Q&A with new director of international programs


The administration appointed Ben Iverson the director of international programs during the summer. Iverson graduated from Augustana in 2004 and has since traveled the globe speaking with prospective students about the university.

The Mirror interviewed Iverson on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2018.

  1. What does your role entail?

The Director of International Programs position at AU oversees three main areas: study abroad, international student recruitment and international student advising.  I also work on things like maintaining and developing new exchange agreements, risk management abroad and strategic initiatives designed to increase international and intercultural opportunities for students and faculty. 

  1. What are you most excited about your new position?

The thing that excites me most about my new role is that I get to work with a really adventurous group of students—both international and American—who are willing to get out of their comfort zone at home to see and experience the world, share their culture and learn from and about other cultures.  The thing that motivates me, in the end, is the idea that fostering mutual understanding between countries and cultures goes a long way towards creating a more peaceful world.  I think that intercultural competence and global knowledge gives AU students a competitive advantage in their future careers, as well.

  1. How does your previous role in the IPO compare to this one?

When I previously worked in the IPO, I focused primarily on international student recruitment efforts (although, especially at the beginning when there were only two staff members in the IPO, I did then also assist with study abroad and international student advising).  My role now is more broadly focused and we’re fortunate at AU to have an incredible team of professionals with whom I serve in the IPO who focus their time almost exclusively on international student recruiting, international student advising and study abroad, respectively.

  1. What is your favorite place you have visited? Why?

As a student, I studied in Spain and later lived and worked in Norway for a year.  I also studied in Nicaragua for a short time during graduate school.  I suppose that the favorite places I’ve visited are those where I’ve spent the longest periods of time and have been able to develop friendships.  Visiting a place where you have friends (or someone informing you more deeply about the country’s history and culture as in a study abroad course) is always more interesting than just being there for work or as a tourist.  That said, I just returned from spending two weeks in Latin America, where I visited Honduras, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.  I was a Spanish major at AU and I have to say that I love the cultures, cuisines and landscapes and people of Latin America. 

  1. What are your plans/goals for the IPO?

In a general sense, we aim to grow along with the university.  As the total number of students grows at AU, we hope to maintain an international student population of around eight to 10 percent and also to increase the diversity of locations from which our international students come.  We also wish to continue to grow the number of students studying abroad during their time at AU.  To do both of these things, we recognize that affordability is a significant concern, so we also have plans to develop more scholarship resources and, in the case of study abroad, to continue to work with faculty to develop highly affordable, impactful study abroad options for students—as well as new windows of opportunity for students with highly structured majors and/or other significant commitments such as athletic team participation.

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