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INTERVIEWS

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!

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  • 04 Aug 2022 9:07 PM | Anonymous

    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH MARGHERITA PASQUINI

    What I Bring to the Table

    Margherita Pasquini sits down with us to discuss her career journey, how she came to be involved in climate change activism, and the gendered struggles that come with motherhood when you are a working woman.

    “In Italian, there’s a saying,” Margherita Pasquini notes, as she discusses her own personal journey connecting her career in higher international education with climate change activism, “‘The newly converted are the most active fighters.’” As someone who did not originally connect study abroad with climate change, Pasquini openly considers herself one of these newly converted.

    “I had some denial about this [issue],” she admits and -- upon attending a session led by CANIE -- says that “I felt so behind… I felt the urge of doing something… getting more committed.” Since having this realization, Pasquini has maintained her position in higher international education while becoming more actively involved in CANIE’s mission to increase climate change education and get people involved.

    “What I bring to the table is my enthusiasm,” she says, “I know what it feels like to be completely unaware of the topic, and I want to make other people feel how I did.” In having a conversation with Pasquini, this enthusiasm is infectious. She is candid, honest, and unafraid to connect with people, which makes her an asset to our fight against climate change. She says her goal is to get more people involved in CANIE, perhaps more big names. Pasquini does not seem phased by the grandiose nature of this fight and continues to focus on inspiring people and forming human connections in order to expand awareness of CANIE’s name and mission.

    Pasquini brings this enthusiasm to all aspects of her life. She has held a position as the Study Abroad Coordinator at her alma mater, La Universita Cattolica, where she has worked for the past 13 years and also works as the Regional Event Manager for Europe for the FPP. She continues to inspire students and launches European undergraduate recruitment events for high schoolers. Anyone, adult or child, can benefit from listening to Pasquini speak and getting to share the energy she exudes; although, to put her focus into inspiring high school students to live their life to the fullest seems like time well-spent on her part.

    “I was helping people decide on their destinations and programs even before I got hired,” she says, smiling, “Traveling is a part of life. It’s part of how we experience this world.” In her own experience, Pasquini has expressed finding a sense of herself and family through

    traveling, especially when she went to Mexico. “That is the place where my heart is, outside of my country.”

    Hearing the certainty and passion in her voice is enough to convince any student who is doubting studying abroad to take the leap and experience it to the fullest. “I understood when I was [working in international education] that it was my thing.” She recognizes the importance of bringing this experience to students and has begun thinking that “many people in higher education want to go back to traveling as we used to do before. Traveling for business has always had a pleasurable component that, I believe, can’t be denied, but we [professionals] need to be more responsible and less selfish, even if it hurts because the people doing this job LOVE traveling. [We need to] think that if there’s a limited amount of C02 to be used for traveling on this planet, then it should be used by students who will benefit the most from international experiences.”

    Pasquini is a devoted mother of two and candidly expresses how difficult it has been for parents to work at home during COVID for the past two years. “I don’t know if I do it right, honestly,” she says, “sometimes I struggle a lot.” Upon further discussion, Pasquini notes that when COVID hit, many of household responsibilities were placed on women, especially mothers. She states that over 90% of the people who lost their jobs during the pandemic were women, and much of that is to do with the sexist ideologies that makeup professional environments and continue to affect female employees today.

    “It’s like a vicious cycle,” she observes, “When you hire a woman, there’s an assumption that at some point, she will have to take time off. So you give her less responsibilities. This ends up in her having a smaller salary. If there is something I want for my kids, it is gender equality.”

    This gender barrier in the workplace has existed long before COVID and, as Pasquini notes, can deeply impact her own perception of motherhood. “I will never quit my job for my kids… for my own mental health and affirmations,” she says, “I feel there is such a different standard for moms versus dads… Whatever you do is never enough. Being a very committed professional with two kids, I sometimes feel like I struggle with accepting that.”

    Pasquini has felt this pressure to prove herself as a working woman throughout her entire career. “I wanted to show that I didn’t even need maternity leave,” she says, “I worked from the delivery room.” Hopefully, we can reach a point where women who choose to become mothers do not feel this tremendous weight set on them. If women and men were held accountable in the same way for parenthood and career paths, perhaps this sense of guilt that torments so many of us would subside. Pasquini comments on this sense of guilt by saying that “We give birth to a child and a sense of guilt at the same time.”

    At the risk of jeopardizing my journalistic integrity, I would like to share a part of myself that Pasquini made me feel comfortable enough to share with her. I was raised by a strong, working mother who brought me into her office when I was only four days old. Although I am sure that she faced the same struggles that Pasquini and so many women before her have faced, I saw nothing but an accomplished role model who did not ever leave me questioning whether my gender would be a factor in my life. I never doubted that I would achieve whatever I needed to achieve, and that was because of women like my mom and Pasquini, who push past the barriers that society sets down in front of them to pave the way for a better future for the next generation.

    Upon hearing my brief story about my experience growing up with a working mother, Pasquini was moved to tears. She, like so many, has the weight of society bearing down on her and telling her what is and is not emulative of a good mother or a good employee. To sit down and speak so candidly with someone as strong and accomplished as Margherita Pasquini is nothing short of exhilarating. “I put mom on my CV now,” she mentions, smiling. Her enthusiasm, honesty, personability, and fierce work ethic are only some of the things that Pasquini brings to the table, both personally and professionally.

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Sabrina Vitale

    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.

  • 07 Jul 2022 9:30 AM | Anonymous

    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH BEE GAN

    How Can We Do Better?

