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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!

  • 29 Dec 2020 8:59 AM | Anonymous


    What is your current title and where do you work?

    Student Advisor and Marketing Coordinator at Barcelona Study Abroad Experience (SAE).

    How did you learn about your current position? (Ex. Networking, Promotion, External Job Posting)

    Initially, I discovered Barcelona SAE when I saw a SECUSS-L post for an International Education Internship and applied! Since then, I have moved up and had a few different roles at the company.

    What sparked your interest in working in international education?

    Growing up, my father was always very involved in our town's Historic Association and that sparked my initial interest in history. My first true cross-cultural experience was during an internship I had one summer during college. I worked with Somali Bantu refugees, offering job search solutions and resume building training. My interest in history and culture came together after a study abroad experience of my own, in Barcelona, Spain. I was fascinated by the intersections of history and culture and how each influenced the other in this city. After my experience, I was struck by the transformative nature of international education and realized the value of cultural learning coupled with personal growth and the coming-of-age journey it provides for college students.

    What was your first job in international education? Did you have a hard time obtaining this job? How long did it take?

    I started at Barcelona SAE as an International Education Intern. I graduated from college in May and it took me until February of the next year to land the position, almost 8 months. I had applied to hundreds of jobs across the US and abroad and was working on completing the Global Pro Institute. The internship with Barcelona SAE was the perfect fit for me, it provided me with a crash course in the field as well as practical job training and experience.

    Tell us about your first international experience either traveling or working abroad.

    My first experience traveling abroad was to Barcelona, Spain for my semester abroad. At the time, it was only my second time on a plane and first time leaving the country, first time traveling alone and my first official time being considered an “independent adult”. I was scared and nervous upon arrival and trying to remember every tip from my well-traveled grandparents. After a few weeks of adjusting and having some cultural hiccups- including buying mayonnaise thinking it was alfredo sauce- I quickly fell in love with the city and the adventure.

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

    As Student Advisor and Marketing Coordinator at a small, but agile company, I wear a few different hats. My main responsibility is to advise applicants through the application process from initial interest through pre-departure. This includes form collection, data management, working with university partners, and the not-so-glamourous visa advising process. I spend a lot of my time talking to students (and parents) about their goals for the program and sharing my own experience abroad. For the marketing aspect of my position, I manage our social media channels, assist our Marketing Director in digital and print projects, and make suggestions for improvements.

    What do you enjoy the most about your job?

    I enjoy sharing my own travel stories with students and sharing in their excitement for a new experience. I love hosting pre-departure workshops, talking about culture and hearing about what students expect their study abroad experience to be like. On occasion, I get to travel to Barcelona and meet some of the students in person and hear how their experience is going. I then get to act surprised when they say it is nothing like what they expected!

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

    I would say the visa advising process. Managing applications from students across the country means working with 8 different Spanish consulates, who all need slightly different documents from each student, some in Spanish and others in English. This process takes a lot of attention to detail and very strong organizational skills. Shout out to all advisors across the field who are championing this process every semester!

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

    Working in International Education has greatly expanded my personal worldview. This work has helped me realize that education can be a tool used to combat racism, hate, and ignorance. Being able to understand others, empathize and, embrace differences are all skills that can result from an International Education experience. These skills make a difference in the face of injustices and empower people to advocate for others while spreading understanding.  

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

    The idea and value of a Siesta from Spanish culture is my favorite. I love the idea of taking a break when you need it without judgment. Work-life balance is so valued in Spain and something I think we need more of in the U.S.

    Do you have a career mentor or someone that you consult with about career growth? How has that person influenced your career?

    A lot of my senior colleagues at Barcelona SAE have served as mentors to me. Each have their own specialties and have offered me something different as I have advanced in the company. Specifically, both Kristin Uyl and Christina Thompson have leant an ear when I have had questions or doubts. Kristin is a marketing expert and has been an absolute role model of what a strong female boss should be. Christina and I go way back and she was my study abroad advisor in college! She has mentored me through many transitions and has worked to help me understand my own privileges and grow my passion for DEI work.

