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Meet Kristin Labs: Diversity Abroad Community Highlight

Posted By Administration, Thursday, September 21, 2017

Kristin Labs photoKristin Labs
Field Director, South/Southwest U.S.
Institute for Study Abroad, Butler University

Level of Experience: 10+ years

What does diversity & inclusive excellence mean to you in the context of your work?

To me, it means giving a voice to every perspective, every identity, every opinion. It means challenging ourselves to acknowledge our own prejudices, to recognize and challenge social constructs that negatively impact others, to actively listen to others, and to seek understanding.     

Please describe the factors that led you to pursue your current career track?

I studied International Relations as an undergraduate, and always imagined that I would end up working in International Development with an NGO, maybe in Sub Saharan Africa. But after college, and after living and working abroad for a year, I came back to the states and fell into an opportunity to live in rural Appalachia in southeastern Kentucky to start a non-profit and do community development work. I did that for three years. And through that experience, which included some college counseling with the local high school students, I realized I wanted to mix my two interests of education and international relations. Little did I know, until I did some research, that there were actually graduate programs in International Education, which is when I found the SIT Graduate Institute and thus began my pursuit of a career in IE.

What aspects of your work are you most excited about?

I love advising students. I also love seeing them through the entire process of pursuing an international experience, and discovering how they've transformed from the experience upon returning. I also love working on issues of access, whether it be first generation college students, high school students from rural or high poverty areas, or high financial need students. 

Please describe any challenges you've encountered in relationship to your current role? What strategies have you employed to overcome them?

I've faced challenges with micromanagement from leadership in the past. I find that focusing on the small accomplishments can really help my morale and finding allies across campus or within an organization can also be extremely motivating and helpful in pushing initiatives forward.   

As you reflect on different aspects of your career, what are you most proud of?

I'm actually most proud of the individual students I've advised over the years, and the paths that many of them have taken since then. Now and then I will cross paths with former students and it warms my heart to hear them remember the many advising sessions we had or the support they received that helped them get a scholarship, and to thank me for that years later. I was recently in touch with a former student who is now in the Foreign Service (never would have imagined that path for him 10 years ago!) and his next assignment will place him in Chengdu, China - the location of a study abroad program he helped me advise students on as a peer advisor. A full circle of sorts for him!   

Do you have any heroes? Who are they and why?

I would say that one of my heroes near the top of the list is Desmond Tutu, primarily for his work with South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

What do you work toward in your free time?

Having as many adventures with my kids and my partner as possible, and sharing them with friends and family. Sometimes that's visits to national parks like a recent trip to Carlsbad Caverns and sometimes it's dance parties on Wii in the living room (pretty regular occurrence).

Recent Engagement with Diversity Abroad

Co-Chair: 2017-2018 High School Task Force
Member: 2016-2017 High School Task Force
Presenter: 5th Annual Diversity Abroad Conference

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