By Catalina Righter
Feb. 20 will mark the last day of Dr. Kate McCleary’s four-year career at Washington College. According to the WC website, McCleary’s job included coordinating and administrating all aspects of the college’s education study abroad programs and oversees international student services.
She will be leaving for the University of Minnesota, where she will serve as program director for the Learning Abroad Center (LAC) and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) starting March 2. Dr. McCleary said she will work on “study abroad program development” as well as “providing assistance around intercultural learning and assessment.”
“The University of Minnesota is a leader in international education, and I look forward to being at an institution that is an innovator in my field,” Dr. McCleary said.
WC’s own Global Education Office has seen marked change under the direction of Dr. McCleary. When she began at WC, she said, the GEO “was located next to the auto parts store on Washington Avenue down by the Blue Bird” and “called the Office of International Programs… There were 61 international students on-campus, no external partners for international internships, all the study abroad forms lived in paper folders… and there was an international student advisor that worked in the office with me.”
In contrast, the GEO “has moved to the Foster House at 409 Washington Ave.” and “the office was renamed to reflect the educational component to all that we do here,” she said. “WC has 145 international students due to the great recruitment efforts of the Admissions Office that the GEO supports and assistance throughout their time here.” There are “three institutional partners for international internships,” and program information and application information available online.
In addition, “The [GEO] has Assistant Director of International Student Services Theresa Capule,” who has “done such amazing things with growing the international student support structure and programming on-campus,” said McCleary.
Her colleague Senior Associate Director of the College Tony Littlefield, said, “The adoption of the name Global Education Office and the move to the Foster House displayed her [McCleary’s] dedication to weaving our international threads throughout the fabric of the WC community.”
Dr. McCleary said she has made “such incredible memories of the students here” and values “all of the interactions [she’s] had with students,” including study abroad students, international students, and student workers.
“WC is fortunate to have so many ambitious, intelligent, curious students who seek international experiences,” she said. “The students here are inspiring to me in what they seek to do and the experiences they want to have. Being a part of that process is such a gift to me as an educator.”
She remembers students like Mike Bonadies and Megan Willis in particular, both members of the Class of 2013. “When I stopped in Turkey on my way to Turkmenistan where I was doing work with UNICEF… Their wit and warmth in welcoming me as the new director for the office, generosity in showing me the neighborhood around Bogazici University in Istanbul, and telling me about what they were learning from their experience is a memory that I treasure,” she said.
“Getting to work with Emily Hall and Charllotte Costa, both members of the Class of 2014, post-study abroad on their applications for their Fulbright Scholarships was incredibly rewarding. Being able to help students ‘unpack’ their experiences of living in another culture, and beginning to process and name what they have gotten out of those experiences is something that was so rewarding in my work with Emily and Charllotte, as well as countless others.”
“There are also students like Kara Henson, Class of 2013, and Adele Bovis, Class of 2015, who had such transformative experiences abroad that they came back and seek to raise awareness and stay connected to the communities they spent time with while abroad. Henson, who studied at Rhodes University in South Africa, [organized] an event last spring to raise awareness about gender-based violence based on an event that was really meaningful while studying at Rhodes. Bovis, president of the International Relations Club, used the donations given during the Culture Night in November 2014 to support an organization she volunteered with while studying at Pontificia Universidad Catolica in Lima, Peru that worked with children and young people in marginalized communities.”
She also works closely with international students studying at WC.
“Senior Hasan Abu Kharma was the first international student I worked closely with at the College. In fall 2011, he and I were both new to the College and learning about this place and community. Senior Misbath Daouda is another student I got to know in my first year in my position. Seeing the ways that Hasan and Misbath have gotten involved on-campus, set goals, and accomplished those goals in their time here, and become such integral parts of the campus is so rewarding.”
Another memory revolves around “grocery shopping with [juniors] Yiwen Liang and Scott Zhou in preparation for the Chinese New Year celebration in February 2013,” said Dr. McCleary, which “provided me with the opportunity to learn so much more about the meaning of and significance of this celebration in China. Yiwen and Scott were my cultural informants to a tradition that I was unfamiliar prior to my work at the College. I have learned so much from the international students on this campus about their home cultures,” she said.
This is advice she would leave to others for learning about the world. “There is so much to learn and gain from developing friendships and relationships with individuals with different backgrounds, and I hope that the general student population makes sure to take advantage of the unique opportunities they have in learning more about the world just by talking with people in their residence hall, classrooms, and dining hall.”
She also wished to thank the student workers and International Student Guides “for all they contributed to [her] work at the College,” calling them a “lifeline” for the full-time GEO staff.
Finally, she said, “I must give a shout out to faculty and colleagues in the Department of Modern Languages, the International Studies Program, Student Affairs, and the Academic Resources directors. It has been such a joy to work with individuals across these different areas and departments.”
Her colleagues also have fond memories of her. Director of the Office of English Language Learning John Hepler said, “When I started in late August, I had many questions, but she found the time to answer them despite being very busy with new student orientation. Looking back over the months, I realize now that she treated me the same way she interacts with students: with patience and empathy, and a great deal of smarts.”
“Later in the semester, international students hosted an evening event with food, traditional clothing and music. Kate was busy assisting the students with the food and tables, and out of the blue, turned around to take a selfie with me. I was surprised and touched that she stopped what she was doing for a lighthearted personal moment. But that’s Kate, making personal connections while still making sure goals and responsibilities are satisfied.”
Littlefield expressed thoughts probably shared by many when he said, “It has been a pleasure working with Kate… Her time in the GEO has been marked by major strides in embracing the WC international student population on campus as the population has grown exponentially… Her pleasant personality, knack for surrounding herself with great people and ‘can do’ attitude will be greatly missed.”