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Real-World viewpoints from leaders in our field

Interviews of Women Professionals

Sharing Real-world viewpoints

We are excited to bring you an amazing section dedicated solely to the pursuit of sharing real-world viewpoints from women in our field. Our goal is to interview women who have had either unique experiences or just plain more experience than you so that you can learn from their wisdom and apply it in your own daily work challenges.

Limelight Interviews

Our interview style will change with every chat so that we can keep it fresh.  We hope you will read our spotlight interviews and get inspired to submit suggestions of other women who we should interview.  Every one of you has something special to share so please let us know who you would like to hear from!

  • 18 Sep 2020 4:08 PM | Anonymous

    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW with Melinda Massaro Ingersoll

    I often wonder if working in International Education is more of a vocation and a calling than a career choice based on earning capacity and job security. I sometimes see myself as an inventor, devoting myself to developing new programs, a counsellor, speaking to students around the world on how I can help them achieve their dreams, and an advocate for social justice in trying to bring equality to global education and create opportunities for all.

    I recently started working with someone who embodies this notion that International Education is a vocation and someone who probably knew she wanted to work in this field when she was a child, and despite being laid off from her job as Director of Global Programs at La Salle University during Covid, knows she will return to this field and work again with students in International Education.

    My conversations with Melinda Massaro Ingersoll have been inspiring and motivational and a reminder of why I work in this field also.

    I started working with Melinda as part of a project with the Global Leadership League and very soon it was evident we had a lot in common and saw the world through the same lens. Notwithstanding the fact, we had both lived in and loved Manchester and China, we had a lot to talk about.

    Sometimes a career choses you and I think this was the case with Melinda.

    She tells me that as a child, she was encouraged to be interested in learning about different cultures.

    She was always exposed to diversity, supported by her parents who were excited for her to have many friends from different nationalities, learn about different cultures, love their food, and learn their language from a young age.

    When her teen friends were hanging up posters of pop bands in their lockers at high school, she hung up a picture by a National Geographic of an Indian woman during the Holi festival and remembering this being the most beautiful thing she had seen. She wrote to the National Geographic for career advice as she wanted to be a photographer, travel the world, learn about cultures, meet people and celebrate their differences.

    And the National Geographic wrote back to her advising her to focus on a college degree incorporating photography but not exclusively, and from that advice she studied a degree in journalism and sociology. She still has that letter from National Geographic by the way!

    You could say that Melinda’s career in International Education was born as an Undergrad student in college. Like many of us I think, she didn’t know this was a field or an industry but when she started working with exchange and international students as an RA with the International Office at SUNY Buffalo, a new world was opened up to her, and she has lived in and loved that world since!  

    During Grad school she became director of the International Building and with this exposure to international students, she thought she would also like the opportunity to study abroad.  

    Coming from a family of 8 and with little study abroad opportunities available to her at the time, Melinda had to create her own pathway and found an internship at Manchester Metropolitan University. She paved the way to her first international experience, by securing a job  at the international student accommodation office in Manchester.

    This was the start of a long career engaging with students, doing assessment surveys and helping them to solve problems and find solutions to improve their international experiences.

    Returning to  Grad School back in the US, she started working as a TA for her Chinese sociology professor and when he asked her if she wanted to join the Chinese Studies program and have the opportunity to visit China as part of the program, she jumped on it.

    And thus began her love affair with China, an experience that would lead her to bring her own students back to China four years later as part of her own study program bringing US and Chinese students together. She reminisces on her time in China, that was not without its challenges. Her stay as a teacher in Dalian Medical University was during the SARS epidemic and marred by ill health during her stay, followed by advice by her father, who then worked with the WHO, she had to leave China and come home early which disappointed her deeply. But she would return four years later...

    Her time in China was also when the US invaded Iraq leading to the Iraqi War which China was against and she saw the impact of geopolitics first hand on a country’s brand, the danger of stereotypes and how the actions of our governments can damage personal relationships. She saw the need for on the ground collaboration between students from the US and China to build a better understanding of each other’s cultures and the impact that forming relationships can have on better cultural understanding.

    After coming home from China, she started applying for jobs with International Offices at universities and got a job with Skidmore College at Residential Life. But it was a move to Philadelphia where she started working with La Salle University that would lead to her dream job. She started doing programming and working in an activities centre and slowly started building her connections with the International Office collaborating on different activities and programs and she knew this is where she wanted to be. She had been continually applying for jobs at International Offices but when a colleague at La Salle was leaving his job in the International Office and encouraged her to apply, she took the opportunity.

    She didn’t have the international experience but after successfully getting the job, her new boss told her afterwards that you can always teach someone the skills but you can’t teach them the personality.  She was she was told the perfect fit!

    What impresses me most from my conversation with Melinda is how she has continuously returned to her ethics and ethos and what led her to international education since putting up that photo of the Indian lady during Holi in high school.

    Whilst working as an international education coordinator in her new role at LaSalle, she also started teaching a Chinese history courses and brought students back to her beloved China each year. She closed the circle on the Dalian experience by returning four years later and met many of the colleagues and friends she had to say good bye abruptly to during SARS.

    She loved bringing students to China and showing them the China beyond what they knew from mainstream media, beyond Beijing and Shanghai, travelling south, meeting minorities, getting off the tourist trail and was always very excited for her US students when they saw a different China and understood the diversity, cultures, history and anthropology of that country.

    She did the same for her students by bringing them to India, pulling back the curtain from the usual tourist spots and studying and meeting people discussing social stratification, the caste system, arranged marriages and helping students correlate this back to US, for example with the issue of racism.  

    She tells me she felt very honoured to be able to bring students on this journey, to see them face the challenges of culture shock, studying ethnic minorities, social injustice issues, human trafficking in Nepal, social stratification but importantly that correlation back to US society and the US system.

    Her goal through it all was working with history, travel and social justice issues – through this she wanted students to get an understanding of where US culture lies and the challenges in the US. Being able to show that the US was not perfect either in terms of challenges, in terms of poverty and social injustice.

    I am made very aware of how Melinda’s programs were probably ahead of their time when we see the social justice uprisings in the US recently.

    She has seen the impact of these study programs. Students on their return from China and India formed lasting relationships, looked beyond poverty and cultural challenges to create lasting connections. Students felt more empowered to understand connections better, they reached out to the Chinese and Indian community in Philadelphia when they came back, promoting cultural understanding and a more inclusive community…

    And surely this is at the very core of all of our work as Global Educators...

    For her, the ethos of international education is to give students that nudge and bravery to step out of their comfort zone. She has seen her role as a guide for students, to be able to encourage them, to give them the opportunity, to square the circle for them, to provide them with such unique experiences, as they gain so much out from these experiences.

    So now, having been laid off from her job, her work which was her true passion, I ask her how Covid-19 has impacted her life and does she see a return to her career in international education someday?

    She is currently volunteering with several organisations as she still wants to be part of global education, she wants to return to this career, does not want to feel disconnected and therefore is doing her best to return to the work she loves.

