Jennifer Thomas-Starck is in her 13th year as the director of international study at Wellesley. After being introduced to international education while abroad in England, she applied for her current position in 2004 and has been working as the director ever since.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Thomas-Starck earned a degree in foreign languages from Rhodes College, and later completed her masters in French literature at Boston College in 1987.
While studying to be a French teacher, Thomas-Starck had several jobs that led her to realize her interest in international education. In college, she had a work study job at a study abroad program in Oxford, and in graduate school, she worked for a faculty member who ran an exchange program in France. These experiences led her to fall in love with being part of international study programs.
“I kind of fell into the field of international education,” said Thomas-Starck.
After moving to Wellesley, Thomas-Starck became the mother of two children and was not looking for a job. However, when she came across the job posting for director of international study at Wellesley, she applied and began working at the college.
“[I] came across this job posting quite by chance and applied on a whim,” explained Thomas-Starck. “My job is actually really interesting, but you wouldn’t think so if I describe a typical day!”
At the Office of International Study (OIS), Thomas-Starck’s job requires her to interact not only with Wellesley students and staff but also with people all over the world. Because most of the people she interacts with are scattered across the globe in various time zones, she spends half her work days writing emails. Her typical day at work also includes discussing study abroad plans with students, talking to faculty involved with different study abroad programs and communicating with international visitors and administrators. The goal is to figure out all of the logistics involving studying abroad. Thomas-Starck’s work makes it possible for students to have a successful experience while abroad as well as a smooth return back to campus.
“We help with transfer credit issues and also run a number of programs so that students can reflect upon and share their experiences. I particularly enjoy working with students on Tanner applications,” said Thomas-Starck.
By overseeing Wellesley’s programs and collaborating with outside program providers, colleges and universities, Thomas-Starck helps students identify and get into the programs that fit them best. Some of her other responsibilities include managing Wellesley’s study abroad programs; health and safety protocols; financial arrangements; partnership agreements; credit transfer issues and outreach to students, faculty and potential partners. All of this, she said, is made possible through the help of her colleague at OIS, Kristiana Graves ’13, who organizes study abroad information sessions and is the lead advisor for programs in the UK. Despite Thomas-Starck’s busy work days at OIS, she appreciates the people she gets to work with.
“One of the things I appreciate most about my job is how varied it is and how many different people I work with: talented and motivated students, dedicated and brilliant faculty, hard working and creative staff colleagues, really interesting international colleagues,” Thomas-Starck explained.
Sometimes she has the opportunity to travel for the purposes of visiting student programs or meeting with colleagues. She loves traveling and learning about other cultures, especially their food.
When she’s in her office, Thomas-Starck feels as though there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Getting students to read and respond to her emails also poses a challenge. Because email is the best mode of communicating with Wellesley students, both oncampus and abroad, she relies on email responses to successfully complete her duties.
Thomas-Starck considers the Wellesley community to be special and diverse, and she feels lucky to be a part of it. She believes that Wellesley students especially excel at being kind to one another and hopes that students enjoy their time at Wellesley, as well as their time abroad.