A new Director for a renewed office


Title (Dublin Core)

A new Director for a renewed office
Maria Del Mar Aponte Rodriguez Oral History, 2021/11/23

Description (Dublin Core)

Maria Del Mar Aponte Rodriguez is the new Director for the Center of International Programs at St. Mary’s University. After a semester of being in charge, Aponte tell us more about her experience as the new leader in the office and her future goals to make the CIP Office more open and warming for international students. As COVID has impacted several levels of the office, Aponte comments how she overcome these issues and how she is preparing a new plan of action for Fall 2022.

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Interviewer (Bibliographic Ontology)

Brissa Campos Toscano

Interviewee (Bibliographic Ontology)

Maria Del Mar Aponte Rodriguez

Transcription (Omeka Classic)

Brissa Campos 0:00
The following interview was conducted with Maria del Mar Aponte Rodriguez for the international students oral history project. It took place on November 23 2021, at St. Mary's University and the interviewer is Brissa Campos. So thank you so much Ms. Aponte to be here. Can you please tell me a little bit more about yourself?

Maria Del Mar Aponte Rodriguez 0:21
Yes, so my name is Maria de Mar Aponte, I grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I did my bachelor's at the University of Dayton and I have two Master's in international and comparative politics of English as a second language. And then I'm currently a PhD student in the cultural Cultural Foundations of Education program at Syracuse University, which is where I was before moving down to San Antonio, Texas, to work at St. Mary's University. I've studied abroad a few times and traveled extensively. But I mainly lived in Cairo, Egypt, to learn Arabic. And I lived in the Emirates and travelled throughout France and Spain.

Brissa Campos 1:18
So tell me about how did you get to know about St. Mary's and the position that you have right now?

Maria Del Mar Aponte Rodriguez 1:25
Yeah, so I kind of always knew about St. Mary's, because I went to the University of Dayton, which is a sister school of St. Mary's, so we always kind of heard people, you know, traveling there for different businesses with regards to the Marianists, and I was looking for a new challenge and a new position within higher education. And I heard about this position that was being posted. And I've always wanted to be in a center that does study abroad, International Student Services, and an English program since I have a background and all of them. And so I wanted to kind of grow and move forward within my opportunities in higher education and decided to apply.

Brissa Campos 2:19
And how was the process to get here? Because I know that you were in Syracuse, which is, like more than eight hours away from here. So how was all that process of moving towards San Antonio?

Maria Del Mar Aponte Rodriguez 2:29
Yeah, so I think that moving is probably one of the most life changing things that people go through, even if you're moving within the same country like I was, but obviously, the United States quite large. So the travel time to San Antonio was approximately 34 hours. And so I basically packed up my life in about two weeks, and I began the journey to move down south from upstate New York. And so it was challenging at times, and difficult and certainly stressful. But I think that even though I've only been here for a short period of time, the time I have spent here has been quite rewarding with meeting new students and making new relationships throughout the university. So it took about 34 hours, I drove 20 hours the first day or 22, and then 12, the next day to make it to St. Mary's University.

Brissa Campos 3:37
Well, that's interesting. I didn't know that. And so far, I know you've been only like, What five months as a new director for the Center of International Programs? But can you describe your experience with the office so far? Have you been like, maintaining everything getting used to the new work environment, etc?

Maria Del Mar Aponte Rodriguez 3:57
Yeah, so I think that when you move to a new opportunity, a new job, it takes about a year to really settle and kind of understand everything because you really have to try to gain an understanding for what was being done before. How were students being served or not served, and then kind of find ways to improve student opportunities in the future. So I think that's been very helpful in the past few months. It's not been without challenges, obviously, as you're trying to learn a new office, trying to work with new people, supervising others, and really kind of getting a grasp of where we are, where we were and where we need to go. So I think that I wouldn't say by any means I'm perfect or have we haven't learned everything I'm still learning and so I think by next fall, we should be in like, a more solid place with a already established routine that we can follow to serve our students better. Yeah.

Brissa Campos 5:10
And how do you think COVID-19 has impacted the status or like the environment of the CIP office?

Maria Del Mar Aponte Rodriguez 5:18
Yeah. So, you know, I think like COVID-19, has had an impact, not just on St. Mary's in the office, but just some higher education study abroad, international students in general. So by and large, a lot of institutions have struggled with, you know, making sure that the students are feeling at home because perhaps they couldn't go home for a while due to COVID, or finding ways to still build a community while they're here. And I think that the way that COVID impacted our office was that a lot of things were put on hold. So perhaps study abroad was not really addressed. As head on as it could have been. And then the main focus was international students, but also people were out of the office, there was high turnover. So I think that we're working really hard to kind of build that community for students. And that sense of stability, that perhaps has not been here in the past couple of months, almost an entire year. So I think it's really been the lack of stability that we've been struggling with. But I've been here almost three months. And so hopefully, we're getting to a more stable place where students know where to go, and then we're able to kind of help them in a more efficient manner.

Brissa Campos 6:44
And could you tell me what short term goals you have for next semester? What are your things that you're planning to do? Or maybe like goals? Do you want to set for the office?

Maria Del Mar Aponte Rodriguez 6:55
Yeah. So I think one of the major goals that I have for next semester is to really engage our international students more, whether that be activities, off campus, even activities within campus, or things that we can do, to really encourage them to be a part of the St. Mary's and San Antonio community. So finding ways that they can still get some culture of being in San Antonio, because even though San Antonio is pretty big, it still has a lot of like small town fields in different parts of the city. So as I'm getting to know, San Antonio, I would like the students to get to know it with me. And so I'm really looking forward to building some activities, whether it be themed around certain holidays, or certain, you know, celebrations like Women's History Month, and things like that. So I'm really just looking to engage more with the international student community. And just really reiterating the support that they do have here, even though this past year has been a tumultuous one for them. And I think also just looking more into the study abroad opportunities that we can provide our students so that they can also gain that other perspective of going overseas. So I think those are kind of the short term goals that I have, and just really facilitating things for students. I think in the past things have been just really tedious with a lot of unnecessary paperwork. So I think streamlining our process and making everything clear to students, whether that be through, you know, sending reminder emails, or finding other ways to engage with them. I think those are the short term goals that I have for students.

Brissa Campos 8:44
Yeah. Well, thank you so much. That's all the question I have for now. And thank you so much for your time, and all the questions have been really clearly answered.

Maria Del Mar Aponte Rodriguez 8:52
Oh, thank you. Let me know if you need any clarification. Thank you.

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This item was submitted on November 25, 2021 by Brissa Campos Toscano using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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