    She sees the role of communities such as the Global Leadership League as being very important now that people in our industry are being laid off, furloughed, or are under pressure financially, or have been through difficult times, trying to homeschool children, care for relatives and are under significant pressure in their personal and work lives.

    With Covid-19 and the impact it has had on international education, she and so many of our community have lost all the passion and excitement, that came with their jobs. There is a loss now where there was so much passion before.

    We ask ourselves, had we put too much commercial value into International Education and is that why we have lost so much so quickly? Was there so much tied up in international education commercially that it was the first to go at so many institutions.

    Melinda sees international education as a service to students and there were huge personal losses as a result of layoffs. Students, both incoming and outgoing were cut off from opportunities, personal connections were lost, and so many stories were behind these job losses

    People such as Melinda have made such an impact to Global Education, their connections run deeper than the job and the university  … and this is why she knows she will return to this field

    What advice does she give to fellow colleagues and readers that have lost their jobs, are being furloughed and are experiencing stress and challenges due to Covid 19?

    If you can wait this out, for people lucky enough to find another job, do other things on the side, and when we are able to, she knows there will be a chance to return to this work. It is very important to stay connected, volunteering with organisations such as NAFSA, Forum on Education Abroad and the League. It is important to stay connected, feel connected and stick it out.

    She is currently completing her MBA, has been caring for her family and has been busy with side projects. Some days it is difficult to overcome with uncertainty when so much stability is gone from her life and so many of our readers will relate to this.

    We are all in this at some level and we have all been affected at some level and she believes it is good to remind ourselves of this and that we are not alone. It is comforting but also very difficult when so many of our colleagues are going through tough financial times.

    So many are struggling.

    She sees the positives of being able to spend so much extra time with her daughter. She also realises she is now out of her comfort zone, something she so often told her students they needed to do. Her father often told her, the best path in life to go down is the least unknown path.

    She is now on that path so is taking her own and her father’s advice.

    She says to stay positive, stay connected and use this time to be ready for when we have the chance to come together again and do that work we love as global educators

    I have been inspired by my conversation with Melinda. I would encourage every reader that has been affected by Covid 19 to reach out and connect with people in similar situations. There are huge challenges but it is important to feel connected, you are not alone.

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Noreen Lucy

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 17 Dec 2019 3:12 PM | Anonymous

    What was your dream job as a kid and why?

    If it changed, what led to that decision?I was rather fixated for on becoming a dentist. I came to realize as I grew older that I didn’t actually want to spend my waking hours looking in the mouths of strangers. When I entered college, I planned to teach high school German.  Prior to graduation, my fiancé (now husband) got a job in a different state that would have required different certification, so I decided to focus first on finding a job to pay the bills. As luck would have it, I discovered an opportunity in the field of education abroad, and have not looked back since. 

    Tell us about your first international experience and how that influenced your current career choice.
    I grew up as the child of career diplomats, so I didn’t actually live in the U.S. until high school. I was born in Colombia, and lived in Burma, Hong Kong and Austria. I spent my pivotal childhood and adolescent years in Vienna, where I attended an international school, which was comprised of students from around the world. This exposure to a multitude of cultures engrained in me a deep desire to foster intercultural understanding, as I greatly enjoyed living among and learning from people whose heritages and cultural norms are so different from my own. This environment produced its own culture of open-mindedness and appreciation of differences that it has been my life’s goal to facilitate that same opportunity for future generations.

    What was your first job in international education?
    I learned about my first job in through a Washington Post print ad. Just a few months out of college with a degree in German and Spanish, there wasn’t a clear career path for me. I applied for an position at the College Consortium for International Studies (CCIS). The idea of working to facilitate educational experiences abroad piqued my interest. Fortunately, I was afforded the opportunity to work at CCIS by two people who took a chance on a recent graduate, and it is perhaps the single most pivotal experience of my professional career. I quickly fell in love with the work and the people within the field, and my professional trajectory has evolved entirely due to that first opportunity.

    Describe a typical day/week at the office at your current job.
    Oh, if only there was a ‘typical’ day!  It depends on the time of year and world events! Much of my time is spent working with the API University Relations team. I also get to meet with new API staff across divisions to provide the historical context of our work and to provide new professionals with an overview of international education in the U.S. I also communicate regularly with U.S. university partners, answering questions ranging from program-specific details to emergency management. My responsibilities also include planning site visits and serving on the API Crisis Management Team. I am responsible for ensuring that our partners are fully informed of our response to any crisis that occurs. Finally, I work with our Advisory Board to discuss current policies and future initiatives, which allows us to gather external feedback to ensure that we continue to employ best practices.

    What do you enjoy the most about your job?
    My job allows me to work with the most incredible people. My responsibilities are broad enough that I have the fortune of working closely with both API domestic and on-site staff, and I could not ask for a better work family. I enjoy working with new professionals in our field, as I love seeing them grow. As I age further away from the college student demographic, it’s also informative for me to learn from the younger staff just what drives the current generation. I also am afforded the opportunity to interact regularly with U.S. institutional partners across the entire country. I enjoy visiting campuses all across the U.S., and it is fascinating to me to see just how different each campus culture is, and how a student’s background and institutional choice informs their awareness of and feelings about study abroad.

    If I had to name my favorite part of my job, it is the chance to work with our students, both prior to and following their term abroad. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing how international education has impacted the student, their family, and their community, and the fact that my work may have played a tiny role in their journey is profoundly moving.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
    I am intrinsically a people-pleaser, which makes it challenging when I can’t make everyone happy. When it comes to managing staff, I try to ensure that each individual feels supported and valued, and that I am advocating for their best interests. However, there are few circumstances in life that allow for every person involved to be 100% thrilled with the outcome; given how much I care for those I supervise, I always struggle with decisions that may lead to somebody being disappointed. Similarly, I want each of our students to view their time abroad as absolutely perfect; however, there will always be students who don’t love every moment of our programs, almost always due to circumstances beyond our control.  At the end of the day, I have to be comfortable knowing that I’ve done everything I can to make the majority of people happy, and I remind myself that out of disappointment comes personal growth.

    What has working in international education taught you about yourself and your own culture?
    I can say with some confidence that the vast majority of Americans have not traveled outside of the U.S. It appears from my personal experiences with people who live elsewhere and with people who have never left, that Americans tend to be less apt to explore different cultures and tend to be less comfortable traveling to places where they do not speak the language nor understand local customs. I also think that we, as a culture, may not fully appreciate the privileges and conveniences we have come to expect. If it’s all you’ve ever known, then It’s hard to appreciate that it is not a given that you will have the right to vote or the right to protest peacefully, or guaranteed public education, etc. In terms of conveniences, so many in the U.S. take for granted things like running water, air conditioning, cell phone service, etc. I think this lack of awareness plays a role in intercultural misunderstandings on a micro level, and factor into the isolationist or anti-immigrant narrative that seems prevalent today.

    On a positive note, I have traveled widely and spent almost half of my life living in other countries, and I can also say that Americans do tend to be among the friendliest in the world. I appreciate the American ethos that service to others is important and critical to the success of the community. Volunteering is something that is commonplace. It’s also common for those with lesser means to donate to causes important to them, which is something that I have heard from other countries is “inherently American”, and I love that!

