Meet the CIIE Director: Dr. Amanda Johnson-Toala
What is your background in international education?
I began my career in international education 15 years ago as an EFL teacher working abroad. I obtained a MA in TESOL and then promptly moved to South Korea to teach at Pukyong National University in Busan. I also worked at Universidad Espiritu Santo in Guayaquil, Ecuador as an instructor, teacher trainer, and administrator for three years. After five years working abroad, I returned to my home state, Virginia. There, I had the privilege to work at Virginia Tech developing and implementing international student and scholar grant-funded programs, growing our international university partnerships and international student enrollment, and participating in capacity-building projects at universities in Iraqi Kurdistan, Senegal, Haiti, Chile, and Saudi Arabia. I ultimately pursued my doctorate at the College of William & Mary in higher education, focusing on faculty sensemaking of higher education change in Ecuador. While completing my Ph.D., I was recruited to lead a public-private partnership at the University of New Hampshire where I supported international student matriculation to the university.
What made you want to come work at Kent State?
When I saw the position at Kent State for the director of the center I knew it was a perfect fit. The position called upon skills I have developed over the past 15 years while also providing me an opportunity to learn something new. I am a lifelong learner and I relish the chance to stretch my wings, so to speak. I was also thrilled to work at a university known for its commitment not only to global education, but diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
What sparked your passion for a career in international education?
As a first generation college student, I jumped at the opportunity to study abroad – and much like the experiences of many, it changed my life. It was the fulcrum upon which my future career choices rested. As a young woman from a small town in Virginia, study abroad opened the world to me. My story is in no way unique. However, my experience increased my self-esteem, independence, and self-authorship. I also learned this was actually an academic and career path! Thus, I work daily to support opportunities for people to thrive and develop global competencies, as I did from my own international education.
What is the most valuable skill you have gained through your work so far?
I’ve gained the skill of engaging with people across cultures – an incredibly valuable capability when working in global education. My work has instilled in me leadership abilities I would have never guessed I was capable of as a young college student. I’ve also become quite the accomplished project manager!
What are you most looking forward to accomplishing in your role as Director of the Read Center?
I look forward to continuing the legacy of those directors of the center that came before me, bringing students and scholars to EHHS, supporting faculty and students in their internationalization efforts, and engaging with the surrounding community to increase global-mindedness. I am also excited to develop new partners to extend the reach and impact of the center.