Lehigh students take part in a flag parade through campus for International Week on Nov. 7, 2014. International Week is hosted by the Global Union, which is part of the Office of International Affairs. (Christine Campbell/B&W Staff)

Cheryl Matherly leads structural reorganization of Office of International Affairs

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It’s 5 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon, and although the rest of her staff has gone home for the day, Cheryl Matherly is still in a meeting. She is interviewing a candidate for the position of director of International Students and Scholars, one of seven open positions in the Office of International Affairs.

Since assuming the office of vice president and vice provost for International Affairs on March 21, Matherly has made significant changes to the organization and structure of the office. She was selected from a national search after her predecessor, Mohamed El-Aasser, stepped down as the vice president of International Affairs.

When Matherly began her new position, many positions in the Office of International Affairs were vacant. She said she saw two choices: fill the positions exactly as they were, or make changes so the office would run more efficiently.

“Because of all those vacancies — some of them in some pretty critical areas — it really was an opportunity to look at what did we actually need and what was the right structure in order to deliver the best services that we can,” Matherly said. “We looked to do a major reorganization.”

Pretty much everything has been affected, Matherly said. Some changes, like the addition of an office assistant, are minor. Others, like the creation of the position of director of fellowship advising and United Nations programs, are more significant.

Bill Hunter, who served as the director of international outreach, was promoted to director of fellowship advising and UN programs. Hunter said he was originally hired to direct the Global Union program and has now been at Lehigh for more than 17 years.

“My heart will always be with the Global Union, no doubt about it,” Hunter said. “But when the opportunity came up to have the fellowship advising office come over to Office of International Affairs and (Matherly) approached me with it, I jumped at it.”

Fellowship advising was previously a program in the Office of the Provost, Hunter said.

“What I’ve discovered is there are truly amazing, exceptionally qualified Lehigh students and there just isn’t an effective enough pipeline yet to get them to where they’re applying and winning these fellowships,” Hunter said.

Matherly said Hunter’s position is perhaps the biggest change because it did not exist at Lehigh before.

“The job is quite unique in the field of international education, and higher education as well,” Hunter said. “We have an assistant director position posted now as well, and there’s no other job like it in the country that I’m aware of.”

Hunter said he hopes to see Lehigh’s top students receive national recognition and win awards, across all colleges and across all majors. He also hopes to further intertwine the Lehigh University/United Nations Partnership into the curriculum, allowing students to do tangible UN-based research projects and internships.

The Study Abroad Office has also undergone significant structural changes. As late as August, students were assigned study abroad advisers based on last name. Now the designation is based on college. This new model allows the advisers to be more responsive to the particular academic needs of each college, Matherly said.

Rebecca Hargis, ’17, traveled abroad in the spring semester of the 2015-16 academic year. She said while preparing for the process of studying abroad, she saw an adviser based on her last name and would have preferred seeing an adviser based on her college of study.

“I felt like I had to do a lot of outside research on my own, talking to my own department chair and whatnot to understand if I would meet the requirements of my major and my minor,” Hargis said.

Matherly said this is a model that has worked at other schools and she believes it will work well at Lehigh.

“It makes more sense to have someone who can really develop greater partnerships with some of the faculty, be more familiar with particular programs, understand the constraints of what is different for an arts and science student compared to an engineering student, and working with faculty within the departments so they themselves become more familiar with some of the study abroad options,” Matherly said.

The Iacocca International Internship Program has also seen changes. In addition to the director, Carol Ham, an assistant director has been put in place. The office is also looking to add a third position, which has not yet been determined, Matherly said.

Creating a staff for the internship program is reflective of trends at Lehigh, Matherly said. Since the international internship program began six years ago, it has seen 600 percent growth.

“There are other universities that have internship programs that have also made moves to have a director and staff in place for that, but I’d say we’re kind of on the leading edge for that one,” Matherly said. The program is also looking to enhance the pre-departure orientation for Iacocca interns and return activities to help students apply their experiences to future jobs, she said.

The Office of International Affairs is also seeking a new director of the English as a Second Language program. This position has been elevated to a more senior position, Matherly said, and the director will now report directly to her. The ESL program works with international students to help elevate their communication and writing skills to those required in college-level courses, Matherly said.

Ana Vargas, ’20, a student who participated in the ESL program’s seven-week intensive English program over the summer, believes the office should further encourage relationships between American and international students.

“More Americans students should be involved with ESL and be involved with international students, maybe as mentors or something like that,” Vargas said. People, like Vargas’s roommate who is American but loves Latin American culture, are the kinds of people she said she’d like to see helping in the ESL office.

Although Matherly does not have a specific goal on the percentage of students she would like to see travel abroad, she wants students to develop a global perspective, understand cultural differences and ultimately have the ability to apply that perspective to future jobs or schooling. About 40 percent of Lehigh students travel abroad to study or work, yet Matherly said she hopes 100 percent of students leave Lehigh with a global perspective on their career.

Other departments of the Office of International Affairs were contacted for comment, but deferred to the office of the vice president and vice provost for comment.

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