Staff Spotlight: Courtenay James

Victoria International Leadership Programme Co-ordinator


Courtenay James is the Coordinator for the Victoria International Leadership Programme (VILP) at VUW. Inspired by her own study abroad experience, she now works to bring the world to her students as they engage with global issues and challenges and develop as global citizens.

What is your favorite travel memory?

There are too many to choose from! I travel to the USA for vacation often and each trip is unique and memorable in its own way. If I had to pick, it would be relaxing with my family at a great seafood restaurant overlooking Monterey Bay in California, watching sea otters play in the surf as the sun went down. Bliss!

Travel is full of busy days and endless activities, but the quiet moments where you can take a breath and appreciate wherever in the world you are, are the most rewarding for me.

How does your role have a positive impact on the experience of students in your organization?

In my role, I'm lucky to be able to provide students with a range of opportunities to expand their worldview and improve their leadership capabilities, whether this is something as small as planting a tree or as big as going overseas for a trimester.

As I am in a primarily student-facing role, I am able to give direct support to students working to complete the programme, encouraging them to transform into more active, global participants of the world.

What do you enjoy most about working with students/participants?

I had such a fantastic student experience and it is incredibly rewarding to see this generation of students thriving! We have such wonderful students who are active, involved and passionate and I am inspired by their successes. It is great to see VILP participants take on global challenges and work together towards solving complex world issues. This role has given me an insight into what students do each and every day and what opportunities are offered here at VUW.

What makes your programs unique?

VUW is the only university in New Zealand to have an extracurricular programme like VILP. We are very lucky to have it here, as by nature of being in the capital city of New Zealand, we're just a stone's throw away from places of significance like Parliament and the Reserve Bank, not to mention a considerable number of Embassies and High Commissions. Our close relationships with these organizations allow our students to interact with influential people in the political, economic and social spheres. It's not every day you get to speak with an Ambassador, but it happens pretty regularly here at VUW!

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in creating an excellent experience for your students/participants?

Absolutely our passion! The VILP team is passionate about making the programme the best it can possibly be - we dedicate time to searching out new opportunities for engagement and advancement and are constantly thinking of ways to do and be better. Students recognize and appreciate this and in turn, bring their all to the programme.

What's your dream travel destination and why?

My dream travel destination is the Scottish highlands. My entire family is Scottish (they moved to New Zealand in the 1970s so I'm a first-generation New Zealander!) and I'd love to visit the country that was their home for so long. I'm also a big fan of the TV show Outlander and was a History major, so I'd like to visit some sites from the Jacobite Rebellion and, of course, Loch Ness!