    Bee Gan discusses her current position at Sheffield Hallam University as well as her current projects and the passion she holds for climate change activism and carbon literacy.

    “How do you do better?” Bee Gan asks as she discusses the steps she is taking to increase carbon literacy among the students at Sheffield Hallam University. “How can I motivate young people to do more?” These are the questions that Bee chooses to live her life by and build her career through. 

    Driven by her passion to inspire people and in turn create a ripple of change, Bee holds the position of Head of Global Academic Development at Sheffield Hallam University after working there for almost 17 years. She is piloting Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL), a program she founded in an attempt to raise awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities and to work on climate action projects where students can apply [carbon literacy] in their own sector.

    Students in this program are being asked to analyze data and advise on potential action/actions the University could take (or is currently undertaking) to meet its Climate Action Strategy target of net zero carbon by 2030. Allowing students the creative and academic liberty to establish their own solutions and suggestions surrounding climate action in their university is a refreshing tactic. Giving the power to the students is perhaps one of the most effective and empowering ways to encourage healthy learning and creative solutions.

    “At the moment we do it as an extracurricular,” Bee explains, “Only a small percentage of young people are willing to go the extra mile. I don’t know how to reach or inspire them?” She is actively searching for solutions to this struggle such as interdisciplinary learning. “I am kind of a champion that multidisciplinary work is so important for students. I see this as a golden opportunity.”

    Through all of these steps to encourage inspiration in the minds of her students surrounding carbon literacy, Bee is also an active voice in international education which has pushed her to search for more solutions surrounding internationalization and its relationship to climate change. “You can’t stop people from traveling,” she says, “People are what make the places I visit interesting… That human contact is not going to be replaced. Yes, we are creating a lot of carbon but there are actions we can take to reduce it in the future.”

    This passion for reducing our carbon footprint partnered with her own love for travel is what makes Bee such an inspiring person to talk to. Surrounding her role in the Climate Literacy Project, she suggests that companies as well as her own establishment “need to look at the technology that you want to develop.” She believes that a bigger push for green technology while continuing to grow their economy can heavily benefit these institutions and help balance the harm caused by traveling. She encourages staff to use COIL and thinks there is more that we can do to better internationalization at home, for example, a push for bettering online education and support.

    “COVID-19 has been positive in making us take this action,” she explains, “Even though we talk about digitizing, it's a very slow process. But COVID came and we had no choice and our IT support is getting better…” Being able to see the environmental advantages of technology improvement through a pandemic is proof of the ability Bee has to search for creative solutions rather than cower at a challenge.

    More than that, Bee takes her love of problem solving and helping people find solutions and applies it to areas of her life separate from work. She currently volunteers for an organization called GoodGym that helps people get fit by doing good. The community group runs, walks and cycles to help local community organizations and isolated older people by doing practical tasks. Before COVID-19, Bee regularly ran to see an isolated older person for a chat and ran home. GoodGym calls the older people they visit coaches because they help motivate them to run and they share their wisdom. It’s amazing what you can learn from your coach. “Being part of an engaging community gives me a sense of belonging, doing good deeds, helping your local community makes us happier and healthier,” she says.

    Bee brings that responsibility to all areas of her life. She faces challenges every day from a global perspective, choosing to remain focused on finding solutions. She also tackles her job from a different perspective than some of her predecessors and coworkers.  Because of who I am and my background, it gave me a different perspective working here because I see things slightly differently than other people because of where I am from,” she explains.

    Being a woman of color in the international education field, she believes that “Thinking differently is allowing me to progress because I’m doing something slightly different that makes people stop and think ‘Oh, We’ve never done it this way…That’s why I think diversity is very important because if you train all your staff the same, then you continue to do the same thing. As Matthew Syed said, "Diversity, in a real sense, is the hidden engine of humanity."

    Disruption is perhaps the single most accurate word to describe Bee Gan and her achievements. She somehow simultaneously focuses on the power she holds as an individual while focusing on the bigger picture at all times.

    “Climate change is everyone's agenda,“ Bee notes, “If we put everyone together, they could find more creative solutions.” Bee does not look at a problem and see a barrier… She sees an opportunity. Turning problems into a challenge rather than an ending is one of the bravest things someone can do, especially when faced with a problem as great as Climate Change. Much of the rhetoric surrounding climate change and the fate of our Earth is demoralizing... People see a problem so big and seem to lose faith in the power held by an individual. Sitting down with Bee Gan for even less than five minutes allows anyone to see the ripples that one person’s passion and hopefulness can have no matter the size of the issue they are tackling.

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Sabrina Vitale

    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.

  • 02 Jun 2022 3:30 PM | Anonymous

    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH JENNY WILKINSON

    One Woman, Countless Hats

    Jenny Wilkinson sits down with us to discuss her professional experience as the Director of Student Recruitment and Business Development at London Metropolitan University. She explains the steps she has taken to accomplish her achievements and her perspectives on music, upcoming projects, and being a woman in business.

    As Jenny Wilkinson reminisces about her time interviewing women Vice Chancellors for her MBA dissertation, she mentions how grateful she was “just being able to sit with these amazing women… I was a bit starstruck just listening to their stories”. She does not realize that being given the opportunity to sit down with her can render anyone else just as starstruck.

    Wilkinson, who has been working at London Metropolitan University for three years -- and assumed three separate positions in that time -- has been a voice for international education and climate change activism since her time in college.

