When I started at Miami in 2005, one of my first projects was the redesign of the Office of International Education website, which improved our ability to communicate study abroad program and procedure information online. Another early project was the creation of a monthly study abroad email newsletter which now goes out to over 3000 Miami students, faculty, staff and parents. Other web-based communication efforts, such as our work with Facebook and Twitter, are discussed in the Technology section of this site.
Newsletter sample stories:
- Going it Alone: Testing and Gaining Independence (December 2009)
- Featured Study Abroad Location of the Month: Botswana (November 2009)
- Host Families (October 2009)
In the advising process, we have also worked to improve and standardize the information we give to students by creating the Study Abroad 101 information session, a 30 minute group advising session offered four times a week in our office. This information session allows us to share general information with several students at once and help them start their research before later meeting one-on-one with a study abroad advisor. This allows us to use our one-on-one advising time more efficiently and to give students as much or as little individual attention as they require.
Communication with Academic Departments
Faculty members are often extremely influential in a student’s decision-making process. They may be the ones who open a student’s mind to learning more about a particular place, or they may discourage a student from "wasting their time with study abroad trips", so that the students seek out additional information or second opinions about study abroad. Opening the lines of communication with academic departments is therefore very important for student recruitment and for encouraging students to make educated, strategic study abroad decisions.
One problem that we initially faced was that some departments did not know that our office existed or where it was located. Others did not trust our office, and believed that study abroad distracted students from their academic and professional goals. Once they saw our approach to study abroad, our efforts to tie students' study abroad decisions to longer-term goals, and the range of study abroad options available, they were very willing to speak to their students about study abroad. These conversations have also helped us to better understand the academic departments' goals, the course offerings and the future career paths for students in those departments.
I’ve found that while a part of my job is to open students’ eyes to the cultural assumptions they make, I’ve had to face professional assumptions of my own. While it did not seem an obvious ally, our School of Engineering and Applied Science has been one of the most supportive academic bodies in our curricular integration efforts, and has invited us to speak about the importance and accessibility of study abroad in all first-year engineering courses. Where many engineering students previously assumed they could not study abroad (or were told so by their professors or academic advisors), they are now learning about their options early on, and are able to integrate study abroad into their academic plan.
I also maintain communication with study abroad providers and with colleagues in the field through reading and posting on SECUSS-L. I have been a member of NAFSA since 2005, and regularly attend regional and national NAFSA conferences, with increasing levels of participation in conference planning and presenting.
- NAFSA 2005 Region VI conference (Louisville, KY)
- NAFSA 2006 national conference (Montreal, QC, Canada)
- NAFSA 2006 Region VI conference (Columbus, OH)
- NAFSA 2007 national conference (Minneapolis, MN)
- NAFSA 2007 Region VI conference (Indianapolis, IN)
- NAFSA 2008 national conference (Washington, DC)
- NAFSA 2008 Region VI conference (Lexington, KY)
- NAFSA 2009 national conference (Los Angeles, CA)
► Session presented: Study Abroad in a Transparent World
- NAFSA 2009 Region VI conference (Cincinnati, OH)
► Served on local planning committee
- NAFSA 2010 Ohio Drive-In Conference (Columbus, OH)
► Session presented: Social Media and the International Education Office
- NAFSA 2010 national conference (Kansas City, MO)
► Workshops attended: Managing the Education Abroad Office; Basic Immigration Concepts for Professionals Outside International Student Advising
- NAFSA 2010 Region VI conference (Indianapolis, IN)
► Session presented: International Student Advising "For Dummies"
- NAFSA 2011 Ohio Drive-In Conference (Columbus, OH)
► Session presented: Maximizing Study Abroad: Preparation and Re-Entry Coursework for Study Abroad Students
- NAFSA 2011 national conference (Vancouver, BC, Canada)
- Ohio Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers 2011 conference (Columbus, OH)
► Session presented: Study Abroad
- NAFSA 2011 Region VI conference (Louisville, KY)
► Session presented: Mid-Career Professionals: Where Are They Now?
- NAFSA 2012 national conference (Houston, TX)
► Workshop attended: Developing Research Skills to Strengthen International Education Management Strategies
► Poster presented: Coursework to Enhance Study Abroad Learning and Development
- American Council on Education 2012 Ohio Women's Network conference (Columbus, OH)
- NAFSA 2011 Region VI conference (Columbus, OH)
► Workshop attended: F-1 Student Advising for Beginners
Other Professional Development
I am a member of the 9th cohort of the NAFSA Academy, a training program for international education professionals at all levels of their career. My learning plan for the NAFSA Academy focuses on:
- Broadening my international education experience by learning more about international student recruitment and advising
- Studying leadership and management
- Becoming a more successful advocate for international education through research and scholarship
Another element of my professional development has been my study of Arabic. I audited two years of Arabic courses with Miami students, which gave me an opportunity to interact with them in a different setting. Thanks to my professional travel to Israel and my Arabic studies, I am now the advisor responsible for study abroad programs in the Middle East.
Leadership and Service
I served on the Miami University Student Affairs Council from 2006 to 2009. I have also been an active member of Miami’s Unclassified Personnel Advisory Committee (UPAC) from 2008 to present, serving as Networking Chair for the 2008-09 year. Starting in 2009-10, I am a Wellness Captain for our Employee Health and Well-Being Office, helping that office to disseminate information about health and well-being activities on campus.
- March 2006 Jerusalem Post article - Visiting academics recommend Israel for US study programs
- May 2008 video interview - NAFSA08: Sarah McNitt and Twitter
- October 2008 Miami Student article - MU suspends China study abroad program
- December 2009 student video interview - STUDYING ABROAD
- November 2011 GoAbroad blog review - Blog of the Week: @BROAD
- February 2012 Miami Quarterly feature - Study Abroad
- August 2012 Miami University Career Chat podcast - When In Rome (or Lux, or ...) - Study Abroad And Its Impact On Your Career (mp3, 9:13)
Letters to the Editor and Guest Blog Posts
- February 2006 - Letter to the Editor: Politics offer chance to relate abroad
- October 2010 - The Middle, episode: "Foreign Exchange" (s02e05)
- June 2011 - Social Media Early Adopter - Guest Blog
- November 2012 - Sarah McNitt | Study Abroad Spotlight
- December 2012 - 5 Interesting People in STEM Fields Who Studied Abroad
- January 2013 - 5 More Interesting People in STEM Fields Who Studied Abroad