Horizons Broadened

By Gleason, Bruce | International Educator, September/October 2015 | Go to article overview

Horizons Broadened


Gleason, Bruce, International Educator


LAST YEAR I concluded a two-year term as the interim director of international education at the University of St. Thomas (UST) in St. Paul, Minnesota. Since returning to my primary role on campus as a tenured faculty member in the Department of Music, and now as chair of the Department of Teacher Education, I've had the time to reflect on how the interim role as an international educator administrator challenged me and changed me.

While my knowledge of UST global initiatives was minimal going into the job, I had developed a respectable personal international travel portfolio of 30 countries- research in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe; several concert tours through Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic; music history and conducting study in Switzerland; and performing in a U.S. Army Band in Berlin for ceremonies for the reunification of Germany. As well, I had kept up with international politics and culture in general, so I hadn't expected much of a learning curve. However, in reflecting on my international education experiences, it appears that I've come through them a changed man-albeit in ways that wouldn't have occurred to me years ago.

As the international education director, my work consisted of overseeing the directors of international admissions and study abroad, who in turn oversee a combined staffof 10-as well as numerous undergraduate student workers and several graduate assistants. Additionally, our adept international education office coordinator also reported to me.

Within this capacity, I was pleased to meet many faculty members with whom I previously had had little to no contact-individuals who have been doing wonderful work with our international students as well as with our domestic students in study abroad arenas. I was pleased to find many kindred spirits in the multitude of gatherings that became part of my weekly life-making decisions with the Academic Review Committee for International Education on new and repeat study abroad courses; conferring with the International Risk Assessment Committee on USTsponsored travel to destinations under U.S. Department of State travel advisories; and gathering monthly with the "International Programs Matrix," a group combining international education with International Student Services and International Academic Advising as well as staffof the regional ELS office-all with the combined goal of joining efforts for campus global competency. As well, there were meetings with Fulbright application committees, internal international faculty grant applicants, and service learning committees-not to mention typical budget, dean's, and provost's meetings. Moreover, on a regular basis I worked with vice presidents and associate vice presidents whose titles and offices prior to my international education appointment I had never encountered-or heard of.

However, it wasn't my newfound knowledge about administrative functions that changed my view of university work, but rather the daily rubbing of shoulders with international education staffmembers. While I had worked with clerical, registrar, admissions, university relations, promotional, and human resources staffover the years, this was the first time in my 30-some years within academia that my schedule consisted primarily of working with and among a professional group of staffmembers on a daily basis. And the experience was eye opening.

While I understood firsthand the preservice years of undergraduate and graduate academic training and in-service tenure preparation that faculty members undertake, it somehow had never occurred to me that staffmembers are indeed formally educated and trained for their professions as well. Among the undergraduate degrees represented by the 11 international education staffmembers are Irish studies, English, communication studies, Spanish, Latin American studies, global studies, biology, anthropology, classics, public relations, art history, political science, American studies, quantitative methods, computer systems, and English language and literature-with minors too numerous to list here. …

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