    Hat 1: Music as a Driver for Social Change

    She completed her undergraduate degree in music with a specialism in voice and this continues to play a large role in her life. As a first-generation university student, Wilkinson’s driver was using music as a tool for social justice, which she now does at London Metropolitan Brass (no connection to the university).

    “I want a community music organization that’s free for anyone,” she says, “[where] we teach for free, we give free instruments, we play together for the joy of it, and nobody ever gets kicked out because they’re not good enough.”

    In the past eight years, Wilkinson and her team have educated over 200 players, most of whom are adults seeking community. “Loneliness is a huge thing in big cities,” Wilkinson notes, “[people’s] individual stories really have the biggest impact”.

    London Metropolitan Brass  has provided this education for countless individuals… From recent college graduates to retirees, anyone who wants to become a part of this community, regardless of musical experience is encouraged to. “You can’t just be around the same kinds of people all the time,” Wilkinson notes.

    The passion she holds for social impact and community engagement directly translates to Wilkinson’s additional professional career at London Metropolitan University where she currently holds the title as the Director of Student Recruitment and Business Development. Her professional involvement in international education also dates back to her time as a university student.

    Hat 2: Study Abroad and London Metropolitan University

    As an undergraduate “I wandered into a building just to get warm and happened on a study abroad fair,” Wilkinson explains, “I’d never been on a plane before… I just took a leap”. She went on to study abroad at McGill in Montreal, Canada which she says “sparked my love for travel”.

    Upon graduation, Wilkinson thought back on what brought her joy in college, and other than her degree in music, she thought of her time abroad. This led to her first job in the International Office at King’s College London, followed by her time at Queen Mary working as a study abroad officer then at the University of Roehampton. She continues to seize opportunities that present themselves to her due to her hard work and incentive and now looks after a much wider portfolio at London Met.

    She strives to provide international opportunities for non-traditional students. “It’s not just for 19-year-old white girls; which, let’s face it, is what a large amount of traditional study abroad is,” she states. 92% of students at London Metropolitan have at least one underrepresentation marker and Wilkinson pushes to ensure that these students will be given access to the same study abroad opportunities as she was.

    Currently, “Our institution is probably the most socially diverse in the UK so we are working with institutions like HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in the US on developing various partnerships both for research exchange and for student projects to try and kind of have this bilateral knowledge exchange and understand how do we replicate that success for our students with underrepresented backgrounds on our campus?” Wilkinson is playing an active role in this project and silently seems to indicate that work like this is representative of what London Met stands for as an institution.

    She describes London Met as a unique and special place to be and believes that adjusting to any more traditional institution would be very difficult after working there. “The people that you meet… everyone is so passionate about their agenda. You can’t work at London Met if you don’t want to change the world basically.” She further describes the institution as “driven by passion to make change for our students.”

    Hat 3: Gendered Leadership and MBA Dissertation

    Wilkinson brings these values of passion and thirst for change into her MBA dissertation which she has been working on over the past year and just finished this past September. After having to shift her topic when the pandemic hit, she decided to conduct her dissertation on the experiences of women Vice Chancellors and Deputy Vice Chancellors during the pandemic and how they had approached leadership during the crisis.

    Through her work, she examines the ideas of gendered leadership and questions whether or not the women she interviewed identified with those concepts. She describes these interviews with immense pride and gratitude noting how fortunate she was to be able to interview these accomplished women in business. 

    This dissertation topic directly overlaps into Wilkinson’s career as, she too, is a successful woman in a predominantly male-dominated industry. “I think I’ve probably worked harder because I’ve felt like I have to prove myself every single day,” she says “I’m here because I’ve worked really hard.”

    “It’s given me more drive, and it’s made me work harder and now I’m at the point that … I don’t really care as much what other people think,” she states, “But, certainly, ten years ago, even five years ago, I really struggled with that.” Wilkinson’s achievements and position in her career speak for themselves and, arguably, the exposure she has to the inequalities that accompany being a woman in business allow her to push even harder for change. This translates in her constant push for activism throughout her career.

    Hat 4: Climate Change and PhD

    Upon finding passion in international education, Wilkinson began to recognize that she is culpable for traveling so frequently which, in itself, contributes to climate change. She immediately began to think about how to fix this issue and quickly realized that there is not much data surrounding climate change and its relationship to travel. “No one has the data to help make informed decisions in higher education,” she states.

    This revelation encouraged Wilkinson to study for her PhD and she now says that there is much more being published on the subject since a year ago when she started. She wants to create a framework that universities can use to demonstrate social and educational impact of travel, allowing students to continue engaging in international learning opportunities whilst balancing their responsibilities around climate action. There are too many international programs that willfully fail to take into account sustainability and too many sustainability programs that willfully fail to take into account internationalization.

    “I love being given a problem and sitting down and figuring out how to solve it,” Wilkinson admits. Her passion for problem solving coupled with her drive to bring international education to a wider audience as well as her voice in modern-day activism is precisely what makes Wilkinson such a unique and inspiring person to sit down with.

    With completing her PhD in the not-too-distant future, Jenny Wilkinson does not cease to render any interviewer or peer speechless. Her ability to surround herself with other accomplished individuals allows her genuine humility to shine through as she describes her own endeavors and achievements. 

    Along with her infectious optimism and the passion that shines through in her voice, it is almost impossible not to assign new meaning to one’s own life after a conversation with Wilkinson. She wears countless hats, from creating attainable music education to the public, to bringing her passion for international education to countless students, to completing a PhD, to actively contributing to climate change activism. I encourage anyone reading to lean on Wilkinson as an example and try on a hat that they might not usually. She is proof that you do not have to be any one thing. Why put that limit on yourself?

