Jenna Cotey Thomas
Jenna Cotey Thomas MAIEM ‘17

Middlebury Institute International Education Management (IEM) alumna Jenna (Cotey) Thomas MAIEM ‘16 was awarded the Rising Star Young Leader Award at the NAFSA: Association of International Educators Region 1 Conference in Vancouver, B.C. in October 2018.

Jenna was selected from among international educators in Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington for this award, which recognizes exceptional international educators within their first five years of work. Jenna was nominated by her former practicum mentor and supervisor for her empathy, care, and compassion in working with international students.

Jenna completed her practicum, part of her degree at the Middlebury Institute, at South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) as a general intern in their International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) office, where she had a lot of freedom to work on a variety of projects. Some of her main projects included a focus group with international students on how the ISSS office could better work with them, a research project on compiling the demographics of the international students, and leading an intercultural competency workshop for her colleagues.

Jenna returned back to SPSCC to work full-time as an International Educational Planner after having served as Director of Study Abroad at another university. She realized that she preferred working with international students, and now is able to work with them by providing academic advising. In addition to her work at SPSCC, Jenna also volunteers as the chair of The Association of Washington International Student Affairs (AWISA), for which she organizes quarterly conferences, finding speakers and presenters and connecting with the community at large. She has been a member of AWISA for about three years, ever since her practicum, in order to stay involved with the local international education community.  International Education Management Program Chair, Dr. Katherine Punteney commented, “It is impressive to see Jenna take a leadership role so early in her career. In addition to the students she serves, the impact of her work organizing networking and professional development opportunities for educators throughout the state of Washington is having a significant impact on the field.”

Jenna was nominated by her former practicum mentor and supervisor for her empathy, care, and compassion in working with international students.

Jenna has commented that her Institute education provided her with both the theoretical and practical knowledge to succeed in the international education field. She felt the program was very cohesive and gave her a solid understanding of all of the basic functions of a higher education office, including marketing and recruiting, design and assessment, staff management, and budgeting. She felt that her practicum provided her with extremely valuable real-world experience through which she could learn about the different dynamics in international education. It was a great stepping off point for her career.

In the future, Jenna hopes to create more programming to bring together international and domestic students. She would like to inspire domestic students to be more passionate about learning about other cultures and connecting with international students, because she knows that it can sometimes be difficult for international students to make American friends. She thinks that there are many creative ways to forge this connection and would like to one day work in a role where she can focus more on these innovations.

For More Information

Jason Warburg

Eva Gudbergsdottir