    Is there a value or principal from another culture that you have embraced and applied to your own life?
    While I was immeasurably fortunate to grow up traveling as much as I did, one byproduct of this lifestyle was that I rarely saw my extended family. In my experiences with other cultures, family is paramount and time spent with relatives is valued above all else. I have seen this across cultures, across continents, and I absolutely wanted to provide this kind of experience for my own children. As such, we have remained in the same area for the last 18 years, in large part because we want our son and our daughter to grow up near their extended family, as we so appreciate the importance of fostering strong, intergenerational relationships with our family members, who themselves bring their own varied cultural and personal lenses to every interaction.

    On a different note, as an American, I’ve heard time and again the old adage, “never discuss religion or politics at the dinner table.” This is completely contrary to what I have witnessed in many other cultures. While I do generally tend to shy away from conflict, I also firmly believe that the political polarization and divisive discourse that seems to be so prevalent in the United States today could have been mitigated if we were willing to have open and honest conversations with those who may not agree with us on important issues. I try to encourage open dialogue with my children on topics that could be construed as delicate, as I hope they will learn to seek out opinions different than their own to foster better understanding, and hopefully this will allow them to explore new ideas and formulate their own values based on what they learn from others.

    Do you have a career mentor or someone that you consult with about career growth? How has that person influenced your career growth?
    I have been blessed to work with the four women who founded API 22 years ago, all of whom have served as personal and professional mentors. Each one has taught me how to balance work and family life, and have truly led by example. They inspire me on a daily basis, and have proven that women can successfully pursue their passion and can succeed in a landscape often dominated by men, while managing to retain a supportive and welcoming work environment. The four “founding mamas” of API have always encouraged me and all of my colleagues to lead with compassion, to advocate for myself and for those I manage, to walk with confidence and trust that making the ethical decision will always lead to greater fulfillment and professional success, and that every voice matters when making decisions. 

    Describe a moment in your career that you consider your greatest achievement.
    My proudest professional accomplishment is a direct result of a personal circumstance. Specifically, I have been blessed to raise a son who falls on the autism spectrum. I have learned more from him, and from being his parent, than I could ever have imagined. In my role as his parent, I researched autism day in and day out so that I could understand and support him better. I also wanted to advocate for awareness of the reality of autism. As autism diagnoses have increased in the U.S., it was only a matter of time before we started to receive questions about how to support those on the spectrum should they wish to study abroad. I have been able to work with our on-site staff as they prepare to host our students abroad, and I have also been fortunate to serve as a resource in the field for those who are hoping to send their students on the spectrum to study abroad. In 2015, I had the honor of presenting at the Forum on International Education Conference with a panel of likeminded individuals, all of whom wished to increase access to international education for those with disabilities or special needs. This opportunity was without question a highlight of my professional career, and I am beyond grateful to have been able to share what I’ve learned to hopefully advocate for greater participation in education abroad for those on the autism spectrum.

    In my own research and personal experience, I discovered a lot of parallels between neuro-typical students in the throes of culture shock and those on the autism spectrum. I wrote an article on this topic that also provides advice on how to support students on the spectrum abroad, which can be found here.

    What’s one piece of advice that you would give your younger self in high school or college as it relates to your career?
    I would reassure my younger self to have faith that things will work out, even if the path seems obscured or unclear. Virtually nobody I know is doing exactly what they thought they’d be doing when they were 16, and I am personally much more fulfilled than I ever imagined, in spite of my career being dramatically different than anticipated.

    Secondly, I would remind myself that the number one thing that led to my own professional opportunities is the development of professional and personal relationships with individuals in the field, or within organizations that support my field of interest. My transition to API was facilitated due to a personal connection with somebody who developed study abroad websites, who was able to introduce me to management at API. My subsequent successes at API have stemmed in large part from the relationships I have developed with colleagues, both domestically and abroad. In a field as insular as education abroad, it’s all but guaranteed that your path will cross with others repeatedly, and you can never underestimate the value of a solid relationship. I often think of the international education field as more of a large family, as it seems that we’re all separated by no more than a few degrees… and we all ultimately just want the best for others. It’s incredibly rewarding to work in such a supportive environment, and I would not be where I am today were it not for the friendships I have developed with people across the country and across the world.

  • 17 Dec 2019 3:02 PM | Anonymous

    What is your interest in tackling climate change?

    I first became aware of climate change when I studied as an exchange student in Germany at the age of 16. It was this international education experience that first led my awareness of climate change. My native Scotland was far behind Germany when it came to recycling policies and environmental awareness. This awareness, instilled in me a constant awareness in my career and personal life. 

    What is your interest in tackling climate change and how do we address this in international education?
    I first became aware of climate change when I studied as an exchange student in Germany at the age of 16. It was this international education experience that first led my awareness of climate change. My native Scotland was far behind Germany when it came to recycling policies and environmental awareness. This awareness, instilled in me a constant awareness in my career and personal life. 

    What is your interest in tackling climate change and how do we address this in international education?

    I first became aware of climate change when I studied as an exchange student in Germany at the age of 16. It was this international education experience that first led my awareness of climate change. My native Scotland was far behind Germany when it came to recycling policies and environmental awareness. This awareness, instilled in me a constant awareness in my career and personal life. 

    What is your interest in tackling climate change and how do we address this in international education?

    I first became aware of climate change when I studied as an exchange student in Germany at the age of 16. It was this international education experience that first led my awareness of climate change. My native Scotland was far behind Germany when it came to recycling policies and environmental awareness. This awareness, instilled in me a constant awareness in my career and personal life. 

    I worked with Rob McDonald who researched the carbon footprint of international education and I became painfully aware of my own carbon footprint and that of my colleagues as our jobs necessitated getting on planes on a weekly basis. During my tenure at CQUniversity , I was managing the international office of a multi campus university and separated by huge distances. The only option was taking regular flights for meetings.

    For 16 years, I worked in international education within Australian universities. For the last three or four years, I looked at social innovation and at the student experience to make that more meaningful and tangible. She was working on how to give students an experience that was more impactful environmentally and socially. It was at this stage that these paths converged and the awareness I developed in Germany all those years ago, was now being met with an understanding of how we contributed to climate change in the international education industry.

    How did you start and how did you grow Pomegranate?
    I spent three months researching climate change, and the more I learned, the more I knew there was no turning back. I ran my first workshop and confesses it was horrible. In the workshop, I focused too much on the problems and not on the solutions. Following this, I thought I had made a terrible mistake. However, that night, I had a dream that the waters were rising around me and I was shouting at everyone through a megaphone that we needed to wake up and do something to tackle climate change. If that wasn’t a sign to keep going, the next morning I received an email from the Al Gore Foundation inviting me to attend their next Climate Reality Project training in Pittsburgh, USA.

