A Bridge Over Barriers
UW Tacoma's Campus Safety and Security has teamed up with the Office of Global Affairs on a project to help international students.
In some ways UW Tacoma feels very much like a small town housed inside a larger city. For instance, it’s easy to get caught up in conversation with a half dozen people as you cross from one end of campus to another. UW Tacoma is growing and yet the nearly 6,000 students, staff and faculty all feel familiar.
UW Tacoma Campus Security Officer Siddharth “Sidd” Saini can often be found either walking or driving around campus. Patrols are part of his job, but Saini and the other campus safety officers do more than check for threats—they establish relationships.
A few months back Saini popped into the Office of Global Affairs (OGA) to say hello. Saini was once an international student at Tacoma Community College. He then transferred to UW Tacoma where he pursued a degree in information technology while also working in the OGA. Saini met with International Student Advisor Amber Hallberg. “I told him about a couple of instances where international students were the victims of crimes,” said Hallberg. “One was near campus and the other was in Bellevue.”
It should be noted that crimes against students are relatively rare but it does happen. The conversation with Hallberg struck a chord with Saini. “I was hearing about how these students didn’t know what to do,” he said. “International students can be hesitant to call 911 because they’re not sure of the process or are worried about the language barrier. Even if a crime happens off campus we can help students make contact with local law enforcement.”
Saini remembered his hesitation upon arriving in the United States. “I was afraid of law enforcement too when I came,” he said. Saini started a dialogue between the OGA and Director of Campus Safety Susan Wagshul-Golden. “We came up with a couple of ideas and one of them was to make me a point of contact for international students as the Campus Security International Student Ambassador,” said Saini. “The idea is to build a communications bridge between the international students and campus safety.”
This process is already underway. “We’re planning to do a video with Sidd that we’ll show during orientation,” said Hallberg. Saini also worked with Wagshul-Golden and UW Tacoma's Counseling Center to locate and distribute portable noisemakers that international students can use in an emergency.
Back to the point about UW Tacoma being a small town in a big city. Videos and security devices are just one part of a larger strategy to help international students. The bigger part is cultivating relationships. Saini meets regularly with UW Tacoma Global Affairs Fellows including Misaki Seto.
Seto is an international student from Japan. She’s here working toward a degree in biomedical science. “A lot of what I do is help international students get connected with people and events,” said Seto. She and Saini discuss ways campus safety can help students stay informed. “US culture is so different and it can be hard for international students to know what to do or who to contact if they’re feeling afraid or if there’s an emergency.”
Saini is almost always smiling. Indeed, it appears to be part of his uniform. He’s a friendly face, one that is easy to spot from across campus. “I want people to feel comfortable,” he said. “Because if people are comfortable then, hopefully, they’ll come to me or one of my fellow officers if they have a problem.”