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Sabrina Vitale

    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.

  • 02 May 2022 1:00 PM | Anonymous

    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH MINA EMAM

    One Woman’s Journey Through Culture, Language, and Travel

    Mina Emam sits down with us to discuss her professional experience as an International Student Counselor in Tehran, Iran as well as her own perspectives on travel and the current state of our world.

    Mina Emam’s smile is audible as she expresses what a dream it would be for her to travel to Ireland and experience its culture and the sights it has to offer. Her passion for travel shines through as she reflects on her career in international education over the past 12 years. Although travel has been almost impossible recently, Emam maintains an infectious and refreshing outlook of hope.

    Despite the impact of challenges that recent events such as COVID-19, the Trump Administration, and Brexit have had on the students she oversees at Mava International Study, Emam seems hopeful that life and travel can return to what it was. “During these years, we’ve faced many challenges and many issues,” she says, “but, we continue.”

    She is hardly one to back down in the face of a challenge. Being a woman in the international education field alone has had its advantages and disadvantages. “I believe my gender was effective in my career path as people trust me more than if I was a man and they rely on me and they feel comfortable with me,” she explains -- noting the benefits that her gender may have had on her career, “But the other perspective is if I was a man, I would earn more and I could be more successful financially.”

    Regardless of gender norms, Emam continues to be a successful and powerful voice that instigates hope through her position at Mava International Study. As an International Student Counselor, she has forged connections with students who have studied globally throughout the past 12 years and made individual bonds so strong that she is still in contact with many of them today.

    “The things I do for students changes their lives and their career paths,” she notes, “I see how I can be effective in other people’s lives.” She further mentions that the students themselves have worked hard to stay in contact with her over the years and that many of them have told her directly how much her work has shifted their lives.

    What sets Emam apart from many international educators is the passion with which she herself discusses travel and cultural and linguistic immersion. The excitement that she exudes when discussing her own travels and experiences moves beyond treating this career as a simple job and shifts into sharing something deeply meaningful to her with the students and people that surround her.

    Emam grew up and is currently based in Tehran, Iran and speaks about her country with tremendous pride and enthusiasm. “If you don’t visit Iran and its nature and people and cultures, I believe you are missing a big experience in your life,” she says, “ we have so much beauty here… It is a beautiful country and the people are very kind in every city.”

    Traveling within Iran recently, Emam expresses that, “when visiting different people and different cultures, it is so amazing and new for [her], even being Iranian.”

    Having grown up in Iran, Emam speaks Persian fluently, has been speaking English since she was a child, and has also studied German. Her interest in other cultures and experience in multiple languages makes her unique and deeply perceptive.

    Emam has held this international education position for over a decade now and has faced countless challenges and obstacles. Her response to these challenges is that “I am hopeful for the future.” A refreshing and effortless response to the hardships that continue to impact her career and life every single day. Emam continues to push forward and bring life-changing experiences to an entire new generation. 

    Simply and elegantly put, “it is a great experience to know people.” Mina Emam seems to approach her career based on personal connections, fresh perspectives, and passion. Which is why, when met with the opportunity to discuss another potential travel endeavor to Ireland, Emam’s voice shifts and the excitement she exudes resembles what I can only imagine are the same reactions from the students she mentors every day.

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Sabrina Vitale

    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.

  • 15 Nov 2021 1:00 PM | Anonymous

    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH MONIKA SETIA

    Dr. Monika Setia is working as Regional Officer – Hyderabad with the United States - India Education Foundation (USIEF) – the Fulbright Commission in India - where she manages two U.S. State Department programs - Fulbright and EducationUSA. She has a work experience of more than 15 years in the education industry. After finishing her Ph.D. degree from The Pennsylvania State University in United States, Monika completed her postdoctoral fellowship from the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Singapore and then worked as an Assistant Professor with Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) for five years. Monika has published her research in international journals, worked with both state and national ministries of health in India and international agencies on various projects, and offered multiple training programs for students and professionals.

    Monika has strong passion for educational exchanges and career development of individuals. She believes that exposure to high quality education, research, and professional systems along with right mentoring and guidance on choice of suitable education and career pathways are essential for personal, academic, career, and leadership development of individuals. Having pursued her Ph.D. degree from the United States and having studied and worked in the Indian education system, she is interested in utilizing her experience and skills to promote educational and scholarly exchange between India and the United States.

    Monika Setia has worked as the Regional Office at USIEF - the United States-India Educational Foundation (also the Fulbright Commission in India) for nearly four years. Her role includes managing two U. S. Department of State programs - Fulbright and EducationUSA. Monika is responsible for promoting study and academic exchanges across India and the United States through these two programs. She does this from the USIEF regional office based at the U.S. Consulate General in Hyderabad.

    USIEF is essentially a bilateral organization that promotes and manages programs strengthening linkages between Indian and American institutions and this is done through different programs supported by both Indian and American governments. There is an inherent element of U.S. and Indian diplomacy and furthering the relationships between the two countries in Monika’s work. Through her work, Monika contributes to the promotion of joint research, collaboration, student and faculty exchange between India and the United States, and also student admissions to U.S. institutions. A component of the Fulbright program also involves facilitating higher education administrators from each country to visit and experience the higher education system institutions of the other country and sharing knowledge and best practices from their own country. 

