Today we are ecstatic to announce that API’s own Mona Miller has won NAFSA‘s Region II Gene Smith Award! This honor is in recognition of 20 years or more of special distinguished service to the industry. Mona’s dedication to international education is unparalleled. Today we’re asking her to share more about her career and what she’s learned after more than 20 years “in the biz”!
How and when did you get started in international education?
I worked with the Peace Corps from 1981-1989 which was my beginning/formative years. I obtained my Masters in International Education in 1991 and spent ten years working at U.S. Universities. I’ve worked for study abroad private providers ever since.
What’s been some of the challenges you’ve faced in your career thus far?
The biggest challenges I have faced evolved from situations where communication with students was skewed through parental filters. For varied reasons, an issue can arise abroad and sometimes students will not address me directly. Instead some will go immediately to Facebook or text their parents.
As details and specifics were interpreted in different ways, solutions were far more trying and challenging. I have always found that treating students as adults and responsible for their needs, requests and actions is the best way to approach any issue. My greatest disappointments have been when students were unable or unwilling to step up and take ownership of their experience abroad. This is one of the greatest learning opportunities for study abroad and fortunately 99% of students take full advantage.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
I have had opportunities to serve in many roles over the years. I’ve worked in program development, administrative systems, pre-departure and reentry training, financial management and personnel hiring and management. The most longterm joys have stemmed from the many young professionals I have worked with. I value bringing new people into the field and providing guidance, mentoring and support as they grow in their own experience and professional development.
What advice do you have for someone who is trying to get into this industry?
The first job is the hardest to secure. A Master’s is almost a prerequisite in the industry these days! A good first position is working as a university representative for one of the many high quality provider organizations. The position will teach you many things about how both public and private universities and organizations work. You’ll also learn about other opportunities in the field. While international travel opportunities and large salaries are not as accessible as one might think, the work is diverse, challenging, ever-changing, and rewarding (most days). It also has a direct impact on the lives of students.
Congratulations again to Mona for winning the NAFSA Gene Smith Award!
This accolade is more proof that when you choose to go abroad with API, you’re getting a quality experience with the help of passionate people!