Mon, 01/30/2017

As an undergraduate studying psychology at UMass Amherst, alumna Rebecca Owen ’12 did not expect to end up at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies (MIIS) in Monterey, California. That trajectory, she said, “came out of nowhere.” Having completed the Institute’s master's degree in international education management in 2013, Owen now works in the school’s recruitment office where she has developed a scholarship specifically for Commonwealth Honors College students and alumni.

A $14,000 merit-based scholarship to be exact.

Owen visits UMass Amherst as part of her recruitment responsibilities in the Northeast. In 2014, she was asked to build a relationship with the campus as MIIS was particularly attracted to both Commonwealth Honors College and the Translation Center. It was then she introduced the idea of a partnership with CHC as a way to attract and retain UMass students. While CHC students are required to complete the entire admissions process, if admitted to the Institute, they are automatically granted the scholarship.

Currently, this scholarship program is in its first of a three year trial run. MIIS facilitates similar partnerships with undergraduate institutions both in the United States and abroad.

The Middlebury Institute is a professional graduate school and merged with Middlebury College in 2005. Owen explained that almost all of the 750 students are international or have some experience studying and working abroad–creating a “very expat community vibe.” She explained that MIIS is the place for students looking to fill gaps in their skill set in order to launch an international career. Popular programs include international education management, nonproliferation and terrorism studies, international policy and development, and translation and interpretation.

Admission to the Middlebury Institute for International Studies includes language requirements—near native fluency for the translation and interpretation programs, and 200-level skill for policy and management programs. Owen added that almost every student takes at least two seminars conducted in their second language regardless of their program of study. Many also participate in the Institute’s Summer Intensive Language Programs.

Tim Lang, director of CHC’s International Scholars Program (ISP), worked with Owen to develop this partnership. He explained that one of the reasons MIIS wanted to work with CHC was its academic excellence, saying CHC students have “all done a thesis, and if done well it should reflect master’s work.” He also added that honors students take language classes and study abroad at higher rates than the general UMass population.

Owen added, “[CHC students] already have this world-minded view,” particularly students who participate in the International Scholars Program. A former ISP member herself, Owen identifies these students as “such great matches” for the Institute.

So how exactly did Owen end up all the way across the country? After returning from studying abroad at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, she worked with international students at UMass, mentoring them and helping them adjust to American college life. It was then she saw how important it was to incorporate students of different cultural backgrounds into a campus community–seeing how much students can learn from one another.

Owen wanted to “facilitate intercultural exchanges” through her career and knew she needed a master’s degree to do it. The Middlebury Institute was the perfect fit.