Q&A with Director of Study Abroad Liz Shearer

Where are you from? How do you think that impacts the program you direct?

I was born and raised in the city of Bristol in southwest England. I came to the U.S. in 1998 as a graduate student and never left! As a former international student myself, I can personally attest to the value of a study abroad experience and how life-changing it can be.

How does it feel to work at the school where you got your Master’s degree?

Towson University has played a pivotal role in all aspects of my life since moving to the U.S. From graduate student to student employee in the President’s Office to Director of the Study Abroad Office,  TU has changed and grown alongside me. I even had my wedding reception in the Auburn House pavilion! I am proud to be a member of the TU community and feel fortunate to have been a part of the transformation of the study abroad program at Towson over the past 16 years.

Did you study abroad in your college career?

Having missed out on the opportunity to study abroad as an undergraduate student, pursuing a master’s degree overseas allowed me to further my education while immersing me in a new culture. As a full degree-seeking student, I was able to become a true member of the university community.

What do you enjoy about your position in the Study Abroad Office the most?

It’s never boring! Despite having been with the Study Abroad Office for sixteen years, each day presents new challenges and unique experiences. Whether interpreting government regulations in order to develop a new program in Cuba or preparing a student with autism to successfully navigate the streets of Rome, I am always learning something new. Facilitating study abroad opportunities for our students and seeing them grow as a result of those international experiences is hard to beat.

Why did you become a part of the study abroad program?

As for many others in the field of international education, my personal experiences and an innate curiosity for other cultures led me to a career in study abroad. I consider myself lucky to be in a position to help others learn new things, explore diverse cultures, and gain new perspectives.

How do you see the program evolving in the future?

As a member of the IIE Generation Study Abroad initiative, TU has committed to increasing study abroad participation by 40 percent by 2020 and we are well on our way. But it isn’t just about increasing the overall number of TU students who study abroad. It is also critical that access to study abroad is expanded for those students typically underrepresented (low-income students, first generation students, minority students, student athletes, veterans, students with disabilities, etc.) by removing barriers to participation.  We are also taking steps to diversify the types of experiences Towson students can choose from by developing new programming in less traditional destinations and focusing on experiential learning. As a result, TU student participation in international internships and research opportunities abroad is already up and I am confident will continue to grow. Above all, we want students to know that study abroad is for everyone!

Compiled by Rohan Mattu

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