    Was this the turning point for you and your resolution to continue with the topic of climate change and running your own business?
    The Al Gore training was a great resource and provided me with great support. The training is all about amplifying peoples impact and spreading the message, but also how to spread the message. I learned how to deal with media, got plugged into a wonderful network of people and tapped into resources that enables me to professionalise more. The network is collaborative and just what a one woman business needs starting out.

    Has the message been getting through and how do we reconcile climate change in our industry where we travel so much and promote international travel amongst students?
    I explained that it is certainly an ethical dilemma. We need to start with ourselves, start understanding where our emissions are coming from and how we can counteract that. Yes, we need to reduce our travels and become aware of what is necessary and what is not. I personally uses the company 15 Trees whenever I have to fly for work to offset my carbon footprint from flying. It is estimated that we need to plant one tree for every hour that we spend flying.

    The message is spreading. I am now part of an informal network including environmental and climate change advocates around the globe. I gave a presentation at EAIE this past September with likeminded people on the topic of the greening of comprehensive internationalisation . We explored what strategies and techniques international educators can employ to aid the ‘greening’ of internationalisation? The session looked at the six pillars of comprehensive internationalisation through a 'green lens', offering practical things educators can do to respond to climate change, declining biodiversity and habitat destruction. I delivered a poster session on “How the international education sector can take action on climate change”.

    I also participate in CANIE - Climate Action Network for International Educators, a grassroots initiative formed by a diverse group of people working in international education who see the need for action to reduce our sector's greenhouse gas emissions and the opportunity to use climate action as a vehicle to improve the student experience. Our aim is to shine a spotlight on the issues, and to provide training and resources to help individuals to take action and drive change within their institutions and organisations.

    There are lots of ways universities can address climate change, and the message is finally getting through that they now need to. Time Higher Education has introduced a new impact ranking on a university’s performance on sustainability goals. If it is not the carrot, then will it need to be the stick to wake up universities to the need for climate change response?

    Do you ever feel you are facing an insurmountable task or that the problem is just too huge for a small number of people to solve?
    I feel that there is an opportunity for everyone. Individually, we can all make changes and that is why education is critical. I have held workshops where students have entered the room knowing nothing about climate change or not caring much about what they can do. After the workshop, they are enthusiastic and keen to make a change. It is not that difficult to get people on board.

    Collectively and within our sector, there is an opportunity. We can really think about travel, what is necessary and how we look at designing programs with more of an environmental impact. How we recruit, using online rather than printed marketing materials, calling on conference providers to be more environmentally friendly. What banks do we use on campus and how ethical are they with their investments, channel the students towards the more ethical banks and the other banks will start noticing. These are just a small number of obvious changes we can make. But, if we collectively make these changes, we can have an impact. 

    Some of the statistics are depressing, and you do need to demonstrate how serious the situation is but without focusing overly on the doom and gloom. You also need to give people hope. Al Gore calls this the hope budget. If people do not have hope, they can become paralytic to change. People feel good when they are making a change, even if that change starts with one small thing every day. We do not all need to be climate scientists, we just need to understand what small changes we can make, and build these into bigger changes .

    You might worry that what you do won’t count for much, but collective action mounts up and can help tip the scales. Even more importantly, taking individual action gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you are making a difference and contributes to building a broader consensus in society around the need for change.

  • 27 Nov 2019 2:02 PM | Anonymous

    What was your dream job as a kid and why? If it changed, what led to that decision?

    When I was a kid, I never gave too much though to what I wanted to be when I grew up. I recall always feeling inclined to discover the world since a very young age. When I was eight years old, I remember saving for the longest time to buy myself a globe. I had never even been on an airplane and only knew a handful of people that had, but I loved to fantasize about all the different places I would go when I was older.

    Read More

  • 15 Nov 2019 2:14 PM | Anonymous

    Tell us about your first international experience and how that influenced your
    current career choice.
    I was born in Wellington, New Zealand so my first
    international experience was when I was six months
    old and my family moved to Maine, USA.
    Tell us about your first international experience and how that influenced your
    current career choice.
    I was born in Wellington, New Zealand so my first
    international experience was when I was six months
    old and my family moved to Maine, USA.
    Tell us about your first international experience and how that influenced your
    current career choice.
    I was born in Wellington, New Zealand so my first
    international experience was when I was six months
    old and my family moved to Maine, USA.
    Tell us about your first int'l experience and how that influenced your current career choice.

    I was born in Wellington, New Zealand so my first international experience was when I was six months old and my family moved to Maine. My mom, from US, met my Kiwi father on a backpacking trip in Europe. Traveling was in my blood from the beginning and we returned to New Zealand as a family about every four years when I was younger so my brother and I could have a relationship with our New Zealand family. READ MORE

  • 21 Oct 2019 1:39 PM | Anonymous


    What is your current title and where do you work?

    I’m currently the Senior Manager, University Relations & Campus Outreach at Boston University Study Abroad where I’m responsible for marketing and recruitment activities on-campus and with non-BU partners, and manage the Study Abroad Ambassador program. I am also a co-chair of the Boston Area Study Abroad Association (BASAA).

    What was your dream job as a kid and why? If it changed, what led to that decision?

    As an adolescent I was enchanted by the idea of becoming a hairstylist. I loved the idea of helping people and making them feel more confident. When I discovered I was no good at styling my own hair, let alone others’ hair, I decided to let that dream go. Luckily, I still get to help folks by working in education abroad.

    What was your first international experience? How did it influence your current career choice.

    I lived vicariously through my mother's work travels. The gifts she brought home were fascinating; a huipil from Oaxaca, a bowl from Ghana and candies from all over the world. I remember a puzzle from Thailand that enthralled me with an alphabet I’d never seen before. It was no surprise that I caught the travel bug. My study abroad experiences ultimately led to my career in international education.

    What was your first job in international education? Did you have a hard time obtaining this job? 

    My first job in international education was at Spanish Studies Abroad as a Program Assistant. I started at the organization as an unpaid marketing intern while doing my Masters in International Education at SIT Graduate Institute, and it just goes to show that networking is everything!

    Describe a typical day/week at the office at your current job.

    No day or week is the same. I’m constantly interacting with students on campus, department administrators, and partner institutions. Between planning events, social media marketing, managing the Study Abroad Ambassador program, and working on strategic outreach, the role is dynamic and always keeps me on my toes.

    What do you enjoy the most about your job?

    I love that I get to see students in the best phases of the study abroad experience: before they have decided to study abroad and when they have returned, either as a Study Abroad Ambassador or an excited returnee. It’s so exciting to see how much they’ve grown and changed when they come back.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

    The most challenging aspect of my role is realizing you can only do so much. The Marketing & Outreach team at BU Study Abroad has so many ideas, but we are a team of three. The scope and budget sometimes get in the way of achieving everything we want to.

    What has working in international education taught you about yourself and your own culture?

    I’ve learned that having an open mind and a willingness to learn can lead to immense growth. I’ve had the opportunity to work with different people from all across the globe, and am grateful for those experiences and how they’ve shaped my life, both personally and professionally.

    Is there a value or principal from another culture that you have embraced & applied to your life?

