For the past 13 years, Lauren Nehlsen, Ph.D., has helped expose Elgin Community College to the world and the world to ECC as the Director of International Education and Programs. Nehlsen’s love for traveling and vast experience doing so make for the perfect combination to lead ECC’s international programs.
“I’ve traveled to more than 25 countries and 45 states. I love traveling because you experience different cultures, perspectives, and traditions and make life-long memories through experiences rather than accumulating ‘stuff,’” said Nehlsen.
When she isn’t traveling, Nehlsen dedicates her time to animal rescue and welfare. Read on to learn more about her work and passion for animals in need, her development of ECC’s homestay program, and where she hopes to travel to next.
In your words, what do you do at ECC? What do you want others to know about your job? Or what would help others understand your job? As the director of international education and programs, I provide oversight and leadership for international student and scholar services, study abroad, faculty and administrator exchange, the International Student Homestay Program, and comprehensive campus internationalization. I support international and study abroad students to realize their dreams of participating in international education programs and understand how those programs promote student success, cultural competency, and global awareness. I also serve as the co-chair of the Global/International Studies Team and as a member of the President’s Taskforce for Title IX and Title VII.
What is your greatest accomplishment since you’ve been at ECC? My greatest accomplishment since I’ve been at ECC would be the development, creation, and implementation of the International Student Homestay Program. The International Student Homestay Program provides a unique opportunity for international students to live with an American family while providing local residents with the opportunity to host an international student and learn about a new culture. The goal of the program is to build bridges of cultural appreciation and promote global awareness and diversity. As the college’s primary housing program for international students, the homestay program has been extremely successful in helping international students acclimate to life in the US.
If you could instantly be an expert in one thing, what would you choose? Advanced mathematics and logic – how amazing would it be to understand all the nuances and advanced principles of math to better comprehend how things work? Also, it would be neat to be an expert in speaking multiple languages!
What do you enjoy doing outside of work (i.e., hobbies/interests)? I am very involved in animal rescue and welfare and have served on the Board of Directors of an animal rescue organization for more than a decade. I’m passionate about rescuing and transporting unwanted shelter pets in high-kill shelters in the tri-state area (Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa) to rescue partners and adopters. It’s emotionally laborious, but the reward is indescribable. I also enjoy spending time with family and friends, reading, traveling, and getting involved with my children’s sports activities (we’re a baseball and basketball family)!
Where is the best place you’ve traveled? Or where would you like to visit? The best place I’ve ever traveled to is London, England. I completed my master’s degree there and lived and worked there for a number of years. The culture, people, history, and architecture are lovely. I would love to visit Patagonia and Antarctica someday!
You have to wear a t-shirt with just one word on it for an entire year. What would that word be, and why? Kindness. We need more kindness, empathy, and love in this world.
Share a fact about you that might surprise people to learn. I love traveling! I’ve traveled to more than 25 countries and 45 states. I love traveling because you experience different cultures, perspectives, and traditions and make life-long memories through experiences rather than accumulating “stuff.” As my children get older, my goal is to help them travel the world as much as possible to experience life through a different lens.
What job have you held (besides ECC) that was the most fun, interesting, or difficult? Explain why. When I lived in London, I worked as an international project liaison at a university. It was interesting to meet people from across the world, engage in cross-cultural exchange, and build life-long friendships with individuals I would probably have never met!
What was your most valuable life lesson? “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31. Everyone wants to be treated with kindness, respect, and love; it is our decision every morning when we wake up how we will treat those around us. I try to live by this principle daily.
Complete this sentence: “I enjoy working at ECC because… The college offers a diverse and welcoming environment, a robust education, and quality support services to students, employees, and community members. I appreciate the individuals I work with and enjoy making a difference in the lives of students!