Growing up in Mumbai, India, Pooja Khatija was constantly surrounded by people with different religious, lingual, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds than her own. As a result, she learned to value diverse viewpoints at a very young age.

Now, as a returning member of the International Student Advisory Council (ISAC) at Case Western Reserve, Khatija is determined to make marginalized viewpoints at the university heard, develop visibility and trust among the diverse international student community, and create safe spaces at CWRU. 

“I hope we are able to provide support and a sense of strong community via the initiatives by ISAC,” the graduate student explained. “An important aspect of ISAC’s vision is to make international students a core part of the CWRU identity and enable creating an environment where international students feel celebrated and cherished.” 

Khatija is one of nine students who are a part of the ISAC, an effort organized through the Office of International Student Services in the Center for International Affairs. All coming from diverse backgrounds, the students involved seek to represent and advocate for their international peers by sharing their perspectives with the office and increasing outreach. 

This year’s ISAC members include:

  • Aneesha Avasthi, PhD student in physics
  • Lawrence Chu, PhD student in biomedical sciences
  • Diala Izhiman, undergrad in communications and psychology
  • Pooja Khatija, PhD student in organizational behavior
  • Japneet Sachdev, undergrad in BS/MF dual degree, finance and econ
  • Vivek Saraswat, PhD student in chemistry
  • Reema Sen, PhD student in sociology
  • Junwoo Shim, JD student at the law school
  • Christelle Yameogo, undergrad in economics

During the 2021-22 academic year, the inaugural ISAC team made inroads with student governments and started to work on large-scale projects which will serve the whole international community at CWRU, according to Elizabeth Miller, assistant director for International Student Services.

Miller said she looks forward to every meeting with ISAC because she knows she’ll learn an incredible amount from their experiences.

“As staff, it can be easy for us to think we understand what students need or want from their university experiences, but still miss the mark at times,” Miller explained. “One of the many ways ISAC assists our office is by helping us understand what college life is truly like for students—in class, labs, and residence halls; as TAs and RAs and student organization members.”

Christelle Yameogo, a second-year international student and a new member of ISAC, said it’s important to have a body of people who are ready to represent and advocate for international students, and to be present and supportive of them. 

Yameogo is from Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa where she spent the first 18 years of her life. It’s a place where she learned how to be courageous, fight for what she wants, and be proud of her identity as an African woman. 

The undergraduate is looking forward to developing her leadership skills, serving her peers and seeing ISAC projects have an impact on the international community.

“I’m passionate about advocating for my peers because I believe that it’s an effective way to make international students’ voices heard in an environment where they are usually in minority in terms of numbers,” she said. 

“It’s not always feasible to have each individual be publicly vocal about their needs and concerns,” Yameogo continued, “so I believe that having students who can listen to their peers’ opinions and plead in their favor at the administrative level is important.”

Learn more about the International Student Advisory Council and get to know more about its members.