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Spotlight on Elizabeth Morrissey

Modified: February 9, 2018

Senior Program Coordinator Beth Morrissey first became interested in international education during a semester abroad studying English Literature in England. 

“It changed my life in a lot of ways, mainly because I was exposed to a new culture and experiences,” says Beth. “I grew up significantly during that time, and I learned a lot about who I was as a person.”

After graduating with a degree in English from Illinois State University, Beth worked in  publishing and communications  in Chicago for several years. She quickly grew tired of paper-pushing and began searching for a more fulfilling career path. Her time abroad had been so transformative, she decided to explore international education opportunities. In 2008, she quit her job, moved to Ireland, and completed her master’s in Intercultural Studies at Dublin City University. Her master’s thesis focused on how the environment affects the cross cultural adaptation of international students.

“I wanted to put myself in the shoes of an international student,” she explains, “[It] was an amazing experience.”

Unfortunately, her return to the United States coincided with the economic crisis of the late 2000s, making it challenging to find a job in her field. She ultimately found work in higher education as a Research Project Coordinator for Feinberg School of Medicine, where she stayed for several years before applying to her current position at the Buffett Institute.

“I work as the Senior Program Coordinator for the Equality Development and Globalization Studies (EDGS) program, which is funded by the Rajawali  Foundation,” says Beth. “In this role, I also manage the Arryman Fellows and Scholars program, working specifically with students from Indonesia to complete their PhDs at Northwestern.” 

Funded by a separate entity called the Indonesian Scholarship and Research Support Foundation (ISRSF), these Fellows are selected to come to Northwestern for one year to experience advanced education in America. During this bridge year, the students take one class per quarter, complete a research project with a faculty member from their chosen department in the Social Sciences, and apply to a PhD program at Northwestern. At the end of the year, the students must present their research in a symposium here in Chicago as well as one in Indonesia. If they are accepted into their program of choice and given the green light by ISRSF, they are able to continue their education at Northwestern as an Arryman Scholar. Once they have completed their degrees, they will return to Indonesia to be faculty at an institute of Social Sciences.

“This bridge year sets the students up for success,” says Beth. “They become familiar with the faculty and can prove themselves through their work. Also, they grow accustomed to life in the United States and are able to take advantage of the resources available to international students here at Northwestern.”

When she started her role, Beth knew very little about Indonesian culture, but has since been able to immerse herself entirely. She has spent the past few years taking Indonesian language lessons at the Indonesian Cultural Center in Chicago and was able to take a trip to the country in 2014.

“I spent a few days in Singapore and Bali for vacation before flying to Jakarta,” she says. “I attended the student research presentations at the Ford Foundation, which was great! It was wonderful to see the country and meet people with whom I regularly correspond.”

Beth works closely with the students from the time they arrive on campus in July. She helps them to get settled in Chicago, works with them to find a strong faculty mentor, and assists with their application process to graduate programs, all while providing administrative support along the way. She plays an essential role in their success at Northwestern. In the spring of 2017, Beth was recognized for her dedication to the Arryman Fellows and Scholars program with a Staff Ver Steeg Award from The Graduate School.

Named for Clarence Ver Steeg, former Dean of The Graduate School, the Ver Steeg Award recognizes outstanding faculty and staff members for excellence in work with graduate students. Beth’s students nominated her for the award.

“Receiving the award was such an honor—I was very surprised!” Beth says. “My students are always so appreciative and are wonderful to work with, so this award made me feel like I’ve been successful in making an impact on their lives. It’s given me a lot of confidence and motivation to keep going. It’s a lot of work, so it means a lot to me to be recognized.”

The next few years will bring forth several important milestones for the program. There are 17 current Arryman students and they hope to reach 25 by the end of 2019. The first student from the program will graduate in the spring of 2019.

“It’s gone by so fast,” exclaims Beth. “I have loved being able to see his transition over the past six years, and I’m looking forward to what is next for him. The students have formed a close-knit community here, and anyone who comes through the program in the future will be very welcomed.”

Learn more about the Arryman Fellows and Scholars Program on their website. To nominate an outstanding faculty or staff member for the Ver Steeg Awards, visit The Graduate School’s Recognition Award’s page on the website. The current cycle of nominations will close on February 16.

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