Donn Grinager left his position as the director of international studies services to go work with his brother. Grinager worked for the university for 26 years. The Mirror interviewed Grinager on Monday, Sept. 25, 2018.
1. For how long did you work at Augie?
I worked at Augustana for 26 years. When I very first started my employment back in 1992, I was a half-time international student advisor and a half-time residence hall director. My wife and I lived in East Hall. That particular role lasted for two years, after which there was another administrator who was the director of study abroad and he wanted to get out of that role, basically. So, that allowed me to move off campus and then I became the international student advisor, which I had been from the beginning and the director of study abroad. Two years later, for a variety of reasons I picked up the responsibility of recruiting students. Twenty years ago is when I really became the director of international programs. Then I dealt with international student recruitment and then, once the students arrived, international student advising, and the outbound study abroad programs.
2. What is the favorite place you’ve visited?
Oh, I hate that question because it’s so hard to have favorites. I have two kids and I would never describe one kid as my favorite. Each country is uniquely different, but I would say my first experience out of college, after graduation I went into the Peace Corps and I went to Nepal. I lived in Nepal for about 16 months in a village.
I was working with farmers who wanted to farm fish. So, this was my first time abroad. I was 22, 23 years old at that time and probably that particular experience had the most impact in my life. In terms of just the beauty of Nepal and the generosity and the kindness that I met amongst the Nepali people.
I would have to say that Nepal holds a very special place in my heart because of that first-time experience. So, in many ways I want to say that I’m indebted to the people of Nepal and to the Peace Corps for giving me the opportunity to leave the United States and have this very first life experience that was pretty significant. Nepal, then, is probably the most impactful because it was the first.
3. How do you think that living abroad helped you get where you are?
First of all, I think just on the surface of things those experiences helped me get the job [as an international advisor] in the first place. It’s kind of like I walked in the shoes of people who have come from other countries to this place.
You learn to observe culture, to listen to others about culture, about values, norms, historical stories, people, places—about all the things that make a country or a culture what it is. I think it gave me an opportunity to experience those by myself and understand who I was in the context of extreme differences.
It gave me an opportunity to be a good listener and to be able to empathize with students as they have their experience here in the states and to be an observer but also an advocate and a part of their support network.
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