    How has COVID19 Impacted your work life? Are you currently working from home or both?

    I am currently working remotely from home, but that has always been the nature of my position! Now, I am just working on reduced hours and, of course not traveling to visit our partner universities.

    If you are working from home, has that adjustment been difficult or enjoyable?

    Having always worked from home I have definitely had an advantage and it has been fun to share my work from home strategies with friends and family who are experiencing this for the first time. Specifically, at the beginning of the pandemic, my fiancé was complaining every day and thought he would miss the human interaction. Now, he is hooked on the work from home life, getting twice the work done and hoping he doesn’t ever have to go back into the office.

    What type of things are you doing to balance your mental health and lack of social engagement?

    Taking walks is a huge way that I have dealt with mental stress. It has been so helpful to just take a break and get some fresh air.

    Has enrollment of international students at your institution decreased? What strategies will your organization use in 2021 to regain student interest?

    Enrollment has decreased but we have been working on some innovative solutions both for student engagement and for professional engagement in the International Education field. For students, we launched a virtual internship program that utilizes our network of companies in Barcelona and matches students with great projects they can do from home. Barcelona SAE has also launched a “study abroad menu” for our university partners allowing them to choose a-la-carte services to bring intercultural learning into their classrooms, virtually. We arrange guest speakers, virtual tours, and intercultural leadership sessions that adapt some of our best onsite offerings to classrooms across the U.S. Finally, for our colleagues, we just launched our newest addition to our Diversity Initiative: The TODOS Sounding Board. TODOS (The Outcomes-Based Diversity Outreach Strategy) is aimed at increasing financial resources, providing inclusive academic programming, and expanding outreach and training to those in underserved populations. The Sounding Board is an invitation for colleagues in the field to discuss DEI topics, collaborate, and share resources.

    How are students at your institution coping with the COVID19 restrictions? (Social distancing, virtual classes, on-campus testing, etc…)

    Many of our virtual interns have reported they are attending online classes and are hoping to re-evaluate for the Spring or even Fall term. Many are patiently waiting for things to go back to “normal”. 

    What is the best advice you can give to other global educators right now as we move into the new year?

    Remember that you are not alone, every single person in our field has been affected by this pandemic and even if it will be a while before we can all travel again, it will return eventually and the need for cultural learning will be greater than ever. It is easy to lose sight of that day-to-day but we must have sustained hope for the future. I would also say let’s keep checking in on each other and sharing resources and professional development. Reaching out to those in and outside of your network even to just say “Hi” means a lot in these times of social isolation.

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Kanette Worlds

    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.

  • 14 Dec 2020 8:37 AM | Anonymous


    “I think pivoting is a big thing and you have to be aware of the fact that you’re going to have to pivot all the time,” says Jessica Schϋller, when asked how working in international education has prepared her to deal with the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    You have to learn to be resilient, be able to pivot, and then be resourceful especially in this field because it’s so competitive and the perceived entry barrier is low.”

    Pivoting is exactly what Jessica has been doing for the past 10 years. Growing up on a farm in rural Wisconsin, the idea of traveling or studying abroad wasn’t a popular education path. “Someone from my high school won a full scholarship to go to Russia and I thought that was cool and I wanted something bigger for myself as well.”

    Her motivation to travel abroad was enhanced even further in her junior year after two exchange students enrolled at her school – one of whom she eventually married. Jessica had hoped to get a scholarship for a program in Spain but was accepted into a German program. She lived with a host family and was able to become fluent in German. The experience living in Germany proved to be crucial in shaping the rest of her career trajectory.

    After graduating high school, Jessica enrolled in a first-year study abroad program at an American branch campus in Italy. She later transferred to the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota, where she received a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in German studies. During that time, she spent the summers getting work experience in Germany through volunteering, interning, and teaching English.

