Message from the Dean: December 2023

Frances Vavrus
Frances Vavrus, Dean and Vice Provost of the International Division at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

As 2023 comes to an end, it offers an opportunity to reflect on the most meaningful moments of the past year. In my case, the highlight has been moving into Bascom Hall and beginning my position as vice provost and dean of the International Division. It has been a delight to get to know the staff, students, and faculty who make the division such a special place, and I look forward to deepening my knowledge of our core units in the coming year.

A particularly important event that resulted from my new role was speaking at the U.S. Department of Education during International Education Week in November and moderating a panel on the importance of multilingualism for careers in public and private sectors. The panelists and I were past recipients of fellowships afforded by the Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs (in my case, a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships for Swahili and Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Fellowship for Tanzania). It was inspiring to hear these more recent recipients discuss how these programs have enabled them to become highly-proficient speakers of two or more languages and cultural experts in different world regions.

Next week, I will participate in the winter commencement ceremony and will join some of our outstanding students onstage. Many of them have benefited from the programs in the division and beyond.

One such student is Natalia Betancourt Rodriguez, a biochemistry and global health major from Cani, Colombia. A King-Morgridge Scholar, Natalia took part in many activities as a student, in particular an international internship with GHI One Health Colombia. Following graduation, Natalia plans to enroll in graduate school or work directly in her field.

Another outstanding student is Junzhao Wang from Shanxi, China, who is graduating with a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy analysis through the global higher education program. Junzhao has made significant contributions to the international student community, working as a peer advisor within International Student Services. She hopes to continue her education as a PhD student in the educational leadership and policy analysis program here at UW.

Congratulations to Natalia, Junzhao, and each and every student who will graduate this month.

Even though we often think of commencement as the end of a period of study, it also marks a beginning for each person who reaches this milestone. Similarly, the end of one year is necessary for another year to commence. I wish you the best as you start on a new journey in 2024.