Every so often, it is important to take time to reflect on where you have been, where you are, and where you are going. As I look back at the day I was asked to create a program focused on strengthening Michigan’s economy through the retention of Michigan’s international student population, I remember feeling honored, confident, and unsure. Honored to be the person chosen to create the very first program of its kind in the U.S., confident I was well qualified for the task, but unsure of exactly what this program would become. Having no template was a curse as well as a blessing. A curse because there was no research, no mentorship, and no one to help me predict what would and would not work. A blessing, because it gave me full creative freedom to develop networks, strategies, and programs that have never been tried. This trial and error period was very exciting and allowed me to develop networks of people and organizations who helped me develop GTRI into the thriving program it is today.
As I look at where we are today, I see the results of a very successful three years. We have grown from a staff of one to four and a few interns, established a well-recognized identity, fostered strong partnerships with universities, economic development organizations, private businesses, and state government, and we have developed very unique mechanisms to connect international students with job opportunities here in Michigan; resources international students across the U.S. have been searching for since long before I entered the field of International Education. We have decreased frustration not only for international students, but for employers as well, by demystifying the immigration process and developing more streamlined avenues for both groups to find each other – most notably our GOemployer program, GOregistry, and Michigan’s Global Future conferences.
As I look forward, I see GTRI’s continued success and strengthening of relationships with all our stakeholders, working together to make Michigan one of the most attractive destinations not only for international students, but everyone who values diversity, attracting the best and brightest, and of course, those who are excited about being part of something bigger than themselves. It was with this vision that GTRI’s programs were structured, and with this vision I the torch will be passed. I have put my heart and my soul into this program and although it has been a very difficult decision to move on to my next adventure, I know I am leaving GTRI in very capable hands. AS of January 1, 2015, our Corporate Outreach Manager, Jeff Towns, will be taking over my role as Executive Director. He has developed exceptional partnerships with our employers and possesses the non-profit leadership experience that will take GTRI to the next level. I am very confident you will find him and our staff just as passionate as ever about our mission.
As I have said many times, GTRI would not be where it is today without the support we have received from all professional sectors and all the individuals who have believed in us and our charge. I cannot express in words how important that has been to me as GTRI has grown and how grateful I am to have had friends and partners like you in my corner. Thank you!