    Her fascination with migrants living in Germany inspired her to apply for the Critical Language Scholarship Program (CLS) sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. This opportunity would take her to Ankara University in Turkey for three months where she became conversational in Turkish.

     Jessica returned to Germany and accepted a position in the international office at the University of Augsburg in Germany helping international students find jobs in Germany while also teaching German cultural studies. She used her personal experience with finding internships in Germany and founded the Germany Internship Program. Within three years she was able to assist ten students in obtaining summer internships, half of those from her alma mater. Three of those students are currently working in Germany or Switzerland and one of them has a Fulbright Scholarship in Austria and is planning to go to medical school in Germany.

    She considered returning to the USA but was given the opportunity to get a fully-funded master’s degree in research and innovation in higher education from Tampere University and Danube University Krems. “I spent my first semester in Austria and the second semester in Finland. I was supposed to go to the USA, India, and keep traveling but the pandemic happened. I’m currently in Austria and in the process of submitting my thesis because they switched the program around so that we are completing it in the middle of the program instead of at the end. I have six months left.”

    Once she obtains her master’s degree, Jessica is planning to intern with CIPES, a prominent center for higher education research in Portugal.

    In addition to continuing to provide career coaching and support to internationals, she also designs, develops, and facilitates workshops on topics related to working in Germany through Germany Career Coach, which she also founded. Her passion and future doctorate degree will be focused on helping high school students from rural communities gain access to higher education and study/intern abroad programs.

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Kanette Worlds.

    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.

  • 30 Nov 2020 10:26 AM | Anonymous


    Like many professional women in higher ed, Meg Ramey had reached the pinnacle of success in the academic world. She earned a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies and Literature from the University of St. Andrews, attained tenure status at Messiah University, and received a generous benefits package that included sabbatical time. However, she felt like she was not on the right path.

    “When I was a professor, I had no time for anything else. I was working 70-80 hours a week and didn’t have much time for family, friends, or a life outside of my academic career.”

    She recalls reading an article early in her career stating that among career professionals, female academics were one of the highest demographics to remain single, even more so than female lawyers or medical doctors. Out of the fourteen members of her department, the three women were single while all the men were married. “That was more or less my experience throughout graduate school and higher education,” she recalled. Wanting to find a better work-life balance, along with many other factors, helped Meg decide to leave her tenured position. 

    It was a natural transition for her to shift from academics to education abroad since during her eight years as a professor she had led students on many cross-cultural and service-learning programs spanning four continents and eighteen countries. When one of the program providers with whom she had worked—Tutku Educational Travel–offered her the position as Director of Education Abroad, she was happy to accept.

    Even though she was traveling a great deal in this new role, she also had more free time than before. She joined the Board of Directors of YesLiberia, a non-profit that seeks to “empower young people in Liberia through meaningful service-learning opportunities in education, healthcare, and technology” and began volunteering with her local Harrisburg Keystone Rotary Club, which is where she met her husband. 

    “I promised to show him the world, and he promised to show me Pennsylvania,” she laughingly recalled, “because even though I had lived here for 10 years, I had never had much time to explore the area. In 2019, during our first year of marriage, he saw five new different countries. When COVID hit earlier this year, however, our roles reversed, and he began taking me around Pennsylvania. We’ve been trying to get outdoors as much as possible—taking walks along the Susquehanna river, going camping, and hiking along the Appalachian Trail.”

    She is happy that she left academia when she did. Reactions among her colleagues were mixed when she made the decision:

    “Some people felt like I blew up my career, and others would say, ‘Take me with you!’ My life is a lot more balanced now, and I am much happier. I love my husband. I love my life. And I’ll be happy if this new business venture takes off.”

    Meg’s latest adventure is becoming the Founder and Executive Director of WorldKind Journeys, a teaching ministry that facilitates studying the Bible “on the ground” while journeying to historic places and into sacred spaces across the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Europe.

