Presidential Perspectives
Presidential Perspectives: The State of Foreign Student/Scholar Advising

Presenter BiographiesPresenter BiographiesPresenter Biographies

          Gary Althen (2006)
          John Greisberger (2006)
          David Horner (2010)
          Kay Thomas (2010)
          Jerry Wilcox (2006)
          Valerie Woolston (2006 & 2010)
          Nancy E. Young (2006 & 2010)


The first leadership position that Gary Althen remembers holding was that of patrol leader in Boy Scout Troop 93 in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. He later became a senior patrol leader and proudly upgraded his badge from two stripes to three. Subsequent leadership positions included serving as the editor of the University of Colorado student newspaper (a position from which he was fired after a rather short tenure), and as the foreman of a jury in Johnson County, Iowa. (The defendant was found guilty of one charge against him and not guilty of the other.)

Gary's career in international education began with an internship at the Regional Council for International Education, a consortium based at the University of Pittsburgh which is now defunct (but not because of him!). For about three days during his time with the RCIE, he served as the University of Pittsburgh's foreign student adviser. The previous FSA had been fired suddenly and until a replacement was found, Gary was tapped to sign I-20 forms (or whatever they were—the secretary just told him where to sign).

To gain some overseas experience, he became director of the Instituto Cultural Peruano-Norteamericano, a bi-national center in Huancayo, Peru. He then worked for 30 years at the University of Iowa, first as an FSA and later as director of the Office of International Students and Scholars.

Gary made his way to NAFSA leadership roles mainly by writing newsletter articles and editing a regional newsletter and some books. He wrote (and later revised) The Handbook of Foreign Student Advising and American Ways: A Guide for Foreigners in the United States. He served as NAFSA's President during its tumultuous 50th year, when the association underwent extensive personnel and philosophical changes. Now retired, Gary divides his time between Arizona and Colorado and stays in touch with the field enough to feel deep sympathy for NAFSAns dealing with SEVIS, visa-issuance problems, risk analysis, government-relations, and the apparently declining stature of the U.S. in international educational exchange.

Gary can be reached at .

John Greisberger scored his first election victory in 1964 when he was elected homeroom president his freshman year at McQuaid Jesuit High School. From that point on he enjoyed a meteoric rise that elevated him to the presidency of the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars (1988) and ultimately to the pinnacle of his professional career, the presidency of NAFSA (2004).

John's service in the Peace Corps in Afghanistan from 1973-1975 set him on the path to becoming an international educator. From 1976-1984, he worked at Iowa State University as a foreign student adviser and codirector of the Intensive English and Orientation Program. Pausing briefly to consider a run for U.S. President, he instead decided to continue his pursuit of international education.

John worked at Harvard University as deputy director of the International Office (1984-1986), and then at Ohio State University where he first served as director of the International Student and Scholar Office (1986-1992). In 1992 became the director of the Office of International Education, an office that combines international student and scholar services with study abroad.

In addition to his work with NAFSA, John has served on the Executive Committee of the Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA), the TOEFL Board at ETS, and the Board of Directors of Phi Beta Delta including a five-year term as executive director. He received his Ph.D. from Iowa State University in 1984. When asked if he would consider running for elected office after retirement, he replies "Only if it's for president of something; lesser titles are of no interest."

John can be reached at .

David Horner started his working career in the grocery business, having fun, getting promotions, and making such big bucks (above the $1.25 minimum wage) that he had no desire to go to college. To please an education-oriented mother, he applied to University of Redlands, where his pastor happened to be president of the Alumni Association. He was admitted despite his mediocre academic record. He kept close ties to the grocery business by working summers in managerial positions in order to be given his own store by graduation.

All of this changed as a result of a study abroad program to Salzburg, Austria that included visits to Prague and Berlin (before the wall). David turned his attention from his promising career in business to unknown adventures in the international arena. He briefly taught junior and senior high school in California before heading to Thailand to teach ESL as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Returning to the U.S., David received an East-West Center grant in Hawaii, where under the tutelage of Lee Ziegler he learned about NAFSA, study abroad, and foreign student advising, as it was then known. David served seventeen years at Washington State University initially as an FSA complimented by nine years in international admissions.

David's first leadership responsibility in NAFSA was program chair of the infamous 1971 national conference at UBC in Vancouver BC. They didn't make money for NAFSA, but did have flowers in every room, an etching for every participant, spartan housing in dormitories, cross-sectional discussion groups, and a mime theatre group that provided feedback during plenary sessions.

The next few decades, David's professional development included NAFSA leadership and involvement in numerous committees at the regional and national levels, cumulating in serving as President in 1994-95.

David moved back to his advising roots in 1983 by heading "East" to Michigan State University as the Director of the Office for International Students and Scholars.

After retiring from MSU in 2002, David moved to Hong Kong for a year as a Fulbright Scholar, working at the Hong Kong America Center to develop academic programs between U.S. higher education and Hong Kong, Macau, and Guangdong Province. In retirement David has continued his international involvement through MSU's Community Volunteers for International Programs (CVIP), assisting MSU in special projects, working on a Habitat for Humanity build in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and traveling to new places. Grocery stores are still special for David, but he's glad that his career provided food for the soul and brain.

David can be reached at .

Kay Thomas began her leadership career in grade school when she was chosen president of her Brownie troop. Her troop leader observed that with so many interests, she was afraid that Kay would never be able to make up her mind as to what I would do with her life. And the troop leader was right about Kay having lots of interests…although she did make up her mind to work in the international education field!

