By Emma Reilly
Elm Staff Writer
Washington College’s Global Education Office introduced Sarah Lyle ’93 as the promoted assistant director along with the new semester.
Lyle, a WC alumna and intercultural learning advocate, said she is taking a forward-thinking approach to her new position, despite the strain that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on the College’s international programs.
“We’re in such a holding pattern now that every day we have to adapt somehow, which makes the job very challenging,” Lyle said. “But we are all — we at the College and our counterparts abroad — are doing our best guess at what we are going to be doing in the fall.”
Lyle has worked for GEO in an administrative capacity since 2017.
Before working for GEO, Lyle was active as a WC alumna and served as a mentor in the College’s community mentoring program for international students. Lyle said she was “involved in reviving the program, which had been dormant,” when she was first hired by GEO as an administrative assistant.
Lyle is also involved with the local art scene. As Chestertown RiverArts’ Coordinator for the KidSPOT program, Lyle teaches art to children in downtown Chestertown.
Even in the face of uncertainty caused by the pandemic, Lyle is motivated by her personal experiences to foster a love for global learning within the WC community.
Growing up, Lyle’s family lived in France. She was homeschooled abroad and sporadically attended school in the United States.
After earning her GED and attending both community college and art school, Lyle attended WC as a nontraditional student. She graduated in 1993, at age 30, with a degree in art and art history.
“I’m familiar with what it’s like to be an international student. I’m really interested in [providing] that experience for students, particularly at WC, after having worked with so many students as mentees over the years,” Lyle said.
According to GEO Student and Exchange Visitor Information System Coordinator Sue Calloway, Lyle’s passion for developing meaningful international experiences will make her well-suited to direct GEO.
“Sarah is very invested in the success of the international students,” Calloway said. “Her approach is hands-on and student oriented, which benefits not only the individual students, but GEO programming and WC as a whole.”
As assistant director, Lyle’s primary responsibility will be facilitating incoming and outgoing student exchanges.
In a typical semester, this duty would involve coordinating with WC partner institutions for study abroad opportunities and assisting international students with their immigration status. While these functions have been complicated by the pandemic, GEO will continue to pursue international connections and assist students arriving in the U.S. over the course of the 2021 spring semester.
On campus, GEO typically hosts events and generates programming related to international groups, holidays and traditions for international and non-international students. Lyle’s responsibilities have expanded, but her direct and personal involvement with students such as these will continue.
GEO’s ability to carry out these functions is currently limited due to staffing restrictions and the pandemic, according to Calloway.
Despite this, GEO will be moving forward throughout the semester.
According to Lyle, GEO will continue to recognize intercultural events and holidays with emails, as well as this semester’s study abroad application cycle.
Flexibility will be a priority — the July 1 decision date will allow the College to continue communicating with its partner institutions as the global situation fluctuates.
Lyle is hopeful for the future of study abroad at WC.
“There are students … that are very eager to study abroad. And there’s a hunger — students want to travel,” Lyle said.
As GEO pushes forward against the many obstacles presented by the pandemic, Lyle believes there is an important lesson to be learned by the WC community from the office’s challenges.
“I think that the good that can come out of the pandemic experience is this ability to reach far and wide remotely,” Lyle said. “We have proven that we are a global society and can be, and [we are] making students who are culturally enriched [in] that way is really important. That’s what makes my job worthwhile.”
Featured Photo caption: After working with the Global Education Office since 2017, Sarah Lyle was promoted to assistant director of GEO at the beginning of the spring 2021 semester. Photo Courtesy of Sarah Lyle.