    While on a short-term program to Turkey, I felt incredibly welcomed by the locals. Whether it was our host families or vendors at the local bazaar, everyone genuinely wanted to welcome us into their lives and culture. I’ve tried to apply that in my own life by being more welcoming and inclusive to others.

    Do you have a career mentor? How has that person influenced your career growth?

    I’ve been lucky to have had several supervisors and mentors who have helped, in both small and large ways. As a co-chair for the Boston Area Study Abroad Association, I’ve also had a sounding board of peers who are supportive and a great resource to workshop ideas and hear about others’ career trajectories. 

    What piece of advice would you give your younger self, as it relates to your career?

    Take every opportunity to learn! Although my career path has been mostly linear, it wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows. I took unpaid internships, low paying jobs and volunteer leadership roles because I knew they were a great way to network and learn. Each professional experience has had a positive impact on where I am today.

    What type of hobbies or activities help you balance your work/life experience?

    I’m working on my sixth year of what I call ‘Positivity in a Jar’. Each day I take a post-it note, write the date, and jot down something positive that happened that day. I fold it up and put it in a jar, and on New Year’s Eve, I open all the notes of positivity and am reminded of how lucky I am. It’s a nice way to remain positive when the day-to-day is sometimes stressful and overwhelming.

  • 03 Sep 2019 10:31 AM | Anonymous


    Director, Center for Global Education, Chapman University

    What is your current title, and where do you work?Director of the Center for Global Education at Chapman University

    What was your dream job as a kid, and why? If it changed, what led to that decision?
    I wanted to become an Artistic Roller Skating Coach. I was involved with competitive artistic roller skating for 18 years and saw how physically challenging and financially unstable; it is for a coach…and no benefits. So, that dream was short-lived.

    Tell us about your first international experience and how that influenced your current career choice.
    Oh, wow. Flashback! It was a trip I took in my late teens to France with my mother and sister - a week of skiing at Alpes d’huez and a week touring Paris and Bordeaux. We were complete rookies at international travel…and learned a lot from that trip. We took a plane, train, bus and cab to get to our room on the mountain, in several feet of snow. Mom traveled with two sets of skis and I had two bags. Such newbies! Also, I thought my French was much better than it really was at the time. I quickly learned when we had to call the rental car company and they spoke no English. Despite our ineptitude and rookie mistakes, I loved this trip and started planning more international travel. I just needed to be better prepared.

    What was your first job in international education? Did you have a hard time obtaining this job? How long did it take? How did you learn about it? (Ex. Job posting, networking, promotion)
    My first job in international education was as the coordinator of internships at Chapman. I was hired as the domestic internship coordinator for the (then) Career Development Center and began developing the university’s first summer international internship after a program provider approached our business school. After we implemented this first program in 2003, international internships really took off and we started several more. In 2007, I moved to Center for Global Education at Chapman to manage international internships and exchange programs.

    I was very targeted in my job search. I had enjoyed my college experience thoroughly and wanted to work in higher education. My husband and I were living in Oregon at the time and wanted to move back to California, so I began seeking out positions with all of the local universities via their employment websites. I interviewed at two universities and was hired by Chapman after nine months or so.

    Describe a typical day/week at the office at your current job.
    My day involves working on operational and human resources aspects of the reorganization: budgets, job descriptions, etc. There isn't as much student interaction as there is during the academic semesters. There is still plenty of prepping for the upcoming fall semester that is part of our daily lives: orientation, incoming exchange students, overhauling of marketing materials, just to name a few.

    What do you enjoy the most about your job?
    Strategic planning, fiscal management and staff development.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
    Staffing levels -- how to work on the things we want to accomplish with the limited staffing we have. I'm hopeful that our reorganization will streamline processes and allow us to take on larger projects.

    What has working in international education taught you about yourself and your own culture?
    Empathy and self-awareness. Understanding perspectives and perceptions, non-verbals, space and time differences, has given me more patience with the unknown or "different." 

    Is there a value or principle from another culture that you have embraced and applied to your own life?
    The French work/life balance culture which emphasizes separating personal and work life responsibilities.

    Do you have a career mentor or someone that you consult with about career growth? How has that person influenced your career growth?
    I don't really have a mentor, presently. However, I have a friend who is a great resource and support person. I've gone to her for advice on many topics and she's been a wealth of information and understanding.

    Describe a moment in your career that you consider your greatest achievement.
    Making our center through QUIP midpoint reporting was huge for me and a great learning experience.

    What’s one piece of advice that you would give your younger self in high school or college as it relates to your career?
    Be open to whatever might come along. You don’t have to have it all figured out when you when you apply to college. I was a non-traditional student and graduated with my BA at 33. Even if I could, I wouldn’t change my path as I was much wiser and clear on my direction at that age.

    What type of hobbies or activities help you balance your work/life experience?
    Vegetable gardening and cooking. I can never find enough time for these!

  • 24 Jul 2019 10:31 PM | Anonymous


    North American Language and Cultural Assistant, Spanish Ministry of Education


    1. What is your current title and where do you work?

    I am a North American Language and Cultural Assistant for the Spanish Ministry of Education. I teach in a public bilingual high school and instruct course in subjects ranging from English, Technology, Art, Social Studies and Physical Education. This position is through the Spanish government and here in Spain it is called an Auxiliar de Conversacion. This is an assistantship in conjunction with my Master’s Degree in International Education through the Universidad de Alcala-Instituto Franklin.

    2. What was your dream job as a kid and why?           

    Growing up when people asked me what I wanted to be, it would cause my a lot of stress and anxiety. For a long time, I didn’t know and I thought I had to impress people or make them comfortable by having a canned answer. All I knew for sure was that I  wanted to be happy, well traveled, do good for the world and go on big adventures. Now, I have found ways to do all these things and work at the same time.

    3. Tell us about your first international experience and how that influenced your career choice.

    When I was 2 my parents lived in Australia for a year, although I don’t remember it I grew up hearing stories and knew the world was accessible and the importance of international exchange. When I was 12, my parents moved again but this time to Israel for 5 months. I learned a little Hebrew swam on an Israeli swim team and immersed myself in a new culture.. This was my first real taste of life abroad and kicked off a serious case wanderlust.

    4. What was your first job in international education?

    I became an ESL teacher in Daegu South Korea as a way to combine my love of working with children and interacting with new cultures. It was an excellent way to work, travel and meet people from all over. The job was fairly simple to land I used Dave’s ESL Cafe ( and worked with a recruiter. The process of obtaining the visa, packing up my life, selling my car and gaining the courage to board the plane was not! The requirements are generally a Bachelor’s Degree in any subject  and often (but not always) a TEFL Certificate. No Korean language skills necessary although it certainly helps to be able to read, and easier thank you think to learn.

    5. Describe a typical day/week at the office at your current job.

    I start school at 9:15 am an generally work until 2 or 3. I have a bit of a commute on the train where I enjoy coffee and doing reading for my Master’s program. When I am teaching English, I take small groups out of the classroom for speaking activities, I prepare review activities, I try to use games and role play as often as possible. I have prepared presentation on Alaska , major holidays and life in the United States. I work with kids in Physical Education. I also tutor private lessons. Friday evenings I attend classes for Master’s.