After graduating from Macalester College, serendipity led Kay to the University of Minnesota as an International Student Adviser. She ran into a neighbor, Josef Mestenhauser (noted interculturalist and past NAFSA president) who informed her of a job opening in his office. The rest is history as Kay has spent her entire career in international education there. Being at the University of Minnesota, having important mentors, and multiple academic and professional resources at her fingertips, proved to be a very lucky break.

The various positions Kay held within the office and the opportunity to do graduate work (earned an MA and PhD degree in Educational Psychology specializing in counseling), to teach, do research, work in an advising/counseling capacity with students and staff, and multiple leadership opportunities both on-campus and through NAFSA, fulfilled all her various interests and assured her of not having to make those difficult choices that her Brownie leader was afraid she could not make.

Kay utilized the skills she honed selling Girl Scout cookies as she moved into many leadership experiences at the local and regional and national level. She was President of NAFSA in 2000-2001 and helped the organization restructure and grow significantly. Being the founding chair the Teaching Learning and Scholarship Knowledge Community was both an honor and an opportunity to bring this important dimension of international education into the NAFSA community.

Kay has had two International Educational Administrator Fulbright opportunities to Japan and Korea and has been blessed with having wonderful colleagues to collaborate with around the world.

Kay can be reached at .

Jerry Wilcox's introduction to international education began when he befriended his high school's first Japanese exchange student in small-town Iowa. They have maintained contact for more than four decades. After his first year of college at Iowa State University, he spent a (belated) gap year as a gastarbeiter (guest worker) in Stuttgart, Baden Wuerttemberg. This tested the communication skills of both Jerry and his employers, since he spoke no German. His employers were universally patient.

After graduation he served in the Peace Corps in Thailand where he helped the Department of Public Health build small water systems for rural schools. His immersion in Thai culture proved to be at least as challenging as the five tones in central Thai dialect.

Jerry completed his Master's degree in Education at the University of Hawaii's East-West Center in 1971. After landing a job at Cornell University, he discovered that the field of international education—specifically international student and scholar advising—was a perfect match for his background and personality. He served at the International Students and Scholars Office at Cornell for 27 cold, snowy winters.

In 1998 he assumed the directorship of The University of Texas at Austin's International Office, which includes International Student and Scholar Services, the Center for Global Educational Opportunities, and ESL Services. UT Austin consistently ranks in the top five for enrolling international students and the top four for sending out study abroad students.

Jerry's NAFSA service has included Chairmanships of the Council for Foreign Students and Scholars, the Professional Development Committee, the former Government Regulations Advisory Committee, the NAFSA CEO selection committee, and the NAFSA Task Force on the International Student Access to Study in the U.S. He also served as President of NAFSA. He regards his service to NAFSA and its members to be rather lopsided, in the sense that he always learned more than he was able to offer.

Jerry can be reached at .

Valerie Woolston's first award for outstanding performance was a trip to Bangkok for winning a cha-cha contest in Calcutta. She was in Calcutta after years of living in Italy with her family. Her first claim to an international career is that of being one of the original Global Nomads. Her first "job" was assisting in the Fulbright Advising Office in Calcutta for a short period of time after she graduated from high school. Having attended a private parochial Italian international school, a U.S. overseas military school, a private Indian school, and an American-mission board school, a private U.S. small college and a large land grant research university, Valerie's background was perfect for international admissions.

In her early 20's, she was known to read university catalogues and absorb them before going to sleep at night. This ability led her to think about the placement of foreign students in U.S. institutions and she ended up either writing or editing country specific books for the admission's field. Valerie's ability to tolerate ambiguity has helped her multi-faceted career in international educational exchange. She couldn't decide which part of the field she liked the best so she tried all of them. This has been reflected in her career in NAFSA where she served on GRAC – until it was dissolved; was Chair of Region VIII (it survived); was ADSEC Chair when admissions had no funding; was Chair of PIER (when it had no funding); was Vice President of Regional Affairs and President of NAFSA when it changed its name, and was a founder of the New Century Circle.

She loves to give parties, so she chaired NAFSA's 40th Anniversary in Washington and the 49th Annual Conference in Phoenix. Despite the angst created by immigration and regulatory issues and the confusing perceptions of U.S. higher education abroad, the field remains a marvelous challenge for her. She believes she has had the best of all possible careers.

Val can be reached at .

Nancy E. Young's first leadership position was her appointment as "mother hen" in a kindergarten play, a role she took seriously both on and off stage. Since that time, she has been an active leader and advocate, including work in NAFSA. Nancy served in various capacities on the Region X team, as well as national service including creating and chairing NAFSA's Ad Hoc Tax Committee, membership on the F-1 regulatory working group, and serving as the mid-career representative on the IEL KC team.

Her roots are in the "small town" state of Arkansas, home to Senator Fulbright, President Clinton, and the best catfish and hushpuppies, hands down. Nancy's early advocacy efforts in politics started during elementary school, when she went door to door leaving fliers for a U.S. Senator's race. No longer dropping off fliers (an endeavor much too complex in New York City) advocacy is still a role near and dear to her heart.

Within international education, her advocacy led to the development of the 1040NREZ tax form and correction of language by SEVP about the role of international students in the 9/11 attacks. Beyond international education, Nancy has developed advocacy training for grassroots volunteers, testified before the New York City Council, and coordinated a successful campaign as the volunteer legislative coordinator for a grassroots civil liberties resolution.

Nancy befriended the lone international student at her high school, studied foreign languages, and remains keenly curious about cultures. She is delighted to have the privilege of working in the foreign student advising field. She is Associate Director at NYU's Office for International Students and Scholars, which hosts the second largest international student population in the U.S.. Her academic work includes a Master's specializing in Creative Writing and, more recently, a Master's in Intercultural Relations. When not at work or trying to save the world, Nancy loves to read, write, swim, cook, and garden.

Nancy can be reached at .

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