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UCEAP Alumni and Friends

 A Note from Vivian-Lee Nyitray
UCEAP Associate Vice Provost and Executive Director

April 2018

On March 19-20, I joined NAFSA members from across the country to participate in Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. and visit our elected representatives on Capitol Hill. Our purpose was to elicit general expressions of support for international students and scholars (tweets, floor speeches, support for future legislation), and to promote specific support for the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act (S. 601 and H.R. 4379). We did not specifically advocate on behalf of DACA students, but ongoing advocacy efforts include calls to support the Dream Act (S. 1615 and H.R. 3440). The first day was filled with info sessions on specific policies, along with role-playing scenarios to prepare us for speaking with legislators and their aides. The following day, we braved the coming nor’easter and headed to the Hill. There were eleven people in the California delegation, including Kitty Christen (Systemwide Office), Sarah Nagel (UCB), Aspen Felt and Kai Cheng (UCD), and Ashley Browne (UCI). The entire group visited the offices of Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, after which Kitty and I visited the office of our local Santa Barbara congressional representative, Salud Carbajal.

In visiting each office, we acted as members of NAFSA but indicated our affiliations with the University of California. Neither of the California senators was available to speak with us directly but we were given 30 minutes of time with staffers in each of their offices. Kitty and I managed a quick “hallway hello” to Rep. Carbajal as he hurried off to vote on the House floor and then spent a pleasant 20 minutes with his staff (and canine “chief of staff”). We left them with our business cards and a standing invitation to visit the UCEAP office when the Congressman is in town.

One striking revelation from our conversations was that the great majority of staff members had themselves studied abroad. We expressed our appreciation for Sen. Feinstein’s co-sponsorship of the Simon Act, and we provided each office with outbound student success stories as well as stories of the visa challenges and delays facing inbound exchange students. We left them with NAFSA-generated packets of relevant legislative background and infographics tailored to each state and region, showing the economic benefits brought by international students and scholars, as well as statistics on the benefits of study abroad in terms of retention, time to degree, and other indicators.

At the end of the day, the entire group held a debriefing session. It was a fascinating glimpse into legislative life within the Beltway, and I hope that UCEAP and our campus partners will continue to participate. Whether or not you can go in person, advocacy for our students and programs continues year-round and in a variety of ways. For more information on what you can do, go to NAFSA's Take Action web page. Even if your representatives support international education, I urge you to take a moment to let them know you appreciate that support. Make your voice heard!

 

February 2018

It’s far from spring, but change already seems to be in the air! Across the globe, opportunities for internships (as well as lab research and service learning) continue to expand. Here in Goleta, we’re excited to welcome new staff members at the UCEAP office and we’re relieved to welcome back those affected in various ways by the recent Thomas fire and subsequent mudslides.

Behind the scenes, MyEAP II and the new website continue to develop in preparation for a summer 2018 rollout. We continue to examine and refine our policies and processes. We are presently reviewing all programs with an eye toward balancing cost vs. academic needs, as well as evaluating duplicate offerings that complicate advising on campuses. New program development will focus on addressing campus course impaction, e.g., summer STEM gateway programs; on providing tools for pre-professional development, e.g., Spanish for special purposes; on thematic packages; and on experiential learning opportunities.

Other changes may be coming, most notably any that may arise from the State Auditor’s review of the UC Office of the President and the subsequent Huron Consulting Group report commissioned by UCOP. At this point, what shape those changes, if any, may take is unclear. Although the report aggregates some recommendations for UCEAP and other systemwide operations, UCEAP is self-funding, making our relationship to UCOP distinct from other off-site academic programs such as UCDC and the UC Sacramento Center. UCEAP presently enjoys a positive working relationship with UC Santa Barbara, for which we are grateful, even as we strive to keep clear our role as a systemwide entity that serves all ten campuses equally. Please know that I will do my best to keep all UCEAP staff, friends, and alumni/ae aware of whatever may come.

Although change is the highlight of this month’s message, it remains the case that some things don’t change, among them, the dedication and hard work exhibited every day in our offices here and abroad. The Huron report described UCEAP as an example of a “best-in-class function.” We are, the report said, a model for other universities. May it ever be so.

January 2018

When I was a student in the Netherlands, I was a bit mystified by my host family’s penchant for calendars. There was a calendar in every room in the house. Even the WC displayed the ubiquitous Dutch verjaardagskalendar or “birthday calendar,” positioned to preclude any possibility of forgetting family birthdays. There were wall calendars and desk calendars of varying sizes and prominence, each noting appointments and important events. Over time, I realized that the calendars were more than mere reminders of family plans; they were inescapable instructors of a basic truth: tempus fugit. Time flies.

And so it does. It was two years ago today that I stepped into this wonderful position at UCEAP. From the beginning, my desire for the organization has been to increase transparency and collaboration, to address critical IT and personnel needs, to foster better communication, to maintain financial self-sufficiency, and to develop UCEAP in ways that will serve student and faculty needs effectively in the years to come. On all these fronts, we’re making good strides and continue to move forward. UCEAP is making impressive advances in faculty engagement and academic integration (course articulation) and in program development, particularly as we pilot new campus collaboration in faculty-led programming. Getting the word out on all programs is critical, making us especially delighted by the outpouring of student interest in our video contest and in providing content for The Californian Abroad.

