One Degree, One Way-Ticket

You come across the globe to start a new life, only to finish where you began. That is exactly what happened to Naveen Dass.

He was a well rounded student with a GPA of 3.735 by the time he graduated in the spring of 2016 from New Mexico State University, Dass just got hired with McGraw-Hill Education in Southern California immediately after graduating. There he would help the company develop and improve the math software known as “Aleks” until he was abruptly laid off and was forced to leave the country earlier this year do to a wrong doing by NMSU.

He would still be in this country if the university would have given him the proper information on what his degree would say on his diploma.

“The Professors, the faculty, the head of the department sold the degree as Experimental Psychology and when I got my degree it didn’t say that,” said Dass.

Dass comes from an entirely different country than the United States – he was an international student from India. He came to New Mexico State University to pursue a Masters degree in “Experimental Psychology” where he would focus on researching educational habits. He was excited to be apart of the psychology department.

“I had a great time with the program and all the staff were absolutely supportive of all their students,” said Dass.

It was one mistake made by the university that completely changed Naveen Dass’ life in a matter of days.

He came to the United States on a student visa to pursue his education. The application is known as SEVIS. According to the government, SEVIS is a web-based system for maintaining information on international nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors in the United States. In the database there is an option to classify your degree under a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program.

“Experimental psychology is a STEM program in the SEVIS database, and general psychology isn’t,” said Dass.

He started employment with McGraw-Hill in Orange County, California without any problems in the summer of 2016. Naveen Dass moved his wife, who at the time was pregnant with his second child and toddler son to Mission Viejo, California. They lived in an apartment complex that had a hefty price tag of $2,000 a month which isn’t uncommon for the area Dass was living in. He was able to work, because of a STEM work authorization granted by the SEVIS system.

In January of 2017 he had to re-new his employment verification form in order to keep being employed with the McGraw-Hill Education. In March the application came back denying his ability to work in the U.S. due to the fact that his credentials said “Psychology” rather than “Experimental Psychology”. That same day the company was forced to lay him off due to the application being denied.

“It was like my whole life was turned upside down,” said Dass.

Every possible thought ran through his head on how this was possible. There wasn’t much time for Dass to figure it out. His days in the country were now numbered and he had to figure out how he was going to move his entire family back to India by May of this year. The stress became so much that his pregnant wife developed gestational diabetes from the abrupt changes that were to come.

“I couldn’t break my lease at my apartment. I kept paying $2,000 a month until August when my lease broke,” said Dass.

Without any source of income, Dass and his family moved back to Goa, India where his in-laws have been supporting them ever since. The story didn’t end for Naveen when he got back to India. The plot thickened like a day time T.V. Drama when he reached out to the University on the situation.

According to Dass he got two very different answers from University officials. The first was from Greg Fant, the Associate Vice President and Deputy Provost of NSMU supporting Dass on his efforts to fix the wrong doing of the university.

In a letter written by Fant he states, “This letter is in support of Naveen Dass’ Motion to Reopen (I-290B) his Application for a STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension.”

The letter states that the university is at fault for not providing the right degree for the type of courses they offer. He also goes on to say that the purpose of the Psychology Masters degree is to emphasize a particular sub-area of Experimental Psychology for students. With the support of the Associate Vice President and Deputy Provost you think this issue would be resolved, but it hasn’t.

Naveen Dass was later informed by NMSU’s legal department denying any wrong doing on their part. They offered him no financial assistance and no apology on the situation. The legal department only offered advice on how to stay in the country legally.

“I was so heated I couldn’t even respond to that letter,” said Dass.

He couldn’t afford a lawyer to help him resolve the issue at hand, because he was surviving off his savings and hasn’t found any source of income in India.
“The university admitted to their wrong doing in a letter and then retracted everything they said in order to fix the issue. I was supported by everyone in the department and Greg Fant,” said Dass.

The Round Up reached out to the department head of Psychology and were immediately turned down for any form of interview. They directed us to the University Council and we have yet to hear back from them as well.

Naveen Dass wants his story to be shared not only to help himself but to help any other international students who may face the same issues he has from the University.

Sara Gjerlev, an international student from Norway, came to NMSU to finish up her Bachelors of Arts in English and felt like the university didn’t inform her on certain details.

“I wasn’t advised on the fees I had to pay to the university or what classes I needed to take,” said Gjerlev.

She said that she went to her advisor’s multiple times and never got a clear answer from them on how to go ahead on paying for the fees that weren’t clear to her. Gjerlev also wasn’t made aware about other added costs towards her education in the U.S.

“Why do I need to pay extra for an access code or books? In Norway it was included with going to school,” said Gjerlev.

Sara Gjerlev may not be facing unemployment for the university’s wrong doing, but the university may need to reconsider and update the way they handle certain issues when it comes to international students to prevent any more wrong doing.

Naveen Dass is just one story of how one mistake from the university can ultimately change your life.

“None of this was our fault, I just hope they can fix this so I can start my life again,” said Dass.

The Round Up will keep you updated on any information on Naveen Dass’ story when more information surfaces.


Facebook Comments