On Mondays, the Daily Voice introduces you to a member of the UMass Medical School community—could be a new face, or maybe one that’s has been around for a while. We’ve asked our subjects to answer a few questions that might give you insight into their personalities. If you have a suggestion as to someone who might be profiled, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michelle Deignan is immigration coordinator in Human Resources. She has worked for UMass Medical School since 1982.
What brought you here to UMass Medical School?
Originally? To take advantage of the state’s free tuition policy for our two young daughters, Colleen and Kathy. Both ended up graduating from the University of New Hampshire. Since day one, I remained at UMass because of the wonderful people here. Each department and each position have been part of the learning curve. It’s been a wild ride at times!
What do you love most about the work that you do?
I enjoy meeting people from all over the world. I listen to their unique stories about their pathway to the United States and the family they have left behind just to achieve their goal. Many of our international researchers and physicians have not returned to their homeland in over three years. Imagine not seeing your loved ones for that long. Indeed, we are lucky to live in America.
What is the practical application of your work?
In a word: visas. The immigration kind, not the plastic card. Depending on the position and qualifications, we provide information about and issue the F1, J1, H1B, E3, TN visas. For example, the J1 can be research or clinical—a different method is used to create each one. Because there are so many types of visas, we need to determine which “hat” is needed. It has been interesting to see immigration changes in the United States, from pre-9/11 to post-9/11, and immigration changes still continue to evolve.
Which trait do you most admire in yourself?
I am an organized person. If asked to find a certain email about one of those “hats” mentioned earlier, I can produce the email quickly—thanks to modern technology! One of my favorite activities is planning bus trips for the international community. Last June, I organized a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard for 93 people, which involved two buses. My motto: If something seems difficult at first, just put one foot in front of the other and do it!
What’s the question you’re most often asked about your work—and the answer?
People respond to my informational emails by asking, “How do you do it? It’s too confusing.” And my response is, if you’ve done something for 25+ years, it’s like wearing shoes (or hats!)—which shoe fits for the activity? I have the opportunity to attend immigration conferences and network with many people so the growth continues every day.
Describe yourself in six words or fewer.
Dedicated, religious, family-oriented.
My husband of almost 40 years was recently ordained a deacon in the Catholic Church. When he is scheduled to preach, I’ll attend two Masses that weekend because I can’t leave our home parish, even for a weekend. We are co-chairs of our home parish’s capital campaign to raise $1.3 million for a parish center, which is scheduled to open around Christmas this year. Parish community is very special to me.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, name three things you would want.
My family (including sons-in-law, two grandchildren, Brady [dog] and BunBun [rabbit])—that’s one thing, right? The other two would be a good book and a hammock, but I don’t think I’d have time to read with the grandkids around.
If you could have dinner with a famous person, living or dead, who would that be and why?
I would like to have dinner with my parents who died within the past four years and I would introduce my grandson to them. Kevin and I were caregivers for my folks; the bond is still strong.
What are some of your hobbies/interests outside of work?
I have two collections, colored cracked glass vases and rabbits. On Easter, the rabbit collection makes a grand appearance! And I love to read books about Ireland, which really has more than seven shades of green.
What do you consider the most interesting thing about yourself that most people might not know (and you would want to tell them).
I’m a double cancer survivor, colon cancer at age 38 with surgery done by UMMS’ Dr. Wayne Silva, and breast cancer six years ago. I do not stress about little things and consider every day a blessing filled with family and friends.