Message from the dean: Alumni champions open doors for international engagement

Dean Guido Podesta
Dean Guido Podesta

This year Homecoming had a different feeling from our most recent years. It was the first time in two years that we had the opportunity to connect in person with the alumni who have been supporting the International Division as part of our External Advisory Board. As expected, they were eager to learn how the continuing work of the division and university is progressing in the midst of so many changes and challenges, some of which were triggered by the pandemic.

I shared with them the state of the division, with particular attention to our priorities for the year, which are focused on the reopening of in-person study abroad programs, the Title VI competition on the horizon, and the adjustments to our working operations, including what we have learned from working remotely. I underscored that even though we had to deal with an unexpected landscape, considerable energy and time was put into areas that have expanded and innovate our operations and programs. A couple of presentations—one on study away and the other one on summer language instruction in the hands of the Wisconsin Intensive Summer Language Institutes (WISLI)—served as the best illustration. The integration of International Faculty and Staff Services (IFSS) and International Student Services (ISS) into the division deserved a special note. Welcoming IFSS and ISS into the division has been a major enterprise—a long time in the making—that required careful planning to meet the expectations placed on this critical transition.

This meeting of the alumni advisory board has also been an opportunity to thank them for their contributions, financial and otherwise. We do not advertise much about what they do for us, however, I can assure you all that it is considerable. The resources made possible by their involvement are difficult to measure.

It was also interesting to compare notes with them since they have been dealing, in their sphere of work, with issues that in some cases were similar to the ones we are now confronting.  At the top of the list is the role we can play in the creation of a more diverse workforce but also our ability to reach out to a larger audience beyond the walls of our campus and elevate the profile of our programs.

I encourage you to learn more about our board members. They are all incredible alumni and/or supporters who have led exceptional careers. I am very grateful for their continuing involvement on campus—sharing expertise and opening doors for future generations. One such opportunity to connect with a board member will take place on November 15, when Aaron Williams, former director of the Peace Corps will share his story as the keynote of International Education Week. I hope you will find time to view the event, whether you watch virtually in your home or at a watch party being held on campus.