Higher Ed Pathways to Immigration: Why it Matters Event


On April 21, 2023, the Presidents’ Alliance co-hosted a half-day event, Higher Ed Pathways to Immigration: Why it Matters .

This event illuminated higher education’s role in facilitating immigration pathways, developing talent and potential, and reducing barriers to integration and naturalization. As the Biden Administration seeks to build on the strength of immigrant contributions to our knowledge-based economy, colleges and universities serve as critically important pathways for immigration and for immigrant integration, mobility, and success. However, these pathways are not as straightforward as they need to be to maintain our global competitiveness, and our immigration laws and policies desperately need modernization in order to allow all immigrants to reach their limitless potential.

The event video and resources can be found below.




New Fact Sheet: Immigrant, International, & Refugee Students in Higher Ed: Did You Know?

Event Press Release: Key Takeaways and Virtual Recording Available: “Higher Ed Pathways to Immigration: Why it Matters”



Speaker List (in order of appearance)

Adam Hinds, Chief Executive Officer, Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate

Adam has twenty-five years of experience working in US politics, government, and foreign affairs. He is currently the CEO of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute. Before joining the Institute, he spent six years as a Massachusetts State Senator where he Chaired the Committee on Revenue and led the Senate’s effort to rebuild the Commonwealth post-COVID. In 2021-2022 he was a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts.

From 2005 to 2014 Adam worked for the United Nations in the Middle East. He was based in Baghdad, Iraq where he was a team leader of a UN-led negotiation between the Kurdistan Region and the Government of Iraq over disputed territory. He was a regional advisor to the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process in Jerusalem. He worked for former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to establish a ceasefire in Syria in 2012 and then was part of a team to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons program.

Early in his career, Adam worked for former Congressman John Olver and was part of John Kerry’s campaign for President where he worked for Susan Rice, the head of his foreign policy team who later became the US National Security Advisor.
Adam attended Wesleyan University and received a Master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Adam is married to Dr. Alicia Mireles Christoff, Associate Professor of English at Amherst College, and they have two young children.

Miriam Feldblum, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education & Immigration

Miriam Feldblum is co-founder and executive director of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Presidents’ Alliance on Higher  Education and Immigration, an alliance of over 500 college  and university leaders of public and private colleges and universities, enrolling over five million students in 43 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico. A national expert on the intersection of  immigration and higher education, Miriam has written extensively and delivered presentations on undocumented, international, and refugee students, immigration policy and  higher education, and highly skilled labor in the United States.

She is a non-resident fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and author of Reconstructing Citizenship: The Politics of Nationality Reform and Immigration  in Contemporary France.  

Miriam previously served as vice president for student affairs, dean of students, and professor of  politics at Pomona College, as special assistant to the president, faculty research associate, and  senior director at the California Institute of Technology, and as an assistant professor at the  University of San Francisco. She received a BA in political science from Barnard College, and MA,  MPhil, and PhD degrees in political science from Yale. 

Adam Hunter, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Immigration Policy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Adam Hunter is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Immigration Policy at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and was appointed on Jan. 20, 2021. Mr. Hunter has more than fifteen years’ experience on migration, national security, and international affairs issues. Before assuming his role at DHS, he was the Executive Director of Refugee Council USA (RCUSA), an organization working to protect and welcome refugees, asylum seekers, and other forcibly displaced populations. Prior roles included Director of a Pew Charitable Trusts’ research project exploring immigration through the lens of federalism, and Consultant to several foundations and non-profit organizations. During a previous tenure in government, Mr. Hunter served as Acting Chief of Staff at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a component of DHS, and held other agency leadership and program management roles. Earlier in his career, he worked with policymakers in Europe and at Washington think tanks, including the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Mr. Hunter holds a BA from Vanderbilt University, MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School, and D&I certificate from Cornell University.

Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, Chancellor of UMass Boston

Marcelo Suárez-Orozco is Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Prior to his return to the Commonwealth, he served as the inaugural UCLA Wasserman Dean and Distinguished Professor of Education.  Dr. Suárez-Orozco’s research focuses on conceptual and empirical problems in the areas of cultural psychology and psychological anthropology with a focus on the study of mass migration, globalization and education. He is the author of numerous scholarly essays, award-winning books and edited volumes published by Harvard University Press, Stanford University Press, University of California Press, Cambridge University Press, Columbia University Press and others. His scholarly papers are published in a range of disciplines and languages in international journals.  His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, W. T. Grant, Spencer, Rockefeller, Hewlett, Ford and Carnegie, and multiple others.  He has also served as the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Education and as Member of the Inaugural Executive Committee of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University.  At NYU, he served as the inaugural Courtney Sale Ross University Professor. 

Dr. Suárez-Orozco earned his A.B. in psychology, M.A. in anthropology, and Ph.D. in anthropology at UC Berkeley. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts with his wife, the eminent psychologist of immigration, Carola Suárez-Orozco. Carola and Marcelo’s hobbies include taking Lilly – their Papillon, for long walks in Boston Harbor and, whenever possible, biking in the woods of Western Massachusetts

Esther Benjamin, CEO and Executive Director, World Education Services

Esther Benjamin is a tri-sector global leader, currently serving as CEO of World Education Services. She is a Visiting Fellow with the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. Previously, Esther was CEO for Africa Operations with Laureate Education. In President Obama’s Administration, Esther led Global Operations for the Peace Corps. Esther was an executive with the International Youth Foundation and the International Partnership for Microbicides. In 1999, President Clinton appointed Esther a White House Fellow. She began her career with the United Nations, the World Bank, and Grant Thornton. Esther serves on the Board of Directors of Echoing Green, B Lab Global, and Candid. In 2021, Dickinson College awarded Esther an honorary doctorate in International Education. New York Times best-selling author and Maryland Governor Wes Moore profiled Esther as “The Globalist” in his book The Work: Searching for a Life that Matters.

Pam Eddinger, President, Bunker Hill Community College

Pam Eddinger is president of Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC), the largest of 15 community colleges in Massachusetts.  Dr. Eddinger began her tenure at BHCC in 2013 and previously served as president of Moorpark College in Southern California from 2008.

Dr. Eddinger’s service in the Community College movement spans more than 25 years, with senior posts in academics and student affairs, communications and policy, and executive leadership. Dr. Eddinger serves on a number of boards and commissions, including the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), GBH Boston, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Boston Foundation (TBF), the Massachusetts Workforce Development Board, the Boston Private Industry Council, Achieving the Dream (ATD), the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy, and the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU). Dr. Eddinger was honored in 2016 by the Obama White House as a Champion of Change. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Barnard College and her master’s and doctorate in Japanese Literature from Columbia University.

Javier Reyes, Incoming Chancellor, UMass Amherst

Javier Reyes currently serves as interim chancellor at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), Chicago’s largest and only public Carnegie Research 1 university. Dr. Reyes oversees the university’s $3.8B budget, 16 colleges including the first and only public law school in Chicago, and seven health science colleges with the College of Medicine among nation’s leading educators of Black and Latino medical professionals.

Before being appointed Interim Chancellor, Dr. Reyes became UIC’s Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs in August of 2021. During his time as Provost, he initiated an overhaul of UIC’s budget model while also restructuring the university’s teaching innovation environments to position UIC for success amidst a new era of innovative and accessible education. 

Dr. Reyes came to UIC from the Milan Puskar Dean of the John Chambers College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University (WVU). Before joining WVU, he served at the University of Arkansas, where he earned tenure and the title of full professor of economics in the Sam M. Walton College of Business where he also served as Vice Provost for Distance and Online Education.

Most recently, Dr. Reyes was appointed Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he will begin July 1, 2023.

Dr. Reyes received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, and his doctorate in economics from Texas A&M University.

Carola Suárez-Orozco, Director of Harvard  Immigration Initiative, and Professor in Residence at Harvard Graduate School of Education

Carola Suárez-Orozco is a Professor in Residence at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Director of the Immigration Initiative at Harvard.

