Tired of working weekends in retail, Sumaiya Mamun decided to try out a job at USC’s Office of International Services (OIS) for 15 days. That was 15 years ago.
“I liked it and never looked anywhere else,” said Mamun, whose husband, a USC employee at the time, convinced her to apply. “The students call me ‘the tough lady,’ but you have to be tough when you’re dealing with so many international students with so many issues. Our job is to make sure they follow the rules and regulations. It’s not always what they want to hear.”
As a senior immigration adviser, Mamun helps serve the nearly 7,800 international students and scholars who come through her office each year.
She’s also one of only 10 designated school officials on campus who keeps tabs on all international students. Once students enter the United States, Mamun makes sure they register as full-time students, don’t drop classes and fall below a full-time status, or obtain employment without authorization. She is also a certified alternate responsible officer, a school official authorized to access the U.S. government’s Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.
“Technically, we are doing the tracking for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. They don’t give us a paycheck, even though I did mention to them that they should,” she said, with a smile.
After students graduate, the U.S. government authorizes them to stay one year to work, so Mamun and her staff help students with the authorization documents. She describes her office as a well-oiled machine that provides a number of services, including helping students get driver’s licenses, social security numbers and housing.
“She understands what international students need and seeks to solve even the most difficult cases, a trait that only experienced advisers possess,” said Esther Lee, associate director of International Services.
“One other thing OIS can’t get enough of is her cooking,” Lee added. “She is an excellent cook and can make anything and everything taste great! Her cooking, coupled with her immigration knowledge, is a perfect combination for OIS.”
Born and raised in Bangladesh, Mamun earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in international relations from Dhaka University. She moved to Los Angeles with her husband after he enrolled in a PhD program at USC. Her late father earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, and her daughter, a third-generation Trojan, is a junior majoring in Spanish and biological sciences. She and her family live in Eastvale.
In her work at USC, she not only draws on her extensive knowledge of immigration but also teaches it to the students she serves.
“I’m very strict,” Mamun said. “I hold their hand through the process but also tell them that they are going out into the world where no one is going to hold their hand, so they need to learn to stand on their own.”