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Northwestern staff members embark on new exchange program

Northwestern staff members embark on new exchange program

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Big Ten Academic Alliance International Visiting Professionals Program

The Office of International Relations expands professional development opportunities for staff within the field of international education.

Exchanges aren't just for students and faculty.

This summer, two staff members from Northwestern's International Office made stateside treks to other Big Ten universities. Debbie Kaltman and Stephanie Cisneros, who can usually be found on campus supporting international students and scholars in Evanston, traveled to the University of Minnesota and Pennsylvania State University, respectively, for professional exchanges.

“I think it is incredibly valuable and worthwhile to experience another university's processes, programs, perspectives, and people,” says Kaltman, Coordinator of International Student Experience, who visited International Student and Scholar Services at the University of Minnesota (UMN).

The exchanges are part of the Big Ten Academic Alliance's International Visiting Professionals Program. Through this program, member universities provide their staff with space and resources to share best practices in the field of international education. At Northwestern, the program is administered by the Office of International Relations, reflecting its commitment to involving staff members meaningfully in Northwestern's internationalization activities.

“The Office of International Relations offers a number of staff engagement opportunities through our One World \ One Northwestern initiative. The Big Ten staff exchange program is one of them,” says Kim Rapp, Assistant Vice President for International Relations. “It allows us to provide Northwestern staff members with a unique, immersive professional development opportunity that is directly related to their work.”

Kaltman's role primarily focuses on international student programming. She was eager to meet and learn from colleagues at UMN's International Student and Scholar Services, whom she has long-admired for their leadership in the field of international education.

“I gained new programming ideas, some of which I am already putting into place for the 2017-2018 academic year,” says Kaltman. “For example, we are creating an International Student Advisory Board to hear directly from our students in an effort to address their self-identified needs and challenges.”

For International Student Advisor Stephanie Cisneros, the administrators exchange provided an opportunity to learn about data management systems. In shadowing advisors at Pennsylvania State University's Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising, Cisneros gained an in-depth understanding of its system to guide Northwestern as it explores new technologies.

“I walked away from my visit much more confident in my understanding of how different systems might be able to support both our students, and our international scholars and employees,” says Cisneros. “I am grateful that our office allowed me the time to explore alternative methods of supporting our international student population.”

Both Cisneros and Kaltman regularly engage in professional development activities, such as attending conferences offered by International Educators of Illinois and NAFSA: Association of International Educators. However, Cisneros notes that the International Visiting Professionals Program provides administrators a unique opportunity not often found through other experiences.

“The biggest draw of applying to the program was that I would have the opportunity to shadow another international student and scholar services office for a number of days,” says Cisneros. “This experience is unlike conferences where you interact with international education professionals during a 60-minute session, workshop, or networking event.”

The Office of International Relations also hosts visiting administrators through the program. Ashley Green, Assistant Dean of Administration for International Studies and Programs at Michigan State University, spent three days on campus in June. The Office of International Relations facilitated meetings with administrators at the Kellogg School of Management, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and several other offices so that Green could learn how Northwestern develops and maintains international partnerships.

“The Big Ten program is an exciting example of collaboration across offices and institutions," says Rapp. "The focus on sharing best practices benefits both the staff members who participate, and the faculty and students they serve.”