    It seems like quite an important diplomatic role involving India and the United States and we were interested in finding out what a typical day looks like for Monika. 

    She is very much involved in strategic planning for both the Fulbright and EducationUSA programs. On a daily basis, she is also intensely involved in the student advising process through EducationUSA, speaking to students who want to pursue their higher education in the United States. On the Fulbright program, she works with both Indian and American scholars on their exchange process between India and the USA and promotes bilateral relationships between the two countries. Besides the long-term strategic management of both programs and the day to day advising, Monika also manages the administration involved in office, staff, budgeting, etc. 

    Normal office hours are 8:30 am when the consulate opens, but due to COVID she was working from home till very recently. We asked when the working day typically finishes, and she laughs. 

    "Honestly there's no end to the day – on most days, because we work closely with U.S. institutions, we are hosting sessions late into the evening." 

    We are curious to find out how Covid has changed her work, apart from having to work from home. 

    She tells us how USIEF expanded its reach during Covid to students located in many small towns and cities that USIEF was not able to reach previously. Going online gave them a wider audience, it gave them access to regions they were not able to reach before. So, she is now connecting with students and scholars who she would never have had a chance to speak with earlier. 

    "USIEF explored options to provide more opportunities to increase the number of students and scholars in more regions across India."

    Of course, when the pandemic first hit, like everywhere, there was a scramble to reach U.S. Fulbright students and scholars in India and likewise to monitor the situation for Indian students based in the United States. She thinks back to March 2020, trying to make sure U.S. students and scholars in India were safe, were given the options and support to get back to their country, and just at a very basic level, to ensure everyone was doing well. It was a very busy time, she felt there was a great responsibility to ensure students and scholars’ safety and it was quite challenging emotionally, something that people will all relate to when we look back to 2020. Of course, Fulbright has been unable to bring U.S. scholars to India since then, and there was a lot of work involved in adapting to the pandemic situation and this continued for months and months, but essentially, the main goal at that time was to ensure people’s safety and well-being. Monika shares how as part of her work on global higher education, the first need is to ensure the safety and well-being of exchange grantees. 

    Her role seems to be multi-faceted, requiring various skills and expertise, and we were curious as to what she loves most about these different tasks. 

    Monika loves interacting with students and scholars, guiding/mentoring them, taking care of their needs - sometimes psychological, sometimes operational, depending on what stage of their study or exchange process they are at or where they are located.  

    We reflect on how this is the basis for her work. Although she is dealing at a high level with U.S. and Indian institutions and the State Department to further public diplomacy between the two countries, it all comes down to facilitating processes to ensure that both U.S. and Indian students/scholars experience the other country and culture at its best! 

    On a parting note, we ask her to look into her crystal ball and think about what the future might hold for U.S. and Indian collaborations in higher education.

    Monika foresees change in future, with likely more internationalization happening across the educational institutions - more overseas branch campuses coming to India, more joint programs between institutions in India and abroad, and many more opportunities for academic collaborations. 

    We have no doubt that at the centre of this change and advancing India-U.S. relations will be Monika Setia and her organization, and at the heart of her work, the students and scholars will always remain the most important elements!

    - Interview by Global Leadership League members and volunteers, Noreen Lucey and Venkata Madhuri Gunti

    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.

  • 15 Jul 2021 4:30 PM | Anonymous

    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH ALETHEA STOLTZFUS

    1. What is your current title, and where do you work? I am an International Student Advisor at UC Berkeley in Berkeley, CA.
    2. How did you learn about your current position? (Ex. Networking, Promotion, External Job Posting) I learned about my current job through an external job posting, but I also knew of an alumnus of my graduate program who already worked in the office, and we were able to connect to discuss the position. I have since moved up to a higher-level advising role.
    3. What sparked your interest in working in international education?My study abroad experience at 18 definitely triggered my interest in the field, but during my undergraduate studies, I also tutored students (many of whom were international students), and I knew that whatever I ended up doing, I wanted to help students.
    4. What was your first job in international education? My first international education job was as a Student Services Specialist at TALK English School in Boston. At the time, I did not have a graduate degree, and I didn’t have any luck finding jobs in universities. I found it easier to break into the field in ESL schools, but I still spent about 3 - 4 months job hunting before I found my job. I was also completing the Global Pro Institute at the time. I loved the job and working with ESL students; it was so rewarding to see them arrive at our school sometimes speaking little to no English and then start to gain confidence with the language and let their personalities emerge more.
    5. Tell us about your first international experience, either traveling or working abroad. My first experience abroad was a one-month educational program with Go Abbey Road in Italy, Greece, and France with about 30 other high schoolers from all over the world. It was my first time away from the United States, my family, and my comfort zone, and it was amazing, hard, educational, and eye-opening. It motivated me to go to college when I returned to the U.S. and seek out more study abroad opportunities in the future.
    6. Describe a typical day/week at the office at your current job. Right now, a typical week at my job involves lots of advising emails, Zoom advising shifts, processing student requests and new documents, and meetings. My work is also cyclical, so at certain times of the year, I review financial aid applications, or recruit and train our orientation leaders, or manage our work authorization workshops. UC Berkeley is a huge university with thousands of international students, and my office has been extremely busy since the start of the pandemic; and we have been managing a higher volume of advising, emails, and paperwork than usual.
    7. What do you enjoy the most about your job? The thing I love the most about my job is the students. I love being able to help them, alleviate their stress and anxiety, and watch them grow.
    8. What is the most challenging aspect of your job? Typically, I would say the most challenging thing about my job is having the bandwidth and time to do everything that we would like to do for our students. It has also been an adjustment working at such a large university with so many students, as my previous jobs were all in smaller offices serving much fewer students. During COVID times, I would also add that the current administration and rapidly changing immigration policies have been extremely challenging.
    9. What has working in international education taught you about yourself and your own culture? Working in international education has taught me just how important flexibility and open-mindedness are and that there is not always a “right” or “wrong” answer.
    10. Do you have a career mentor or someone that you consult with about career growth? I don’t have one specific career mentor, but I have had many professors and supervisors over the years who have helped me with my career growth, whether that meant directing me to apply to the Fulbright program or convincing me to stay in graduate school or guiding me towards professional development opportunities.
    11. Describe a moment in your career that you consider your greatest achievement. One of my greatest achievements and learning experiences was teaching English in Germany with the Fulbright program. It was a very tough year, and there were many times that I wanted to quit and go home, but I learned so much about perseverance, myself, and what I wanted both personally and professionally. After that year, I was really motivated to pursue the career path that I was interested in and make some big changes to my life.
    12. How has COVID19 Impacted your work life? I am currently working from home for the foreseeable future.
    13. If you are working from home, has that adjustment been difficult or enjoyable? Working from home has been both difficult and enjoyable. I do enjoy being home more and having more time and flexibility, but I miss the social aspect of work. It also has been difficult to find ways to create a separation between “work” and “home” when my workspace is now my bedroom.
    14. What type of things are you doing to balance your mental health and lack of social engagement? I have started meditating this past year, and that has been a wonderful way to keep me balanced. I have also been trying to keep in touch with my long-distance friends more through phone calls and Zoom.
    15. What is the best advice you can give to other global educators right now as we move into the new year? The best advice I can give to global educators right now is to lean on each other! It is a very difficult time to work in this field, but being open and supporting each other can help to alleviate that. Staying in touch with my work colleagues and graduate school friends has been immensely helpful to me during this time.