    The business was birthed out of necessity and ingenuity in the aftermath of parting ways with her company, which suffered a reduction in staffing due to COVID-19. Part of her business development research included enrolling in the Brazen Business Institute and in Penn State-Harrisburg’s Launchbox program, which helps individuals develop their own business and organizes a pitch competition at the end. Meg won the pitch competition and received a small amount of seed money to invest in her new business.

    “After that it’s been figuring out how to do graphic design, web building, marketing, and all these different pieces that were not part of my academic training.”  

    Along the way, Meg has had the support of other women impacted by the pandemic. She had just begun a Mentoring Circle offered by the Global Leadership League in March of this year.

    “We were supposed to focus on salary negotiations, but we all just looked at each other and thought, ‘What’s there to negotiate?’ Half of us are laid off, and those who are still employed are not going to negotiate a salary because they are just thankful to still have a job. It morphed into us meeting once a month to discuss what was happening in the pandemic.”

    She had also just been accepted into NAFSA’s Trainer Corps program and was placed into one trainer group with two other women:

    “One still had a job, the other was furloughed during the summer, and I had just left my company, so we all had different stories. We still keep in touch periodically and hope that one day we will actually get to lead an in-person training session together.”

    Starting an educational travel business amid a pandemic has had its share of highs and lows, but like most companies and individuals, Meg is focusing her efforts on what she can do as opposed to her limitations:

    “The way that I’m making it work right now is that I’m doing a variety of jobs in addition to trying to build a new company. Next April and September, I am supposed to lead programs in Turkey, if there’s a vaccine by then, but I’ve also been teaching online and preaching at churches along with tutoring and editing online. Those are all the little pieces that have helped bring in money.”

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Kanette Worlds.

    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.

  • 19 Nov 2020 12:15 PM | Anonymous


    What makes a great leader?

    This week was timely to ask myself that question. My lecturer in my “Leadership in Sustainability” course asked our class that question on Tuesday as part of my Postgraduate studies in Sustainability. 

    The definition of leadership I gave was “Leading from within, from the centre, with empathy, authenticity, acting swiftly and communicating clearly”, giving the examples of Jacinta Ardern and Angela Merkel. 

    But I could equally have given the example of my good friend and colleague, Lakshmi Iyer. 

    During our lecture we were reminded that the Anglo-Saxon etymological root of the words lead, leader and leadership is “laed”, which means path or road. The verb means to travel. Thus a leader was originally one who shows fellow travelers the way by walking ahead.

    If anyone knows Lakshmi then she truly embodies the word, “laed”. 

    As we spoke for this interview, I realised that Lakshmi embodies the person, the people, the women we have watched in action during Covid-19, be it global leaders such as Jacinta Ardern, Angela Merkel or Tsai Ing-Wen, or the leaders within our organisations, the universities we work with, that have risen to the challenges of Covid-19 and have led from within.    

    It is said that management is about doing things right and leadership is about doing the right thing. Lakshmi tells me it is all about our behaviour and how we react to crisis, how we manage ourselves on a daily basis. 

    She is very honest and tells me some days it is really difficult to face into another day of working and living with Covid-19, there seems to be no end in sight, we have no control over the situation, no control over when we will get a vaccine or when borders will re-open. 

    The only thing we have control over, she tells me, is how we behave. 

    Historian Thomas Carlyle, stated, “the history of the world is but the biography of great men”. But I think we are entering into a new phase and adopting a new definition of leadership, which is that of authenticity, the notion of leadership as serving others, our clients, our employees, and the environment around us. 

    Covid-19 has shown us leaders who have been capable of showing compassion for their employees that were working from home, trying to home school children, care for elderly parents, adjust their entire lives around Covid, and deal with less than ideal situations. She knows many colleagues that have lost their jobs. 

