Behind the Scenes of Study Abroad

Elissa Stiles is the CGE’s new Marketing & Communications Coordinator. While she worked as a Peer Adviser and Summer Intern during her time as a TU undergraduate student, she began her full-time marketing position with the university in July of this year.

NAFSA is a national association for international education, and a leading organization in study abroad.

CGE-staffLast week, I experienced my first professional conference in the study abroad community, realizing along the way how talented, prepared, and creative my own TU colleagues are. During our time in Norman, OK, for the NAFSA Regional Conference, each of the five CGE staff members prepared and shared at least one presentation with our regional peers. For four days, my eyes were opened to just how much heart, soul, and hard work lie behind the scenes of TU’s study abroad!

Dr. Cheryl Matherly, Vice Provost for Global Education, began the week by facilitating an afternoon workshop on assessment in International Educaton. Presenting alongside colleagues from OU and UNL, Cheryl shared her extensive experience in developing and working with assessment tools including recent efforts at TU to improve outcomes and increase efficacy as a part of TU’s Quality Initiative for upcoming reaccreditation. The session was attended by more than 25 international education professionals from across Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

I myself gave my first professional presentation in collaboration with Bob Lieser of Tulsa Global Alliance (TGA) over strategic partnerships with community organizations. Bob and I have a personal history of working together during my summer internship, when I was responsible for organizing cultural programming for an incoming group of 13 students from the China University of Petroleum in Beijing. It was a pleasure to present alongside Bob, and the experience of presenting to peers across four states was an exciting, if slightly intimidating, opportunity!

Shanna Blount, assistant to Dr. Matherly and manager at the Center for Global Education, presented twice during the conference in collaboration with colleagues from multiple other universities. Her first session focused on meeting the financial and career-based needs of first-generation college students in going abroad. Her second session, “Improving Mental Health Awareness among International Students,” reached the audience with a vital yet overlooked aspect of being a truly outstanding host for international exchange students.

cge-staff-presentEarly in the week, Laura Semenow, Associate Director for Study Abroad, presented on creating successful partnerships such as those between China University of Petroleum-Beijing and TU. Her experience managing the more than a dozen bi-lateral student exchanges provided insight into the issues and opportunities that come with the development of university exchanges. Colin Large, Study Abroad Coordinator, also shared insights along with several regional colleagues on making study abroad a greater reality for athletes, veterans, and non-traditional students, as well as about opportunities for professional development within international education. As the last session of the week, Laura and Colin brought the conference to a strong close with their presentation on online pre-departure orientations, an enormous and enormously important project that they have refined at TU over the past two years.

At the end of the week, I was exhausted, filled with new ideas and understanding, and thoroughly amazed at all of the talent and knowledge housed in TU’s study abroad office. Without openly bragging on my colleagues, I must admit that the University of Tulsa is an excellent place to study and study abroad – our CGE has the passion and ability to care for each student, both American and international, throughout every step of the process!

-Elissa Stiles