Service Beyond Self - Eissa Villaseñor '98

Eissa Villaseñor says of her time at Webb that it gave her “the confidence to try new things, even if they were hard.”
She certainly takes on the world as a Refugee Officer at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Washington, D.C. where she works to help protect the United States and ensure that deserving and eligible people take the limited refugee resettlement spots available on an annual basis.
Though based in the capital, Villaseñor has typically been on the move 50% of the year, each trip requiring 4 to 6 weeks of travel depending on the location and case load. A fluent Spanish speaker, she’s traveled frequently to Cuba and Ecuador, but also to locations in Kenya and Lebanon.
The purpose of her travel is to interview applicants seeking refugee status and to determine whether those individuals are eligible to be resettled in the United States. Villaseñor explained:
“The interview is to determine if the person has been persecuted or will likely suffer persecution on account of 5 protected grounds – race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. I’m looking to see if they meet that definition.”
Villaseñor must also determine if the applicant has committed certain crimes, or if he/she will be a threat to national security.
“It’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s the best job I will have ever done,” she said of her numerous trips to refugee camps and other locations, and encounters with people in difficult circumstances. Nowadays, she works at headquarters with the policy branch.
“I’ve always been interested in service to others,” said Villasenor. “My family is a family of immigrants.”
After graduating from Mount Holyoke College with a B.A. in Political Science and Spanish, Villaseñor attended law school at the University of Minnesota. In the year between undergraduate and graduate studies, she volunteered in South Africa with a non-profit working with refugees. “That’s how that became my focus in law school,” she said.
At times her work is equally harrowing and gratifying.
“When you do these interviews [with refugees], you’re working with vulnerable individuals and families and they’re sharing the most intimate details of their lives, describing why they can’t return to their home countries. These are difficult stories to hear – tragic things have happened to cause them to flee their homes,” she said.
And yet, on the upside, being an officer is “a great way to represent the United States,” she said. “It’s gratifying to know you can help someone come to the United States – to be protected, to let them resume their lives – to go back to work, to have their children go to school.”
Though it can be an exhausting job, Villaseñor said it helps her realize that “we have more in common with these people than we think we do – they want their kids to be safe, they want to do something with their lives. No one chooses to be a refugee.”
Villaseñor says she “recharges” with family and friends. “It’s hard to do this job for a long time because you’re in and out of the United States,” she said.
But she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“This is where my heart is – in this work,” she made clear. “I appreciate and believe in the mission of our office.”

Read More News

Alumni News

List of 4 news stories.


Webb News

List of 4 news stories.

  • Lifelong Learning: The Third Education Revolution

    In this fascinating article in The Atlantic, writer Jeffrey Selingo dives into the argument many economists, educators, and work-force development professionals are making today--our education in early life does not seem sufficient for the needs of our 21st century economy. The third wave, as he describes, will be one of continual training and education and retraining. Read more in The Atlantic.
    Read More
  • Alumni Events April 2018: New York, Philadelphia & London

    Alumni, family and friends are invited to join Head of Schools Taylor Stockdale and special guests for three events this April in New York City (April 11), Philadelphia (April 12) and London, England (April 14).
    Read More
  • Winter Sports Round-Up & Honors 2018

    Once again, Webb athletes had a strong showing across the board during the 2018 winter season. Led by WSC soccer, which finished the season League Champions and with a deep run into CIF, both VWS and WSC athletics posted very positive results. VWS Water Polo also finished its league play in second place.
    “It is always great each season to not only see our athletes and teams be successful on the field of play, but to see them learn and grow as individuals and part of a community,” said Director of Athletics Steve Wishek.
    Read More
  • VWS Dean of Students Sarah Lantz holds a portrait of Vivian Webb

    Women of Webb Around the World

    In honor of International Women's Day, the Alumni Office recognizes the Vivian Webb School's 1,355 alumnae around the globe.
    Read More

Sports Blog

List of 4 news stories.

The Webb Schools Boarding Preparatory School California Private School Financial Aid Paleontology College Placement Top Academics Faculty Ph.D Community Fun