    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.

  • 08 Jun 2021 3:30 PM | Anonymous

    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH POUNEH EFTEKHARI

    International Coordinator, Strategic Partnerships and Networks

    Lund University, Sweden

    1. What is your current title, and where do you work? International Coordinator, North America at Lund University (Lund, Sweden)
    2. How did you learn about your current position? I networked my way to my first role at Lund University in 2016 and was promoted several times until I reached my current position.
    3. What sparked your interest in working in international education? Growing up as a minority in my hometown, I didn’t always understand why my different religion or the language I spoke at home made me the target for bullying or exclusion. I longed to be like everyone else and didn’t appreciate my uniqueness until much later in life. The intersection of my identity crisis, passion for learning/education, and interest in travel led me to a career in international education.
    4. What was your first job in international education? I created some opportunities for myself to work with international programs/students during grad school, but only through networking and lots of compromises, could obtain a paid position in international education.
    5. Tell us about your first international experience, either traveling or working abroad. I vividly remember traveling to England when I was five years old. The most exciting part was riding on a jumbo jet and seeing Buckingham Palace. After that point, I was fortunate enough to travel internationally a few more times before embarking on my first study abroad experience in college. To date, I have studied abroad twice as an undergrad, earned my master’s degree abroad, taught English abroad, and worked abroad in several countries.
    6. What do you enjoy the most about your job? I work as a project manager and love the process of bringing ideas to fruition. It’s exciting to work with different individuals and offices on campus and international stakeholders, like Embassies, partner universities, government agencies, etc. It is also fun to travel to different parts of the world to launch these projects and/or meet with partners to continue the management of such projects.
    7. What is the most challenging aspect of your job? I am originally from the USA and currently work in Sweden. Learning how to be a professional in the Swedish context and having to learn the language has been a challenge for me. It is a very humbling experience to have to make a good first impression in a foreign language which you’re still struggling to learn.
    8. Do you have a career mentor or someone that you consult with about career growth? I feel very fortunate to have had several people throughout my career who have been integral in my professional growth and development. I have always sought out at least one person at work whom I admire and try to learn as much from them as possible. I have also reached out to individuals I didn’t know but were “known” in our field. Each and every time, these individuals have generously shared their time with me and offered their wisdom. The individuals I have been able to learn from have forever changed me and my life. Without their guidance, I wouldn’t have ever had the courage to apply for a Ph.D., ask for that promotion, or take a leap of faith and move to another country without having secured a job prior to the move.
    9. Describe a moment in your career that you consider your greatest achievement. I feel like each day that I have worked abroad is my greatest “lesson learned” because I am continuously humbled by the realization that I have a very narrow understanding of how things work.
    10. How has COVID19 Impacted your work life? I started working from home in March and continued working from home until the end of the year (I am now on parental leave for 2021). COVID-19 made me realize how much of my job satisfaction had to do with where I worked and with who I worked. Having limited contact with colleagues and via a screen really changed things.
    11. If you are working from home, has that adjustment been difficult or enjoyable? I have tried to keep things interesting at home by experimenting with new things for lunch/snacks and using the time I used to spend commuting to and from work for other things.
    12. What type of things are you doing to balance your mental health and lack of social engagement? I have made an extra effort to reconnect with people I’ve lost touch with or don’t connect with as often as possible. It has also helped to make recurring video call dates with loved ones.
    13. What is the best advice you can give to other global educators right now as we move into the new year? Most people experience change as a stressful thing. They find it chaotic when the ordinary becomes unpredictable. But for me, I find change exciting. It’s an opportunity to take stock of what has been done and see how we can make it even better. So, my wish is for my fellow colleagues to use these uncertain times as an opportunity to take a step back, reevaluate what they’re doing and then make the changes needed to move forward in a more meaningful way.
    - 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.

