Southeastern Magazine

Caring Doesn’t Take a Break

Josh Randall, the production manager at Southeastern’s Document Source Print and Mail Center, started the Fall 2023 semester with a surprise visit from a student asking about mail.

Brock Sanders

May 16, 2024

One Staff Member’s Unexpected Journey into Filling a Gap for International Students

Josh Randall, the production manager at Southeastern’s Document Source Print and Mail Center, started the Fall 2023 semester with a surprise visit from a student asking about mail. The simple interaction between Randall and Imole Olugbola, a student from Nigeria studying music performance, opened the doors to a problem in dire need of a solution.

Olugbola had come to the Mail Center to ask about the delivery of his Social Security card, which would allow him to work at the on-campus dining services. Working on campus provided Olugbola with finances to pay for his off-campus apartment and not need transportation to work. However, the card never came in after weeks of asking. Randall took it into his own hands to produce results that the Social Security card office was not providing to Olugbola.

“Let’s just get in my Jeep and drive to the Social Security office to figure this out,” Randall said.

The pair were told that the paperwork had gone through some rerouting but would arrive. Olugbola received his paperwork days later and was able to work on campus. However, this wasn’t the end of their friendship.

Randall inquired about his new Nigerian friend at lunch after the mystery of the lost Social Security card was solved. Olugbola grew up in an impoverished area of Nigeria, according to Randall, and learned how to play the violin at his local library where YouTube was accessible on the free computers. He later moved to Hammond, Louisiana, on a scholarship to play the violin in the Department of Music and Performing Arts.

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Throughout the semester, Randall readily kept up with Olugbola until the cusp of finals in November. It was then that the international student came to the Mail Center asking about job opportunities over the winter break when the university would be shut down.

Due to departments being closed, Olugbola would be out of a job for close to three weeks. An initiative to produce results and try to find a solution drove Randall down a rabbit hole of more questions than answers.

Lack of a work visa or transportation posed a precarious situation in finding a job for one international student and an even larger problem when Ogubola introduced his friend.

“[Ogubola] came in one day and asked, ‘Mr. Josh, I have a friend who is in the same shape and needs a job, can you help him too?’” Randall said.

Curious as to how many other international students were in the same boat as Ogubola and his friend Ayomide Olubuse, Randall asked if a poll could be done. The survey, conducted by Olubuse, produced a list of 34 students at Southeastern from Nigeria who were going to be without a job or family during the winter break.

“It was Christmastime, and you can’t go pinching pennies at Christmastime. That’s not what we do here,” said Randall.

Randall, again, pushed himself to try harder.

He contacted business owners, department heads, and members of the Greater Hammond Chamber of Commerce to give these students a chance to not only live but thrive during the four-week break.

“If there is something that can be done, why can’t it be done?” Randall said, living by the mantra to help people where help is needed.

This urge to help flows into his pastimes, where he is a volunteer fireman; assistant director at his local youth association in Springfield, Louisiana; and the owner of a 20-year-old jeep club.

Randall said he only brings problems to the table if solutions are readily available. He proposed that departments that have to work over winter break and have room on their budget from students who return home promote those open positions for students who are eager to work. Forming a network of business owners that could offer cash jobs for short periods could also open a larger door for other international students that attend Southeastern.

Randall is hopeful and driven that he will do his part to be part of the solution. “I promise you I will do what I can to not let this happen again,” he said.

To further help combat this predicament, the Office of Student Engagement jumped in to arrange a food program to provide for international students remaining close to campus during the break through the Lion Pantry food pantry program. The Lion Pantry provides perishable and non-perishable items to any active Southeastern students who are in need of services throughout the year, and during breaks, this critical resource can make an especially big difference to members of the campus community.

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Within the Office of Student Engagement, Southeastern’s Multicultural and International Student Affairs (MISA) office provides support services, along with social and leadership opportunities, to international students throughout the year, including hosting a popular International Night and housing international student organizations. MISA and other university departments are continuing to investigate additional ways to make sure all students have everything they need to achieve a successful and happy experience at Southeastern, no matter the time of year.

There are close to 160 international students currently enrolled at the university, a number which continues to rise as Southeastern’s reputation for academic excellence mixed with caring support in a welcoming community continues to grow across the globe.

During the Hammond Christmas Parade in December, Southeastern President William Wainwright was adamant that a magnet be placed on one of the floats stating “We love our international students.”

“At Southeastern, you matter here,” Randall said. “I live by that.”

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