This last year certainly brought a number of challenges to many of us at UCEAP, beginning with Twitter diplomacy, DACA concerns, and on-again, off-again immigration rules; continuing with evolving UCOP audit and budget uncertainties; and closing with devastating California wildfires that impacted students, faculty, and staff. Nonetheless, as I hang up my paper calendars and scroll over to the next screen on my digital ones, I’m eager to get underway with 2018! Time flies and we shouldn’t waste it. I hope you’ll join me in a new year’s resolution I know we can keep: Let’s resolve to keep our positive momentum going and growing. Happy New Year – and onward to 10,000 UC students abroad!

December 2017

I happen to be writing this on “Giving Tuesday”—a day to celebrate and encourage philanthropy and support organizations that make a positive difference in our world. UCEAP, although an academic unit of the University of California, is nonetheless such an organization.

Every day, our staff and partners here in Goleta, on the campuses, and around the world enable our students to study, work, and travel abroad. Everyone gives of themselves in myriad ways, from extra time spent assisting a student or parent, to the extra effort it takes to arrange meetings and events, to generous donations for our scholarship programs. UCEAP supports our Guardian Scholarship recipient through a variety of fun(d)-raising events, and we support local charities during the holidays.

Our alumni support our work as well in a variety of ways, and one of the nicest parts of my work week is the time spent penning notes of thanks for donations to our scholarship funds, for gifts in kind for our events, for planned giving bequests, and—most importantly—for the appreciation and encouragement inherent in all these expressions of support. As I often write in my notes, it’s heartening to know that UCEAP alumni continue to find meaning and value in their experiences abroad—even after the passage of years. Every thank you I write is heartfelt, and I know it is written on behalf of all of us associated with UCEAP.

With Thanksgiving just past, and with Giving Tuesday upon us, this just seems like a good time to give thanks. To you. For all you do, every day.

November 2017

On October 16, UC Vice President Arthur Ellis and I convened a daylong systemwide meeting entitled “Getting to 30%: Creating a Culture of Study Abroad on UC Campuses.” Representatives from all 10 campuses were present and included Registrars; Financial Aid Officers; Senior International Officers; administrators from Admissions, Undergraduate Education, Student Success, and Student Affairs offices; and a sprinkling of Study Abroad Directors and staff. Provost Michael Brown opened with thanks for the work we all do in helping our students study abroad or otherwise internationalize their academic experience, and he indicated he plans to develop an internationalization strategy for the UC. His words were welcome as we launched the day’s work. 

After high-level snapshots of the current situation and unique programs at UCLA, UCD, and UCB, break-out group discussions focused on (1) challenges of creating awareness and conducting outreach; (2) academic challenges; and (3) financial challenges for both students and campuses as this initiative moves forward. The closing plenary reports confirmed the value of cross-unit awareness and underscored the need for ongoing discussion. At this time, notes from the meeting are being collated for distribution to participants. Once approved, summaries will be presented to the Council of Vice Chancellors and the Council of Chancellors. I will make these available to all UCEAP staff as well.
If we are to double the numbers of UC students studying abroad, it’s clear that top-down messaging is required, as is resource allocation appropriate to each campus’ needs. I pledge to keep calling for that messaging and to press for necessary funding. The UC needs to achieve this goal for practical purposes (e.g., to address enrollment pressures on campus and to prepare UC students to work in the global economy). I hope we all want to achieve this goal, given the present political environment of rising isolationism and nativism. Working collaboratively and creatively, we can do it. Are you ready? I am. 

October 2017

September 11, a national day of remembrance, had a bit of additional significance for UCEAP this year. Facilitated by Grace Boda of Vital Partnerships, members of UCEAP’s Advisory Council and the leads for strategic workgroups met with the Campus Administrative Directors from all 9 undergraduate campuses for a daylong retreat in which we reviewed our partnerships, policies, and procedures as part of a new long-range planning process to increase student participation in UCEAP programs to a goal of 10,000 students annually. In the coming months, there will be tweaks and changes to some of UCEAP’s financial and operational structures, all of which will be discussed, shared, and rolled out with an eye toward optimal timing for all parties.

In reaching UCEAP’s earlier goal of 5,000 students, every staff member at the system-wide office, on the campuses, and at our Study Centers exerted themselves mightily and should feel proud of that accomplishment. Now we aspire to send 10,000 students abroad. And the questions arises: “Why?” Why, indeed. What need does this number satisfy? What does this number signify? In my view, the response harkens back to 9/11, a day on which forces of ignorance, fear, exclusion, dehumanization, and destruction reigned—or attempted to. The legacy of that day lingers still, and may even be strengthening in the perceived decrease of respect for knowledge, civility, and diplomacy. That’s why I want to send 10,000 UC students abroad through UCEAP and another 20,000 through campus-based programs. I want thousands of students out there gaining the enlarged perspective and enriched experience that comes from engaging those from different cultures. I want them all to know how California and the US look from beyond our borders, and I want them all to offer a different view to outside observers. I want them to hear other languages and be inspired to learn them—even a little. In China, the number 10,000 has long been used to signify “a very large number” or even “every” or “all.” “May you live 10,000 years!” is a common wish for longevity, and a popular New Year’s wish is “May the 10,000 things be as you want them!” To think of “10,000” UCEAP students abroad is to imagine a vibrant and mobile world of intellectual and cultural exchange happening everywhere, yet person by person. Education abroad by itself doesn’t ease racial tensions, solve the world’s problems, or bring peace among nations. But it can help. 

 

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