    When I ask Lakshmi, how she is doing, she answers honestly and tells me how she has worried for her staff, has fought to keep their jobs, has worried about her colleagues, who are more than clients to her. She tells me anecdotes of colleagues who have decided to home-school children this year, rather than sit them in front of Zoom, how she knows clients who have lost family and dear friends to the virus. She is seeing the world through their eyes. This for me is the definition of a leader. Yes, a leader needs to show strength and be clear in their decisions and communicate effectively, but we can do this by also showing kindness. 

    Lakshmi feels we are on the cusp of a new world. In our own industry, international education, in order to survive, we have all had to adapt our way of working. Readers will recognise this need and how we are continually adjusting to an ever-evolving situation. I recognise Lakshmi’s challenge in putting both feet into this new world when part of her wants to hang on to the old or keep a connection to the old way of doing things. We are going through massive changes and Lakshmi faces these changes every day. The need of business to change, the need to protect her staff, and the need to stay ahead of the market for her clients. 

    But Covid has ravaged our world and it is going to take huge resilience and ability to keep up with the changes. We reflect on the surge capacity that is required and how we are still in fight mode. There has been so much uncertainty that there is no time for reflection. We are, after all, still in this time of uncertainty. We talk about having to over-engage with people, to put on the war paint each day, to face personal challenges, and a compassion for clients, colleagues, and staff can often leave you so spent at the end of the day. So often we find ourselves doubting ourselves asking if we are doing enough.  

    Each morning Lakshmi wakes up, these are the battles she faces and we talk about these as mountains you have to climb, every day, but if you know Lakshmi, you know that she can take on this challenge. 

    Resilience was a word we often used in theory pre-Covid – but since March, it has been well and truly practiced. 

    Lakshmi has not seen her parents since January or her brother since February. Her US visa ran out during the summer and being unable to renew that visa with her brother living in the US, prioritised for her what was truly important in her life. I think we can all relate to the pain of not being able to see our loved ones.  

    Lakshmi and I both come from cultures where we have strong burial traditions and we talk about the impact Covid has had on people that are not able to mourn their dead, and what legacy this is going to leave. She hopes we do not forget the people this has had such an impact on, those this has taken a toll on mentally. 

    We look back on how naive we both were in February and March when we both thought this would be over by the end of the year. We look to the future and what that might mean. Lakshmi remembers as a student in 2000/2001 and coming to the UK, having to show her inoculation card and a cleared TB test in order to obtain her visa. This will be the future where we will need to show proof of Covid-19 inoculation. 

    As we speak we come around to talking about the amazing work that is being done by people like Bill Gates. As happens with every conversation I have with Lakshmi, we come back to the positives, the Hope Index is always replenished after a chat with her and she always finds the Silver Linings. 

    The key thing to remember, Lakshmi reminds me, is that it can be easy to feel isolated, we can have our good days, but we can have bad days in equal measure. Her words that the only thing we have control over at the moment is how we behave ourselves is such great advice and I think that might just get us through the next few months.

    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.

  • 21 Oct 2020 8:37 AM | Anonymous


    Imagine leaving your job, your home, a way of life you have known for 3 years and flying with your 15-month-old daughter and husband from Australia to Ireland to start all over again. Imagine saying goodbye to your friends and colleagues in Canberra, flying home with all your possessions, and landing at Dublin Airport to begin a new job and a new life. 

    Now, imagine doing that all in the midst of a pandemic… 

    Having to travel through an empty Sydney airport. Meeting all the strict travel requirements. Having to apply for and receive exemptions to the travel restrictions. Be Covid-19 tested, be met with hazmat-suit-clad temperature testers, all before you even got on the plane… and then, once you had landed, exhausted at Dublin Airport, you then had to start a 2-week self-isolated quarantine. 

    Starting a new job whilst still in quarantine, not being able to see your friends and family, having to adjust to another new normal, and trying to deal with your toddler’s jetlag doesn’t sound like much fun, yet Olivia Moss, the new Director of International at the National College of Ireland, seems to be taking all this in her stride. 