    6. What do you enjoy most about your job?

    I love the chance to really get to know a culture. Working abroad  is a great way to really make local connections, sink deeper into the place you are, and not just learn about a place but experience its systems, daily life and nuance. I love getting a chance to speak about my culture with the kids help open their eyes to new parts of the world and ways of life different than their own. I have them do the same for me. I also love the coffee the food and the warm, relaxed Spanish culture.

    7. What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

    It can be frustrating to be working in a school system that you don’t really understand. As a language assistant I am learning where and how I fit in and managing different teacher's expectations of me. I am new to this country, dusting off my language skills and learning a lot for the first time. I can feel like an outsider or that I missed the memo on something. It is all a part of the learning experience.

    8. What has working in international education taught you about yourself and your own culture?

    Particularly in Spain, I will find myself in a rush for no reason. I get frustrated that things take so long, restaurant service can be slower than what we are used to the US. But then I remember how hard I worked to get here and that the point is to enjoy it.When I can remember that  I’m not really in a rush to get anywhere, I’II take a deep breathe and relax and enjoy the experience. I’m trying to match Spain’s pace and slow down and be in the moment.

    9. Is there a value or principal from another culture that you have embraced and applied to your own life?

    Korea is collective culture and whatever you have you share with the people around you.I remember some school children having a heated fight but still sharing their snacks with everyone around them. In Spain, I was extended an invitation to move in with someone during my first tutoring session with the family. People are mostly good and kind and a little trust can go a long way. I have tried to adopt this welcoming, open and empathetic attitude in my daily life.

    10. Do you have a career mentor or someone that you consult with about career growth?

    I met Marsha in a running club in South Korea. She ran workshops for expats preparing to return home. She helped us reflect on our experience,  process new skills, create a vision for what we wanted moving forward and an action plan for how to go for it. We have kept in touch, she often offers me little bits of wisdom. I am currently teaching in Spain and she is teaching in Budapest and we plan to meet up somewhere in Europe soon. 

    11. Describe a moment in your career that you consider your greatest achievement.

    In South Korea, I was given the task of teaching the book Number The Stars by Lois Lowry to a group of teenagers. They had never heard of the Holocaust. I felt pretty intimidated to take on such a large subject in a different language no less and I really had my work cut out for me. I was proud of the way I handled the topic, opening their eyes to past injustices and sparking thoughtful conversations about important social justice issues. 

    12. What’s one piece of advice that you would give your younger self in high school or college as it relates to your career?

    Relax. Take a deep breathe. Follow your dreams and the things that excite you and don’t give any worry to the judgement of others. Live your life in a way that makes you happy, not a way that is easy to explain. There is plenty of value in travel, adventure and widening your perspective.

    13. What type of hobbies or activities help you balance your work/life experience?

    I love to swim, do yoga, run in races, write and read. Maintaining my hobbies is so important to me. It gives me time to reflect and process and when I am abroad it is a great way for me immerse and also to stay connected to my identity from home. My biggest piece of advice for someone moving abroad is to join a club doing something you love in your new country, it is a great way to connect and break out of the expat bubble while exploring your unique interests.

    Check out Leah's guest blog on Lessons Abroad to get her insight on teaching in Korea here.

  • 24 Jul 2019 10:26 PM | Anonymous


    Wanny Angerer in Moving Cultures

    It is not every day I have the opportunity to speak with someone like Wanayran Angerer, world traveller, international woman’s rights advocate, singer and cultural promoter. I had been looking forward to finally speaking with the singer and artisan, affectionately known as Wanny for what seemed like an age. Her journey which started in Honduras has thus far led her to the USA, Austria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Colombia, India, Panama and Thailand and her involvement in various projects and life experience over the past thirty years would give us plenty to talk about.

    Wanny is involved in a number of social development and advocacy projects including the use of music and arts as a means of developing self-esteem in children, women and the elderly.
    She was born in Honduras, into a diverse community that traces its ethnicity from Spanish, Native Honduran, and African. It was in Honduras that Wanny would work as a hosting co-ordinator for AFS Honduras, while simultaneously launching her singing career. During this time she was a founder of the first organization to promote female arts in Honduras, called Women in Arts (Mujeres en las Artes), which is still alive and active after 20 years.

    She is also a very active member of cultural and development programs and organizations in her home country and host countries of Zimbabwe, India, Colombia and Panama. These include AFS intercultural Programs, Women in Arts Honduras, Women in Culture in South Africa, SHARE (Showing How the Arts Rejuvenate and Enlighten project) in Zimbabwe, Fundacion Formemos, Fundacion niños de los Andes, Fundacion Hogar Nueva Granada (Colombia),“Sanando Cantando Boleros”, Make a Wish Panama and InterNations Panama

    On to Kenya, where her initiatives are bundled under the heading of “Moving Cultures – Unity in Diversity” and there she is connected to a number of active projects and initiatives in the social and arts sector. She is also a supporter of the Magoso School in Kibera and gives music-therapy lessons at Faraja Cancer Support Trust for women who have survived cancer. In the NEST home she works with women who were victims of domestic violence, and the Kariobangi Women Promotional Training Institute is where she works with women to produce clothing. Her own design of Latin American ponchos in African fabrics is called“Ponchos Wanayran”.

    Along with all of this, she regularly sings at concerts and events and is a renowned Jazz Singer  ….

    Thus, you can imagine my predicament of not knowing where to start in my conversation with Wanny, and was relieved when she started our conversation for us, with a simple, “Noreen, let’s just talk”

    Let’s talk.

    Wanny very kindly agreed to speak with the Global Leadership League, for what I thought would be an interview about her life, her projects and her work with women in the countries she has lived in. What I did not expect is how much her current work resonates with every woman, not regionally specific, and what we as members of the League can all learn from her experiences and insights.

    Talking is the starting point of Wanny’s work with women and in her groups, the first thing women learn is how to find their voices. Conversations must be honest and it starts very simply.

    How does she achieve this?

    Wanny uses body language, music and art to encourage this conversation. It is all towards the same goal of helping the women she works with to first gain confidence and find their individual power, then later on, finding how they can apply that power. Wanny explains it is not enough to learn confidence, we also need to learn how to use this confidence, to stand out of the ground.

    It can start very simply with basic affirmations about ourselves. Start at the foundations she tells me.

    Listen to your voice. It will sound different in every situation. Do we know our voice and how it connects with our bodies? Are we aware of the sounds our voice makes? Whatever is on your mind will come through your voice and also through your body language. Know your body. Listen to your voice.

    Your mind might say one thing but your body will say another.

    She tells me she will often start with a group of women by asking them to say to themselves, I AM.

    By listening to their voices.

    By loving themselves through saying I LOVE YOU, and after loving themselves, say, I AM POWERFUL. It is only after doing these things that we are empowered to love ourselves, to be powerful, to have the capacity to give and when we have the capacity to give, we can then receive. This is universal and something we have in common with women everywhere, be it in Kenya, India or Panama.

