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Beautiful Minds Migrating to the United States

In a recent blog on LindkedIn’s Diversity and Inclusion Programs International, a subgroup of Global Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace, Fiona Citkin, Ph.D. founder and Managing Director at Expert MS, Inc., posed an interesting question: “Do we need immigrants with beautiful minds?”

To make this debate even more interesting, Dr. Citkin included her article “The Other Immigrant Women: Former Fulbright Fellows for America”, published in The Huffington Post on November 4th, 2013.

The question of the pros and cons of immigration is something that most developed countries are asking themselves today, and in the United States, people are also asking: Is it good or is it bad to pass an immigration reform bill in this country?

It seems easy to discard the idea that immigrants may be of any use to the US when we limit ourselves to thinking that most foreigners are undocumented workers taking over agricultural jobs from American people – regardless of how disparaging this assertion may be. In this country, when we think of Mexican immigrants, we prefer to remain within our comfort zone by ignoring the existence of distinguished diplomats and authors like Octavio Paz, 1990 Nobel Prize in Literature, Professor at Berkeley, and Mario Molina, 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, appointed by President Obama as one of 18 scientists that form the Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology.

No, it is easier to think instead that immigrants consist solely of agricultural workers.

In the case of women, when we have to think of what Dr. Citkin calls “atypical” immigrant women, the decision becomes much more difficult.

In her recent article, Dr. Citkin describes how thousands of immigrant women in this country have professional degrees, even MBAs or Ph.Ds. What is even more interesting is to find out that immigrant women actually have a higher percentage of professional degrees than women born in the US, at a rate of 11% vs. 10.2%.

As a former Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Citkin took a good look at the program to investigate how many foreign-born female former Fulbright Fellows now live and work in the United States, and what their effect is on the perception of immigrants in general in their host country.

And if we were to talk about foreign women with impressive minds here in the United States, we could refer to Fulbright Scholars Madeleine Albright, Ph.D., Czech immigrant and former US Secretary of State; Cuban immigrant Rita M. Rodriguez, Ph.D., former director of the Export-Import Bank of the United States; and Supreme Court Justice, Puerto Rican descent Sonia Sotomayor.

In her article, Dr. Citkin also mentions Venezuelan-born Dr. Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg -- another Fulbright Scholar -- Chief Investment Officer and Asset Liability Advisor for the World Bank, as only one of the many immigrants that contribute with their talent to the development of the United States.

Here in Michigan, some of the most prestigious universities recognize the importance and value of distinguished foreign female professionals. Such is the case of Yoshika Ellicott, Professor ofAsian Studies at Wayne State University; Margherita Fontana, DDS, Ph.D. (U of M), Associate Professor of Cariology, Restorative Sciences and Endodontics, School of Dentistry; Ivette Perfecto, Ph.D.(U of M), Professor of Natural Resources and Environment Research Interests; Ashley Lucas, Ph.D. (U of M), Associate Professor of Theatre & Drama; and Alicia Alvarez (U of M), Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Community and Economic Development Clinic (also at University of Michigan).

In answer to Dr. Citkin’s question regarding whether or not “immigrants with the beautiful minds” are an asset to this country, a quote by Madeleine Albright comes to mind:

“I am a beneficiary of the American people's generosity, and I hope we can have comprehensive immigration legislation that allows this country to continue to be enriched by those who were not born here".