Staff Spotlight: Mari Dark

Study Abroad Administrator


What position do you hold at Naropa University? What has been your career path so far?

Mari: I am currently a one-person office as the Study Abroad Administrator at Naropa University. The Study Abroad office at Naropa was dormant for many years before being brought back to life in June 2014.

My career path to study abroad has been an unusual one in that I lived and worked abroad in Germany, Japan and China several years ago but ended up working in the registration office at various universities upon my return to the States. I was actually the Registrar at Naropa University when the opportunity arose to apply for the newly created Study Abroad Administrator position here.

My skills as an administrator are strong based on my years in higher education and my passion for world travel is even stronger so I leapt at the opportunity to apply for this position. I feel like I have finally landed my dream job – helping create opportunities for students to study abroad and experience the world.

What does the future hold for Naropa University - any exciting new programs to share?

Mari: Naropa University launched a study abroad program in Bhutan in January of 2015. There are relatively few study abroad opportunities in Bhutan and we are the only North American university to have an official partnership with the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB). This partnership is based, in part, on the fact that Naropa is a Buddhist-inspired university and upholds many of the same values as the Royal University of Bhutan.

Our program is led by a Naropa faculty member with whom the students take three classes while also enrolling directly in classes at the Royal University of Bhutan.

In this inaugural year of the program, our students have reported that the combination of contemplative practice led by Naropa faculty member, as well as the deep immersion in Bhutanese culture, has led to incredible intercultural awareness and personal growth.

I am SO excited to watch our Bhutan program grow and see what amazing programs in other parts of the world we will develop as the years go on.

What was your favorite traveling experience?

Mari: While visiting Beijing after spending a summer teaching in Shanghai, a friend and I accidentally boarded the wrong bus to see the Great Wall of China. Instead of being dropped off at a touristy location with many English-speaking guides around, we found ourselves dropped off on a dirt road in what felt like the middle of nowhere. When we looked confused and pointed to “the Great Wall” in our guidebook, the bus driver pointed far up the mountain to what looked like a pile of rubble. And then drove away. Leaving us there without another person or other car in sight.

For lack of better options, we began hiking up the mountainside, once passing a bemused farmer who seemed to wonder what two foreigners were doing in his field. After hiking for over an hour, we reached the pile of rubble which actually turned out to be the ruins of the Great Wall and spent the afternoon exploring this amazing piece of history. I vividly remember standing on the Great Wall, looking across a rugged mountainside, feeling absolutely in awe of my experience.

With the help of a kindly man who picked us up once we’d hiked down the mountain, we made it back to Beijing with grand tales of the beauty of the unrestored Wall and the helpfulness of Chinese we met along the way. It was an experience I will never forget.