    Wanny starts working with women very slowly. It might be they start to ground their feet, raise their arms and physically reach for things they cannot imagine and to remember those words of affirmation. To look at themselves in the mirror and start loving themselves.

    Music and the Arts

    Wanny’s style of work is through language, and also through music and the Arts. After all,  music, arts and entrepreneurship are universal languages. She provides a safe circle for women in her workshops to tell their stories through language and also through song and music. Women talk about their personal and work lives and do not separate them.

    Why would we want to separate them? This makes perfect sense to me  but we are all guilty of not recognising these two are inseparable.

    After listening to Wanny and how she works with women through her various singing, musical and entrepreneurship projects, I started asking myself what was so different to the women she worked with in Africa and other places, and that of League members reading this in the USA, Australia, Ireland, Peru, or anywhere else in the world?         

    There is no difference.

    We can all be victims of not using our true voices, or connecting with our inner selves. We may all have issues that need to be discussed and situations that we may not even know about. No matter what society we live in, women’s backgrounds can be similar, they have come from different families, core values, upbringing, but what it means to be a family and raise a child, gender issues, equality issues, etc is similar. What expectations has Social Media set for women in different societies for example? Women can face the same challenges set by themselves. Challenges to be perfect, to look perfect, to have the perfect public persona, to manage it all, to have it all, to lean in, to keep all the glass balls in the air. We can be bombarded by social media, and the message that we should be perfect, and yes, to manage and to have it all.

    These issues are always present, but as Wanny points out, it is how we cope with these issues. These issues are not going anywhere so we need to learn how to cope. And this is also part of what Wanny teaches women through her various projects.

    The Mentor and the Mentee:

    Wanny and I spoke about the League and how we can support each other as women facing similar challenges. One way to bring women together is through mentoring and becoming a Role Model for other women. Wanny points out there must be trust between the mentor and the mentee and their relationship is two way. We must relate to each other. The mentor must firstly listen to themselves, and be able to cope themselves, then they can listen and support.

    We need to look within, be honest with each other and be our authentic selves. Being fake and living a false image will only last for a certain period of time before the truth will shine through, Wanny believes, and it is easier to be consistent than live under a false image.

    Again I thought how do we apply this to the League as members supporting each other? We are all guilty of portraying a perfect work-life balance when the situation is far from that. Where else can we support one another and be honest with each other, in a perfectly safe circle than in the League?

    How did Wanny create and build so many projects and have such a wonderful insight into helping women, empowering them and giving them the confidence and teaching them how to use this confidence to build their lives, businesses and mentor other women?

    It all evolved throughout the journey of her life and her family roots in Honduras.

    Wanny comes from a family of educators which created an environment of sharing. Music, ballet, the Arts, were always present in her childhood, but her parents instilled in her and her siblings the importance of always sharing their knowledge. If their neighbours didn’t have these opportunities, they were told to pass on and teach whatever they had learned with them. As a child she didn’t realise she had opportunities other people didn’t have but as she grew older she understood this, and realised what an asset they had, and the importance of sharing this asset.

    Wanny and her siblings were educated in the shape of a triangle:


    Community Service


    And at the centre of this was always Art.

    Her grandparents and parents taught her family the value of education, community service, spirituality and art and now she teaches her own children these values. Again I am reminded of our community of women in the League and how we can help each other.

    I am curious about what she advises people who are not “into” music and the arts? Are these people doomed?!

    She explains to me it’s not about the music or arts. It so happens these are her media of communication … essentially it is about the method of communication. It doesn’t matter how you do it, the important piece is that you need to find your voice. And learn how to listen to that voice, and be able to tell the authentic from the false voice.

    Intrigued I ask her what she thinks of the imposter syndrome and faking it until you make it?

    When you are confident, you don’t need to fake it, you can still be yourself, be creative, accept that it might take a long process but being true to yourself on the journey will be worth it.

    But what about the expectations to be perfect and overachieve and overdeliver and manage it all?

    She talks about many of these expectations as being set by ourselves. We should consider not looking at everyone else and trying to change their expectations of us. Know your limitations, everyone has limitations, and know your expertise. Once you know this, then this is when you start to mature and become more available to yourself and to other people

    Times have changed, she tells me. She works with intergenerational groups, a lot of adult women in their 50’s 60’s and 70’s who lived in a different world than women in their 20’s for example. She tells me the value of these intergenerational groups for young women to see how different it was for older women at a time when gender issues were very different. Exchange of knowledge and bringing women from different cultures and nationalities and ages promotes learning and support.

    Again, I am reminded of the power of the League for women from different backgrounds and how we can learn from each other through honest conversations.

    Wanny has a lot of advice based on her unique life story and her propensity to share with her community.

    Listening to her explain why she had moved country every five years to follow her husband’s work, made me think that not everyone would have done so much for the community they were living in. She has taken advantage of everything that has been put in front of her, be it in Thailand, India or Africa. She did so because she believes there is a bigger purpose. She doesn’t take things for granted. She seems to have put herself together in the way she asks women in her groups to do so and has very strong foundations herself.

    Again I am reminded of the opportunities, we, as women working in International Education have to support other women and students that do not have the opportunities we do. Some of us are in influential positions, parts of large organisations, or have grass roots levels in many countries, and I ask myself, how can we learn from Wanny’s experience and utilise our connections to empower more women and girls?  

    I have written just a fraction of what Wanny and I discussed and there is so much more she has to say. Wanny will be guest speaker at the Forum on Education Abroad in Colorado next March. I urge anyone thinking of attending, to go, if not just to meet this amazing woman and hear her speak … and sing if you are lucky enough!

  • 23 Jul 2019 10:35 PM | Anonymous

    Do you play basketball at lunchtime?

    From the UK to the UAE and a few places in between, Linda Angell spoke to me about how adapting to change, opening to opportunities and accepting support from family and community, led her on a wonderful life adventure and to her current role as the first Director of International Exchange Programs at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

    Linda’s academic beginnings started with a love of sociology. A self-support student, she funded college by working part time and graduated with a Bachelor in Sociology, minoring in Women’s Studies. Next step was finding a career to pay back college loans and this led her to applying for an MBA. Having worked since she was 14, she had the work experience required to enrol on an MBA program, and it was this move that led her to her first international experience. As part of her new studies, she completed an internship in London on Baker Street with Horwath and Horwath, a fascinating company that offered consultancy on infrastructural and tourism projects.

    Going to an English speaking country was not supposed to be the culture shock that is was! It was here that Linda discovered what a “brolly” and “lorry” were, along with swapping pounds for stones and relearning to use a washing machines and television. Speaking to Linda, it was clear that an early love for international travel started here and following a few months backpacking around Europe, and the seed was planted for living another life outside of the US. Linda’s experience in the UK reminds me of how a semester abroad can really change a young person’s direction in life.  Coming from a family that had never travelled much before, that internship gave Linda an opportunity and an insight that we as international education administrators can also give students.

