The Office of International Education: New Direction for Study Abroad

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“Our office experienced significant staffing changes this summer,” said Katherine Sumner, a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA), who is currently filling in as Director for the Office of International Education (IE) until final staffing decisions have been made over the course of the academic year.

Working with Sumner is Sahra Grube, Office Administrator with a separate certification as a Public Notary, and Jordan Zilla, Study Abroad Advisor. Together they hope to improve the IE program in a variety of ways. Their approaches include increasing the number of international students that attend St. Mary’s College of Maryland, raising the percentage of students who take the time to study abroad, and helping to make the whole process easier and more affordable for everyone.

One way to do that is by assisting both students and faculty who want to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship like the one Sumner earned from 2010-2011.  She “can’t speak highly enough about the Fulbright program!” At St. Mary’s, 37 faculty and 18 students have been awarded Fulbright scholarships since 1980. Current students, faculty, and even alumni are eligible to apply for grants, and they will also receive assistance from the IE office throughout the application process. Sumner is currently the Fulbright Program Adviser for St. Mary’s, and has helped students that wish to apply for the 2017-18 award year. Her views on the opportunity state that these scholarships, “are an important component of International Education, as they provide graduates unique, total immersion experiences abroad and reflect well on St. Mary’s academic rigor, as the awards are highly competitive.”

While new to the position of Office Administrator for IE, Sahra Grube has been working with St. Mary’s College of Maryland since 2008 at the Physical Plant. Last year, Grube was certified as a Public Notary while working separate from the IE office. She has “yet to incorporate it into SMCM International Education,” but says “if the need comes along [she] will be able to help.” She only has one problem with her new position, saying she “dislikes when students say they don’t know where the IE office is.”

Study Abroad Advisor Jordan Zilla guides student through the process, from application tore-entry, saying that she emphasizes informing students about travel opportunities because, “Study abroad shaped my life, both professionally and personally, so I always want to encourage students to take advantage of this opportunity and reassure them that I’m here to make the process go smoothly. It’s my job and an absolute pleasure!” Jordan graduated from Penn State University in 2013, and immediately began her graduate studies in Spanish at Middlebury College that same summer. She studied in Madrid, Spain from 2013 to 2014, and then finished her degree in Buenos Aires, Argentina for two months in the summer of ’14.  Afterwards she lived in Madrid for another year, teaching English language and literature to students between the ages of 12 and 18, just recently re-entering the United States to join us here at St Mary’s College of Maryland.

Each of the office’s new staff members feels that having fifty percent of the student body study abroad is an accomplishment St. Mary’s College of Maryland should be proud of, and the new IE office Staff would like to try their luck at raising it higher.

IE works with faculty who run incredible study tours and they are excited to continue supporting those faculty members and help others establish new tours. IE also strives to have programs that will work flexibly with every budget, major, and graduation timeline with new programs in Fall of 2017 that will help reduce travel costs and provide many more chances for students to see the world. The Office of International Education invites you to visit during open hours or contact any of them for more information.