteer Program. Essentially, we both loved to volunteer and we wanted to be able to really get to know the international students, so we created a program to do just that.

Boiler Out! coordinators find local volunteer opportunities for international students. They provide transportation to and from the event, and the coordinators and students volunteer together. Our students have helped organizations such as Habitat for Humanity of Lafayette, the Camp Tecumseh YMCA Outdoor Center and the Lafayette School Corporation, where they've done after-school tutoring. We ask our Boiler Out! volunteers to take part in one event per month. They don't get college credit for taking part in this program -- they just really enjoy volunteering. 

In fall 2011, I handed over the position of coordinator of Boiler Out! to Nancy Montague and Kathryn Burden, who also work in the ISS office,  and they've done a fantastic job. As leaders, they have organized volunteer events with new organizations, such as the Almost Home Humane Society, and they've done things such as organizing a coat drive for Tippecanoe County residents who need them.

How have students received the Boiler Out! program?

It's been hugely popular. Boiler Out! started informally, requiring students to sign up in our offices and later online, but there were so many students who wanted to participate that we had to set a cohort limit each semester. This semester, there are 200 students in the cohort.

In general, we've found that students are very eager to get out into the community and help the less fortunate. It's a good experience for them, because they get to witness a side of the U.S. that perhaps they didn't know existed, and it helps our local organizations. Under its new leadership, I think Boiler Out! will continue to grow, and that's a great thing for everyone.

Writer: Amanda Hamon, 49-61325, ahamon@purdue.edu