    After completing the MBA, she spent several years in Research and Development and also received her real estate brokers licence… just as the market crashed.

    Readers, we should be grateful we didn’t lose her to Real Estate; that crash was International Education’s gain in the long term.

    Linda’s story resonates with how being flexible to change and being willing to take the risk and make sacrifices can ultimately lead you to where you want to be. It was during her time working with ’rocket scientists from MIT’  in her R & D role that she decided to go back to academia and obtain her doctoral degree. After a long process selecting her subject area, she was offered entry into the Operations Management doctoral program at Boston University… under a full scholarship covering the first two years. After that funding ran out, Linda was again faced with the challenge of securing additional funds and it was this “opportunity” that led her to Germany via the Fulbright Scholarship programme.

    Being open to change but also seeing opportunities in challenging times, Linda and her husband moved to Muenster where she studied new recycling legislation recently introduced in Germany, i.e. the German Packaging Ordinance. Remember the ‘Green Dot’ recycling logo that appeared on all European packaging in the 1990’s?  That was Linda focus, specifically the impact this all had on the development of green manufacturing practices.

    Not only was she completing her PhD research in Germany, Linda and her husband also became parents with the birth of their first daughter during their time there. Their German housemates played a critical role as ‘family’ and support network during that period, allowing Linda to continue her research activities.

    After a two-year stint in Germany, it was back to Boston for Linda, where she began writing up her dissertation research results. Her husband had just taken a one-year contract to work in the IT industry when Linda was offered her first academic role at Penn State University, an eight hour drive away.  During the next six months, Linda’s mother was instrumental in providing child care support as Linda juggled motherhood, writing up her research to complete her PhD, coming to grips with her first teaching job, and buying a house.

    Whilst finishing her dissertation and interviewing across the US for a permanent faculty role, Linda became pregnant again.   After defending her dissertation proposal while six months pregnant with her first child, she ended up defending her final thesis when her younger daughter was just six months old.  Linda described those years as the crazy years.

    The next step in her career progression was completely unexpected.   A conversation, a chance meeting, at an academic conference in Barcelona led Linda on to her next adventure. A colleague that was teaching in New Zealand invited her to apply for a position that had opened up. She did not apply for that position but promised herself that if another position opened up she would be ready to take the leap. And when another opportunity did open up a couple of years later, she was ready to commit herself and she and her family packed up their US lives and moved to New Zealand where she took up a faculty position with Victoria University of Wellington

    After a couple of years at Vic, Linda became restless again, and felt the need for an opportunity to ‘practice what she preached’.  She had the opportunity to leave academia to implement a business excellence program at a quasi-governmental R&D organization, and eventually ended up at the Ministry of Social Development, having come full-circle back to her passion for Sociology.  She spent several years there, working for both the welfare arm of the Ministry, and as a manager within the Center for Social Research and Evaluation..

    At about the time that her daughters were about to start secondary school, it was time for the next adventure.  Again, her next international move came about after meeting a friend and academic colleague at a party, discussing career opportunities available at American University of Sharjah (AUS) in the United Arab Emirates. Although Linda and her family had never even considered the Middle East as a possibility, they had learned that a willingness to take chances often leads to exciting opportunities for personal and professional development.

    The importance of remaining flexible and open to change, and to always being open to options, seems to resonate throughout Linda’s career. Her family moved lock, stock, and barrel once again, relocating half way around the world from New Zealand to UAE.  The family moved into a villa on the AUS campus, her daughters began attending a British High School, and Linda began her new role back in academia, on the faculty within the School of Business Administration  

    With 250 families living on campus, all expatriates, the tight-knit AUS campus community really take care of each other. Linda was once again reminded of the importance of support networks when this campus community served as a lifeline for herself and her family throughout a serious year-long illness in 2010, the same year that she took up her dream job as founding Director for the International Exchange Office at AUS.  Through this period, Linda learned to open herself fully to the nourishing healing powers inherent in this outpouring of community support. 

    The theme of support from family, friends and community is a common thread throughout Linda’s story and reminds us that there is a support network around us, even if this network comes to us in non-traditional ways. Linda’s husband has been constant in his support throughout their 30-year marriage, and they have worked together as a team from Germany, to Boston, to Pennsylvania, to New Zealand and now the UAE. Her mother ensured that Linda could achieve her goal of teaching at Penn State, and her community in the UAE supported her throughout her illness and became like family shortly after moving to a new, foreign country.

    We work in a very rewarding and privileged field. Our work in international education can contribute to peace and understanding by bringing students from different cultures together in a setting they would never otherwise experience. We help people experience study abroad or internships abroad, we open up the world to so many students. We have the opportunity to experience other cultures, to see ourselves and our own cultures through other lenses. We can travel, we can explore, but we can also be part of a community   Our work is challenging, yes, but by supporting each other, we can overcome those challenges.

    Linda described another important network that developed during her time at Victoria University.  After reading an article about the powerful impact that female social interaction has on improving well-being by increasing oxytocin hormone levels in women, she and her female colleagues set up a ‘Voxies’ Club (i.e. V for Victoria University; Oxies for Oxytocin), and regularly met-up outside work and family to share ideas and provide additional support.

    The ‘Voxies’ tradition continued upon her arrival at the American University of Sharjah in the UAE, and remains active to this day.

    I can imagine all the readers smiling at this!

    Another interesting story Linda told me highlights the importance of ‘Voxies’ support networks.  During her time at Penn State, one of her male colleagues – one of the 27 males in her department of 30 - asked her how she could possibly know what was going on around the office when she didn’t join the guys to play basketball at lunch. He went on to explain that this was where he learned about everything that was going on with his colleagues and the university more generally. A very telling comment,  revealing how women can so easily be excluded from networks that promote new ideas and opportunities.  The exclusion is not necessarily intentional, nor is it part of a conspiracy. Her male colleagues simply had developed a very effective, but exclusive, networking group by way of their daily basketball games  Linda was not privy to the information that came out of those informal meet-ups because she was too busy and wrapped up in just trying to stay on top of everything as a young mother and new teacher.

    Likely all of us have experience with these ‘basketball at lunch’ clubs that we cannot be part of. We are not partaking in these informal gatherings as we try to stay on top of everything and keep all those glass balls in the air. But what kind of important conversations are we missing out on?  Can we replace the basketball at lunch with the Voxies?

    After speaking to Linda, the main lesson that I have learned is that we can always find and connect with a support network. Networks may not always be husbands and mothers, families or communities – in fact, you may find the support you need right here in the League. Find the women you think can help you and that are having these conversations. And let’s not forget to share the insights we gain from those conversations.

    Linda’s story is a wonderful adventure with unexpected plot twists, made possible by a willingness to accept and embrace challenges and change, by being open to opportunities and by welcoming support.


Our members come from different backgrounds, abilities, levels of experience, and parts of the world. Our goal is to embrace this diversity and encourage relationships across generations and experience levels for the benefit of all involved. 

The Global Leadership League was started by a group of women in the field of international education for the purposes of advancing women’s leadership skills, knowledge, and connections.


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The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders.  Become a Member