  • 17 May 2021 11:00 AM | Anonymous


    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH STEPHANIE MCCREARY

    Many people believe that trial and error is one of the best teachers. If you work in the field of international education, some might argue that it’s the only teacher. Unlike other professions such as medicine, law, or engineering, there is no clear-cut path or destination that will help you decide your career trajectory. Just ask Stephanie McCreary. Although she had envisioned traveling the world as a child, she had no idea that she would be able to translate that passion into a full-time job.

    Stephanie shares a few valuable lessons she has learned along the way as an international educator while exploring Europe, Asia, and Africa.

    1. Try new things.

    At 16 years old, Stephanie had an opportunity to study abroad in Belgium through a program sponsored by the Rotary Club. Her interest in other cultures and traveling began as young as six or seven, so her parents weren’t surprised and offered their full support.

    2. Don’t do what you think you should do.

    Stephanie enrolled in the creative writing program at Antioch College because she loved writing and didn’t know what else to study. Although she naturally assumed that she’d become a writer, she took advantage of the college’s cooperative education program, which enabled students to alternate semesters of on-campus study with off-campus work in a domestic or international location. She opted to enroll in the Buddhist Studies Program which took her to India. At the end of the program, Stephanie worked as a volunteer ESL teacher at a private school for children in Southern India, an experience that would prove invaluable later on.

    3. If it feels right, try it out.

    After graduating from Antioch, Stephanie spent two years working at an adult education center. She used her time at home in Milwaukee to save money and pursue research opportunities that would allow her to return to Asia. A TESOL Certificate program in Thailand seemed like the perfect fit. Stephanie found a job teaching middle school students in northern Thailand almost immediately after completing a four-week TESOL course. When she wasn’t working, she took time to explore neighboring countries like Vietnam and Singapore. Although she loved the Thai culture, the people, and the food, she eventually took a better-paying position teaching in South Korea.

    4. Go with your intuition.

    Staying true to her desire to see the world, Stephanie applied for another teaching position at an English immersion school in Istanbul, Turkey. Prior to arriving in Turkey, she had taken a trip to Chicago with her mom and attended a Turkish festival. Stephanie befriended a Turkish woman at the festival who connected her with a friend Stephanie would later meet in person after arriving in Istanbul. This small moment was a sign that she was on the right path. Stephanie says the energy and spirit of the city were palpable, and it was the first time since traveling abroad that she felt at home. The community of teachers and co-teachers afforded her an enriching social life and made the cultural adjustment easier.

    5. Don’t be afraid to take risks.

    Once Stephanie realized that IE was the path that she was destined to take, she decided to get a master’s degree from the School for International Training. The SIT program enabled her to participate in a short-term study abroad program in Senegal focused on language and social justice in the education system. She also spent six months as an intern with Barcelona Study Abroad Experience engaging with outbound students in Barcelona, Spain, and promoting study abroad programs to university students while working at the headquarters in Northampton, MA.

    6. Don’t close doors when you get an opportunity.

    Most recently, Stephanie was teaching abroad in Kurdistan, Iraq, for the Professional Development Institute at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani. She accepted the 1-year position in October 2019. Everything was going well until the school completely shut down in February 2020 due to COVID-19. Stephanie thought she would be able to return to in-person classes within a month, so she took a trip to visit a friend in Jordan. In March, she realized that she would not be able to return to Iraq, so she booked a flight to Portugal to stay with another friend. As airports in Europe began shutting down, Stephanie ran out of options, and the only country that would allow her to enter was the USA. Stephanie returned to Wisconsin in mid-April, where she has continued teaching for PDI remotely while managing a huge time zone difference. The school has no immediate plans to open for in-person teaching until possibly Fall 2021. In the interim, Stephanie accepted a new position as an Academic Success Coordinator with Verto Education, a Portland, Oregon, based gap year program. She was hired with the intention of eventually working abroad in the South Pacific in Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia. However, due to COVID-19, the Fall 2020 program was coordinated to be online.

    - 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.

  • 27 Apr 2021 2:00 PM | Anonymous

    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH LIANA PINNER

    I grew up mostly in western North Carolina in a family that never really traveled abroad. We didn’t do that much travel in the U.S., mainly taking family vacations to Florida or South Carolina. However, I knew as a child I wanted to travel and see more of the world. When I started high school, I studied French and became proficient in the language. My French teacher was really kind, supportive, and a bit quirky and didn’t naturally fit into where we lived, and I identified with that.

    I took all four levels of French and continued studying the language when I got to the University of North Carolina at Asheville. I didn’t know going into college that I wanted to major in French – I figured I would minor in it. I was studying biology because I wanted to be a veterinarian or zoologist but decided that it was not for me, although I still love animals. I changed my major to French at the end of my first semester and added on K-12 Education. During that time, I had my first international experience. I boarded a plane for the first time to study abroad in France in the spring of my junior year at Université Catholique de l’Ouest. My main goal was to improve my language skills. I wish I would have done it sooner. I loved studying abroad, getting to know my host family, and gaining a better understanding of the local culture. It also made the world seem a lot smaller and a lot more connected.

