Q&A with the New Western Institutional Relations Representative

In July 2017, Dana Elliott joined the expanding GEO Institutional Relations (IR) team as its Institutional Relations Representative (Western Region) to work closely with GEO’s Western U.S. partners in delivering customized, personalized solutions to their internationalization needs. Read on to learn a bit more about her.

You’ve been in the field of international education for a decade now; how did you get started?

“Like so many of my fellow professionals, I studied abroad as a student and the seed for a career in international education was planted, I think. It took me a few years to get around to it, though. I originally intended to work for the forest service or the national park system after graduation, but a very lucky chance meeting set me on the path to getting my M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language instead. I did a Fulbright year abroad teaching English in Germany, and then I settled down to be an ESL teacher for many years; that job also had me running a one-person study abroad office on the side, and I realized my passion for education abroad could also become a career.”

You mentioned studying abroad; where did you go and what did you study?

“I was fortunate enough to study abroad several times. I was a Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange participant in my senior year of high school; I spent a year there before graduating and returning home to enroll at the University of Idaho. I returned to Germany for another semester to work on my B.A. in German, and then returned again for my Fulbright year after graduating. I also did a year in New Zealand studying viticulture, natural resources and Maori language and culture. I also had the fortune to do a month-long language and culture program one summer in South Korea.”

You had a lot of personal experience with study abroad; say more about your professional experience.

“I mentioned how I got my start in study abroad; I worked as a one-person office at a small four-year college in Idaho called Lewis-Clark State College, not to be confused with Lewis & Clark College in Oregon. I wore many hats while I was there, and I was proud that we tripled the number of students studying abroad in that time, although with such a small number as we were sending, that was not so difficult to do. That experience was invaluable, however; I did everything from visa advising to program review and onboarding of new providers, developing new scholarships and working with faculty to develop customized programming, and also assisting students from applications all the way to returning home and getting credits approved from their experience. After eight years, I wanted a bigger challenge, so I moved on to the University of South Dakota and got a crash course in using Studio Abroad, working with hundreds of students per year, and working with more faculty on everything from proposing a program to developing, promoting and sending them abroad. From that experience I moved to the University of Oregon, first as a student advisor, and now bringing my experience to the institutional relations team. ”

Why did you transition from being an advisor with GEO to being the Institutional Relations Representative (IRR)?

“There’s a word in German that describes my entire approach to both advising and being the IRR, though I don’t know if it translates perfectly: Betreuung – it roughly means care, support, or assistance. As a student advisor, I prided myself on being the person a student could always rely on to get accurate and timely information and smooth the hurdles in their path. Of course, we want students to take ownership of their education and their study abroad experience, but much of the process is confusing and sometimes overwhelming; while I was not going to shield them from those challenges, I was always going to be right beside them when they need a hand up. I feel that GEO needs to provide the same kind of support to our institutional partners if we’re going to grow together and serve our students, and that’s why I wanted to transition into this new role.”

Enough about work! What do you do for fun?

“Lots of things! I enjoy genealogy and papercrafts, like origami. I love live music and going to concerts, as well as hunting for deals in thrift and antique shops. I am a big reader and an avid gamer, so I am often on the couch with a book or on my Xbox or PC. I love travel, of course, and seeing new places and trying the new food in a locale is always a highlight for me, also! I hope that when I visit our partners around the region they’ll be able to direct me to some good places to try!”

Dana will be hitting the road in the coming weeks and looks forward to meeting all of GEO’s Western partners in person – if you’d like her to attend an outreach event or campus visit, please don’t hesitate to reach out to her at danaell@uoregon.edu.