Staff Spotlight: Jane Gunn-Lewis

Director, New Zealand Programs

What is your favorite travel memory?

Yikes! I have so many!

Hitchhiking on the back of a truck on my own from Wadi Halfa to Khartoum across the Sudanese desert was hard, but special. Climbing up Mount Fuji in darkness to arrive at daybreak. Chugging down the Mekong from Luang Prabang In Laos on a little boat with my hubby and friends. Hiking the Milford Track here in New Zealand with four other families and all our teenage children.

Probably the best memories are as much about the people you are with, as they are about exotic locations.

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

9/11 happened during my first semester and I have watched as universities become more and more risk adverse, and students have become more tightly connected to home through social media.

I don't think my core values have changed. I still want our students to push themselves, and discover their limits, and fully engage with the people and environment here.

Every year a student comes to me with a weird or wonderful or very sad and difficult situation and I still ask myself "what is best for the student?" and the rest is usually easy to do.

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

I LOVE reconnecting with alums. In 2007 a student and I used to joke that he would one day be a pilot and I would hear him do the "hello this is your captain speaking" and I would squeal 'Rich!!" and run down the aisle of the plane.

Last year he popped in to NZ to catch up with people he is still friends with 10 years later and he came to Queenstown to see me. He now flies a plane that goes faster than the speed of sound over Syria and Afghanistan for the American Air Force.

I just feel so touched to still be connected through Facebook with so many former students.

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

Arcadia University is about getting the right balance between nurturing students and encouraging them to engage fully with their new environment. I say to the students "If you are not living on the edge you are taking up too much space."

I was particularly proud last year when two of our Otago staff linked in with a local primary school and we got a relationship going where a group of our U.S. students visited the school each Friday and helped young Kiwis with their reading.

Through this our students got a sense of contributing to the local community and the local children had their eyes and minds opened to the world. Very special.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful institution?

Great communication. We tell our students and staff that we cannot help each other unless we know something is not right for them.

Good communication is honest and empathetic communication. Sometimes good communication means a hug in a time of sadness. And other times it is guffawing in laughter. The great thing about working in study abroad is that it is never boring!