    My host family included two parents who had adult children that lived outside of the home. Their kids would come home to visit, and we would have dinner together. I also lived with another American student who was in the same program. It was great for accountability because they weren’t allowed to speak English with us. It was nice having someone to show us around town and explain the culture more in-depth. When I arrived in France, my written and verbal comprehension was better than my ability to speak. I returned from that experience having a better accent and improved French. It was great!

    I graduated in December, so it wasn’t the best time to find a teaching job. Instead, I took a job working with youth and mental health. After a year, I returned to France to become an English teaching assistant for middle and high school-age kids in a very small town in France. I did that for about seven months and then went back to the United States and decided to get a master’s degree in international education. I got a job in youth development, working on internships and career development for high school students.

    I didn’t get my first international education job until a year after graduate school, working for the UNC Hussman School of Media and Journalism, which is where I work now as the Director of Global, Immersive and Professional Programs.

    Fifty percent of my job is global. The other fifty percent is anything from managing any student experience outside of the traditional classroom to professional education programs. On the global side, I advise students on how to incorporate any type of global opportunity into their time at UNC. We have exclusive exchange partners from media and journalism and a robust visiting international scholars’ program for academics looking to gain professional development, conduct research, or take classes. I coordinate short-term programs and assist students who make independent reporting trips for capstone courses by making sure they have safety plans and are following travel regulations. I also help with coordinating domestic student travel for courses, lecture series, and professional workshops.

    Since coronavirus hit, our department has been working from home. We still have students who are interested in studying abroad, but not as many. We are still communicating with the university partners and assisting our international scholars who are in the country. It’s been a lot less coordinating global activities and more about organizing budgets, looking towards the future and transitioning some of our programs to include virtual components.

    For the role I’m in now, when I first got the job as a program assistant, I didn’t know it would be such a great fit for me. I was really excited about it, but I didn’t expect to be here long term because, in my mind, I pictured myself working in a study abroad office or at a provider. The reason I love my job so much now is that I do something different every day. Also, I know my students really well, which is so rewarding. I know what they are studying and what type of career paths they can go into. I enjoy being specialized in this area and knowing programs really well. I also get to travel with students and see their growth while on the trips. Students in the Hussman School are doing amazing things during their global programs, such as producing news stories, interning in the advertising industry, or creating great digital content. They impress me every day, and I feel lucky to follow their journeys.

    I found this position just by checking job boards. The thing that attracted my former boss to my application is the “Global HQ” website that I created after enrolling in the Global Pro Institute. Even though I didn’t work in global ed for a while, I learned to leverage my other work experiences and translate them to the position.

    - 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.
  • 06 Apr 2021 9:30 AM | Anonymous

    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH MORGAN NEUBERT

    When I was in high school, I participated in a Rotary Youth Exchange program. It was the first time I had been outside of the country other than taking tourist trips to Mexico. I spent three weeks living with a Rotary family in Paris, France, and their son came back to California and stayed with my family. My dad ran the international travel center at Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo, so I was very aware of international travel from a young age. As part of his job, he took students on trips all over the world. I started down this path because of him. His work at a university seemed fun and unique. Universities are like mini-cities and allow you to get a sense of what the world will look like in the future.

    That led me to the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I studied abroad in Germany. Because I was older, I got a lot more out of the experience. I was studying language and culture. There were mostly American students in the program, but we lived in the dorms with German students. On the weekends, we got to travel and explore other parts of Europe. My undergraduate degree is in history and education, so I wrote my senior thesis on German education post-WWII. When I graduated from UCSB, I applied for the AmeriCorps VISTA Program working for Student Veterans of America in Washington D.C. This position allowed me to engage with universities all over the country, so the plan was to combine that experience with my study abroad involvement and eventually get a job in international education. Working with veterans gave me a well-rounded perspective on students and how to support people from different backgrounds and experiences. It was an excellent stepping-stone for me.

    I had been applying to jobs in higher education, but I wasn't getting them, so I decided to get more international experience by volunteering in Tanzania through WorldTeach. I taught English to a class of 40 students between the ages of 14 and 20 in a small village on the Eastern Coast of the country. There was another American volunteer and two local co-teachers. That experience changed my life and made me more appreciative of everything I have. The students were so happy and excited to learn and loved having us in their village. We were followed around everywhere. They made up a song for me one morning, and whenever you asked for a volunteer, everyone raised their hand!

    After I got back from Tanzania, I got a job at Stanford University working in housing. They have many international students, so even though I wasn't working directly in IE, I was able to get more experience with that population. I created a training program for our student staff and assisted the general student population with their housing needs. It was a great higher ed experience. From there, I decided to pursue a master's degree in higher and professional education at the UCL Institute of Education in London. While there, I realized the United States' university experience is different from other country's institutions. We have more programs and invest a lot more in the student experience versus strictly focusing on the academic experience. It was really interesting to talk to other international students about their academic experiences. My thesis for my master's was focused on intercultural competence development in higher education students via on-campus and study abroad programs.

    After applying for what felt like a thousand jobs, I was offered a position at UCLA Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars initially as a Programs Coordinator. The director left after a few months, so I applied and was promoted to Programs Manager. It's been a great job! We serve 12,000 international students and scholars at UCLA. I manage a vast portfolio of programs and events with the goal of promoting global connections, international understanding, and cultural sensitivity. These programs range from classroom-style cultural learning programs to large-scale welcome events with over 800 people in attendance. It's been a whirlwind for international students with all the visa and travel regulations related to COVID-19, but my staff and I are working hard to still make them feel part of the UCLA community, even if they are thousands of miles away from campus!

    - 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.

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INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION

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