Using mixed-methodological strategies, her work focuses on elucidating the child, adolescent, and young adult experience of immigration—how is their development shaped by immigration and how are they changed by the process? She has studied a wide variety of processes including academic engagement and achievement, identity formation, family separations, civic engagement, and the unauthorized experience. A focus on school settings has been an essential and enduring theme in her basic research agenda as schools are a first contact point between the immigrant children, their families, and the new society.

Her books include: Children of Immigration, Learning a New Land, Transitions: The Development of the Children of Immigrants, Education: Our Global Compact in a Time of Crisis, as well as Immigrant-Origin Students in Community College: Navigating Risk and Reward in Higher Education among others.

She has been awarded an American Psychological Association (APA) Presidential Citation for her contributions to the understanding of cultural psychology of immigration, has served as Chair of the APA Presidential Task Force on Immigration, and is a member of the National Academy of Education.

Eva Millona, Chief Office of Citizenship, Partnership, and Engagement (OCPE), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Eva A. Millona is currently serving as the chief of the inaugural Office of Citizenship, Partnership and Engagement in the External Affairs Directorate at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security. Prior to this role, she had served as the DHS assistant secretary for partnership and engagement since May 2021. In that role, she served as the secretary’s primary advisor on the impact of the Department’s policies, regulations, processes, and actions on state, local, tribal, territorial (SLTT) governments, SLTT elected officials, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, and the academic community, ensuring a unified approach to external engagement.

Before joining DHS, Millona was president and chief executive officer for over 13 years at the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), the largest organization in New England promoting and enhancing integration for new Americans. In 2010, she cofounded of National Partnership for New Americans, a national organization focused on immigrant integration at the local, state, and federal levels that she cochaired for 11 years. She also chaired the 2020 U.S. Census Statewide Complete Count Committee in Massachusetts.

A native of Albania, Millona practiced civil and criminal law before becoming the youngest district judge ever appointed to Tirana’s District Court, where she served from 1989 to 1992. After immigrating to the United States, she directed the refugee resettlement program in central Massachusetts. She served on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the Massachusetts Governor’s Advisory Council for Refugees and Immigrants under four governors, the Attorney General’s Council for New Americans, and the Advisory Board for the Boston Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement. Millona taught global policy as an adjunct professor of practice at Boston College School of Social Work.

Millona has received numerous awards for her leadership and impact, including the prestigious USCIS Outstanding American by Choice Award in 2009 and the 2010 Wainwright Bank Social Justice Award.

Millona is a graduate of Clark University where she obtained a Master of Arts in political science. She also holds a law degree from the University of Tirana.

Nancy Ramírez Palencia, Graduate Student, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Nancy Palencia Ramírez is an Ed.M. candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she focuses on using product management and iterative design to provide quality civic education to early primary school children. She was a Chevening Scholar and holds an MA ininternational political economy from King’s College London.


Patricia Sobalvarro, Executive Director, Agencia ALPHA

Patricia Sobalvarro was born in Guatemala and migrated to the United States at age eleven to be reunited with her mother. She graduated from Boston University in 1996 with a dual bachelor’s degree in Economics and in International Relations. In 2004, she received a master’s degree in Non-Profit Management from Cambridge College.  She is the co-founder and Executive 

Director of Agencia ALPHA, a grassroots nonprofit and social ministry of Congregation Lion of Judah. For the past 20 years, under her leadership, Agencia ALPHA has been empowering over 1,200 immigrants annually through their accredited legalization and citizenship and leadership programs. As a response to the COVID19 pandemic, Ms. Sobalvarro along other two partners, co-founded the Massachusetts Immigrant Collaborative, a statewide collaborative of 15 immigrant supporting organizations working together to serve under-resourced and at-risk immigrant communities. Under Ms. Sobalvarro’s leadership, Agencia ALPHA has been a strategic member of the MIRA Coalition, leading on local/national initiatives including the Safe Community Act and advocating for a just and fair immigration reform.

She has served on the advisory board for the City of Boston Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement and on the Massachusetts’ Attorney General’s Advisory Council on New Americans. Currently she is a member of Governor Maura Healey’s Latino Empowerment Council.

