Profiles in Immigration – Robert Morris University

Robert Morris University is a nationally ranked, doctoral-granting university located in Pittsburgh, PA. RMU was ranked in the US News and World Report Best Colleges in the U.S and was ranked among the “Best in the Northeast” by the Princeton Review 2021 Best Colleges. FordMurray founding partner Russell Ford has worked as immigration counsel for RMU for more than 10 years – see a profile of a former RMU coach who recently became a naturalized citizen of the United States here. 

“Big enough to matter, small enough to care.”  

The guiding value of Robert Morris University is visible throughout the organization – from intimate class sizes to responsive degree programs to employee onboarding, which ensures that every stakeholder, whether part-time or president, is invested in the Universities values.

When it comes to hiring noncitizen faculty, researchers, and staff, Robert Morris depends on FordMurray to deliver these same University values throughout the nonimmigrant and immigrant visa petition processes. 

The campus of Robert Morris University at sunset

RMU Chief Human Resources Officer Lisa Hernandez said the partnership with FordMurray is seamless. Lisa, an employment attorney by trade, said FordMurray founding partner Russell Ford stands out for his expertise and assuredness. 

“I work with a lot of lawyers, and I don’t work with a lot of lawyers as decisive as Russell,” she explained. “He inspires confidence and has an incredible breadth and depth of knowledge. He knows his stuff.” 

With FordMurray’s counsel, Robert Morris University can recruit the best candidates for open positions – regardless of nationality. The University employs faculty, staff and researchers on nonimmigrant H-1B, TN, O-1 and J-1 visas, and also sponsors employers for immigrant status, using Special Handling and regular PERM processing, and EB-1B extraordinary ability petitions.  

It’s really a feather in a University’s cap to have a lot of diverse and international talent on the academic side.

Lisa Hernandez, Chief Human Resources Officer of Robert Morris University

“To get the best talent, and to get the people who are really experts in their field, you’re not always going to be able to draw that talent locally, or even domestically,” Lisa said.  

Not only does hiring international applicants fill important positions at the University, but noncitizen faculty also brings cultural diversity and diversity of thought and experience. “It’s really a feather in a University’s cap to have a lot of diverse and international talent on the academic side,” Lisa said. 

While Robert Morris University supports hiring noncitizen faculty and staff, unfamiliarity with immigration processes can negatively impact the recruitment process. 

“There’s a lot of unintentional discrimination that can happen with international candidates,” Lisa said. “I think that our hiring managers tend to overestimate how complicated it’s going to be.” 

Robert Morris University graduates celebrate their big day.

Holly McIlwain, RMU Director of Human Resources and Talent Management, said FordMurray’s support has helped demystify immigration processes for hiring managers. With more than 50 hiring managers hiring for faculty positions throughout the University, having responsive, consistent guidance is critical. 

For visa petitions, FordMurray established workflows so every stakeholder knows what to expect. “Russell has spent time with us and helped us develop a process that didn’t exist for us. Because of that, our hiring managers know what to expect in the process. We’re allowing them to really plan appropriately for how they’re going to respond to critical staffing,” Holly said. 

For permanent resident petitions, FordMurray makes navigating the PERM process effortless, for RMU’s HR professionals and for the candidate. 

“As an HR professional, the process is important to efficiently facilitating the work of the university I serve,” Holly explained. “When we are fortunate enough to find a talented candidate with a citizenship status that requires additional support, the right partner matters. FordMurray is a valuable part of our recruitment and retention efforts because we can rely on trustworthy guidance, consistent communication, and efficient process management.” 

FordMurray has helped dispel myths around the cost of visa petitions – both the monetary investment and time required to file a petition.  

Attracting and retaining as much diversity as possible is critical in ascending to the national stage as an institution of higher education.

Lisa Hernandez, Chief Human Resources Officer of Robert Morris University

 “These are not turnover positions,” Holly said. “These are people who are with us for a long time really adding to the legacy and value of the University.” 

Having clear protocols and responsive counsel not only eliminates uncertainties for HR team members, it creates trust for noncitizen employees. 

“The fact that we have expectations communicated both ways, with frequent communication and responsiveness, has allowed us to be very crystal clear about where we are in the process, how everything is moving on as expected. It reassures both the hiring manager and the incoming employee, and it has increased that level of trust between those employees and our organization on the whole,” Holly said. 

RMU faculty on stage during the University’s graduation commencement. RMU takes pride in the diversity of its faculty and staff.

With the ability to confidently hire international faculty, HR leaders support RMU’s strategic vision of growth in the 21st century and help facilitate diversity and inclusion initiatives at the University.  

“Attracting and retaining as much diversity as possible is critical in ascending to the national stage as an institution of higher education,” Lisa said. Foreign faculty provides a warm welcome to the University’s international students – RMU’s robust international student program hosts students from more than 35 countries – and brings enrichment to the entire student body. 

“We have lots of students who are probably coming from a relatively homogenous part of the country, and who are used to similar kinds of thoughts and thinking,” Lisa said. “We’re doing those students a service – enriching their lives and their education.” 

Ultimately, FordMurray is a partner Robert Morris University can rely on to instill its values into the complex world of immigration.  

“Immigration is too important of a part of our business for us to afford to make any mistakes. The level of competence that we have, and the people we work with that FordMurray, allows us to be very sure that the people were bringing into the university that you’re going to be well cared for and respected, and any obstacles that we encounter will be navigated with the utmost care and professionalism,” Lisa said.  

Interesting in learning more? FordMurray offers complimentary consultations to higher education employers.