Staff Spotlight: Alan Jansen

Director, South Africa Programs

What is your favorite travel memory?

It has to be traveling through Europe on a camping holiday as a young South African who had never even travelled outside of my city!

Growing up in a country where I lived with restrictions of movement and access, I remember standing on St. Mark's Square in Venice as a deep sense of freedom and liberation consumed me.

That trip all of 36 years ago changed my life and has left me convinced that a study abroad experience can be a life changer for a young person. I have certainly witnessed this over they years.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current institution?

It has kept me young, rubbing shoulders with students everyday! More importantly it has kept me close to the issues facing young people in a rapidly changing world.

Perhaps one of the most exciting things I do is helping students to deepen their understanding of the world outside of their worlds.

One the joys of working with international students is wrestling with them over a challenge facing South Africa, which then opens up opportunities to dialog about global issues. They become peer learners and often my teachers!

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

It has to be the story of a student who returned just recently to Cape Town to work with a local NGO, a year after completing two semesters with the Arcadia program.

She, like many I have heard from, feels that she had such a life changing experience while spending a year in Cape Town that she wanted to give back before heading off to Grad school. The best part for me is that she is a first generation college student.

If you could go on any program that your institution offers, which one would you choose and why?

Definitely the new program in Chile! I love mountains and I am intrigued by the Antarctic region so that appeals to the adventurous me.

But Chile, like South Africa, has had a tumultuous political past and yet has emerged as the most stable economies in Latin America. I think as one who teaches political history, I would learn so much from such an experience.

What makes your institution unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I think being part of a global community of scholars but also having a significant connection to a dynamic team of people on campus back in the U.S., makes for a uniquely rich collegiate experience.

I think I am especially proud when year after year news gets published that we remain the Undergrad University sending the most U.S. students abroad. This is more than just about the numbers but about knowing that each one will be going to a destination where the staff and faculty will create opportunities of learning that will change their lives.

What continues to inspire you to work in education?

I have spent over 20 years as a political activist in the struggle for political freedom in South Africa.

One of my joys as a educator today is sharing the political history of my country, something I get to do in the Signature class I teach each week. It always feel that I am sharing my life's story rather than giving a History lecture.

The real encouragement is that the challenges we have struggled with here are so relevant to the issues emerging across the globe, most especially in the USA.