    After all, she is no stranger to change. She made a huge leap of faith by moving from Ireland to take up her position at The Australian National University (ANU) having never been to Australia. She and her husband arrived in July to Canberra in the middle of winter with a suitcase full of summer clothes. She had her first skiing lesson in Australia, living closer to the snowfields than the beach, something she just did not imagine doing in Australia! She settled in very quickly to the Aussie way of life, making lots of friends and calling Canberra her second home after a short time. 

    I loved talking to her about her previous role at ANU as Senior Manager for Future Students. This role encompassed domestic and international recruitment as well as community and government engagement. A demanding yet hugely satisfying role that could vary between engagement with International Strategy, Marketing, and Recruiting, or liaising with ANU’s offices in China, Singapore, and North America and ANU’s Public Policy and Societal Impact Hub. 

    The Australian National University needs no introduction to readers, it is one of the leading global research universities with over 20,000 students, ranked number 1 in Australia and 31st in the world by QS, and 59th in the world and 3rd in Australia by the Times Higher Education. It was a big move to make to come back to Ireland and take up her current role at the National College of Ireland. 

    While the move is certainly a big change, Olivia makes the point that every institution can have the same challenges when it comes to international recruitment- it is the way they do things that differs. 

    Working for a large public university, high in the rankings, with so many stakeholders working together can prolong the decision-making process for example. This is necessary to include academics and administrators to ensure all the strategic goals and measurements are being met with each decision. She loved her time at ANU but can already see the differences between working for a large group of 8 Universities to a smaller private institution. Sometimes, in the decision-making process, the smaller college can be more flexible, more agile, and can make decisions more quickly. This is just one of the differences she can already see from her new role yet she understands where the value comes in working for both. 

    At the moment Olivia is working from home and not seeing friends and family because of current travel restrictions in Ireland. Now, instead of Zooming from Canberra, she Zooms from her home in Ireland. Her mother, who lives in Spain, arrived back in Ireland at the same time as Olivia and her family from Australia so they could all self-isolate together. Contemplating how they had to manage this just reinforces what a strange and difficult time this is for so many people.  

    Sadly, Olivia’s father passed away suddenly this May and it has been a tremendous year for her, personally and professionally. 

    When asked how did she manage it all, Olivia talks about Ruth Bader Ginsberg and an article she read about her following her recent passing. 

    Ruth Bader Ginsberg talked about how being a parent made her better at her career and Olivia says she can relate to that. She explains that she differentiates the time she is with her daughter and being a mother from the time she is working. She appreciates the work-life balance so much more now because she can enjoy being an adult and strategizing and creating and working with colleagues when she is at work, but when she is not working, she enjoys playing, and telling stories, and being creative in a different way with her daughter. 

    I looked up the Ruth Bader Ginsberg quote Olivia referred to:

    “When I started law school my daughter Jane was 14 months, and I attribute my success in law school largely to Jane. I went to class about 8:30 a.m., and I came home at 4:00 p.m., that was children’s hour. It was a total break in my day, and children’s hour continued until Jane went to sleep. Then I was happy to go back to the books, so I felt each part of my life gave me respite from the other.”

    Having a work-life balance is necessary. It doesn’t have to be spending time with a child, it can be your pet, your elderly neighbor, the trees in the park, or spending time with yourself.

    I think one of the lessons Covid-19 has taught us all is that it is ok not to be perfect. It is ok to tell people, I can’t take that call at 6 pm this evening because I will be having dinner with my family, or having a socially distanced walk with my friend, or just sitting at home with a cup of tea by myself with my own thoughts.

    I am inspired by the choices Olivia has made and the changes she has undergone this year. It has been a year of transformation for her and maybe there is a lesson in that for all of us- that we can make changes in very difficult times in our lives. We can allow time for our family and friends and ourselves and we should remind ourselves of that. 

    Olivia is a truly inspirational story and we at the Global Leadership League wish her every success in her new role and thank her for sharing her story!

    - 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.

  • 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


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.


Our Mission

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