In her free time, Ms. Sobalvarro loves spending time with family and friends, skiing, going to the beach and taking long walks with Duke, her chocolate Labrador Retriever.

Mary Waters, PVK Professor of Arts and Sciences and John L. Loeb Professor of Sociology, Harvard University

Mary C. Waters is the John Loeb Professor of Sociology and the PVK Professor of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. A sociologist and demographer, her work has focused on the integration of immigrants and their children, the social determinants of health, immigration policy, disasters and their aftermath, and the measurement and meaning of racial and ethnic identity. Her current projects include a study of older Latino immigrants and the American welfare state, and a longitudinal study of mobility and recovery among survivors of Hurricane Katrina, as well as work on climate change and migration. She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the National Academy of Sciences and she chaired the NAS Panel on The Integration of Immigrants into American Society (2015).


Rajika Bhandari, Senior Advisor, Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education & Immigration

Rajika Bhandari, Ph.D., serves as a Senior Advisor for the Presidents’ Alliance and is a scholar-practitioner in international higher education with a focus on international student trends and issues. She is the Principal of Rajika Bhandari Advisors, offering strategic guidance to nonprofits, multilateral organizations, and higher education institutions around the world. Dr. Bhandari previously led the IC3 Institute as its President and CEO, and spent over a decade at the Institute of International Education where she led IIE’s research, evaluation and thought leadership portfolio, including the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. Quoted frequently in the global press, she is also a widely published author and keynote speaker on issues of international education, the global competition for talent, skilled immigrants, and educational and cultural diplomacy. Dr. Bhandari is a former international student and first-generation Indian American and her recent award-winning memoir, America Calling:A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility has been described as a must-read for leaders, administrators and students on U.S. campuses. She also hosts the World Wise podcast, a take on the intersections of education, culture, and migration. Learn more about her work at:

Lydiah Kemunto Bosire, Founder and CEO, 8B Education Investments

Dr. Lydiah Kemunto Bosire is the Founder and CEO of 8B Education Investments, first VC-backed education loans platform for African students attending university outside the continent. 8B provides tools to enable African students to identify best-fit global universities and level up their applications, access affordable financing and connect with career support for job placement, thereby providing colleges and employers access to the world’s fastest-growing talent pool. The mission of 8B is enabling African brilliance to have a global impact. 

8B was recently featured on CNN International announcing new Board member Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter from the Roots, and has an agreement for $30m in lending capital from Nelnet Bank, the first time for a US bank to support African students, announced in September at the Clinton Global Initiative.

Prior to leading 8B, Lydiah’s career spanned nearly two decades as a diplomat including serving at the Executive Office of the UN Secretary General at the UN Secretariat, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of WorldQuant University.

Previously, she served as an advisor to the Entrepreneurs-in-Residence program at Schmidt Futures, a mentor of the Oxford Women in Business network, on the founding Board of Directors of Keep a Child Alive, on the Council of the Global Citizen Impact Funds, as a Senior Advisor at Macro Advisory Partners, and on the UWC Atlantic College Advisory Council. Earlier in her impact career, she co-founded Oxford Transitional Justice Research, and pioneered the YouthForce HIV/AIDS advocacy platform.

She is an expert speaker on a wide range of topics, including innovative finance, higher education, the future of work, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, impact investing, sustainable development, international politics and human rights.

Lydiah holds a doctorate (D.Phil) in Politics from the University of Oxford (New College). She also holds an MSc in African Studies from Oxford (St. Cross College), where she attended as a Clarendon Scholar. She received an undergraduate degree with honors in Government and a Master of Public Administration from Cornell University.

Sasha Ramani, Director of Corporate Strategy, MPOWER Financing

Sasha Ramani is the Head of Corporate Strategy at MPOWER Financing, a mission-driven firm that provides scholarships and no-cosigner loans to international students. Originally from Toronto, Sasha was both an international student himself at Harvard University, and is the son of international students from India who studied in Canada. He is passionate about democratizing access to education and driving social impact through the private sector.