IU Police Department cadet takes on role of international student liaison
Jan. 11, 2017
When Shufeng Francis Li discovered the IU Police Department’s Cadet Officer Program, he jumped at the chance to further his knowledge of the criminal justice system. And he was just the asset the department was looking for.
Li, who grew up in China and lived in Europe and Australia before coming to the United States eight years ago, was the perfect candidate to take on the role of the IUPD’s first international student liaison.
The IUPD saw an area for improvement in regard to their outreach with the international student population on campus. As a cadet, Li was tasked with educating the international student population on local laws that might help them navigate campus more comfortably.
For example, in Korea a police vehicle with flashing lights signifies that the police officer is on duty, whereas in the United States, flashing lights indicate that an individual is being pulled over.
"The IUPD strives to help all students feel welcome and safe on all of the IU campuses," said Andy Stephenson, captain of operations at IUPD. "Cadet Li is a very valuable asset for IUPD here in Bloomington. He brings a unique perspective and wisdom to his role, having come to campus as an international student.
"Having Cadet Li serve as a liaison to our international students has, we hope, helped to increase the flow of communication between the IUPD and our community of international students. Cadet Li does a great job of relating to students, building trust and explaining some of the legal differences that may exist in the United States versus their home countries."
Over the course of last semester, Li built relationships with IU’s international student groups across campus. He attended various events hosted by IU’s Office of International Services, spoke on panels geared toward the international community and educated students on the support resources available to them.
"When I talk with the students, I try to put myself in their shoes and explain it in a way that is relevant to their personal experiences," Li said. "That’s the way I learned when I moved somewhere new. I just had to be around people and ask questions."
For Li, this interaction is his favorite part of the job.
"I enjoy public service and helping people, so when I can help students get acclimated to unfamiliar territory and help them feel comfortable at IU, that’s a win for me," he said.
"Francis became a friend to the Office of International Services last year," said Rendy Schrader, the Office of International Service’s director of international student and scholar advising said. "He became very interested in helping us communicate with international students about safety resources on campus, and he assisted us with making sure our students knew there were various support mechanisms available to them."
Although Li is bilingual and fluent in two Chinese dialects, it’s his personality that makes him such an effective liaison.
"He is quiet and unassuming, which makes him very approachable. Then, once you get to know him, you realize he is also very funny and knowledgeable," Schrader said. "Helping us understand what encouragement students may need to take advantage of the resources available to them, and helping provide a student perspective, has been a great resource to the Office of International Services."
Li, who graduated in December with a management degree from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, now works full time with IUPD to continue the work he began as a student.
"The goal is to create a relationship between IUPD and IU’s international students, so they feel more at ease and don't hesitate to reach out to us should the need arise," he said.
Because of his experience with IUPD, Li now wants to pursue law enforcement as a full-time career and possibly even attend law school.
"Before becoming a cadet, this path was not even on my radar," he said. "However, having spent the last 16 months working in the law enforcement field, I have been bitten by the bug."
Most agencies in the United States require police officers to be U.S. citizens, so Li is looking at ways to earn his citizenship and be one step closer to serving the town he considers "home."
"In the past four and a half years, Bloomington and Indiana University have been my home," Li said. "This has been almost as long as I have lived anywhere else in the world, and I believe it to be the best place I have lived. It would be an honor to one day serve and protect the Hoosiers of IU (local and international) in Bloomington alongside the fine men and women of IUPD."
Shufeng Francis Li's work with the IUPD aligns with priorities outlined in the university’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan, including a commitment to student success and a global university.