Springtime is when a lot of our Deacs are submitting study abroad applications (and anxiously awaiting decisions!), so for today’s Meet A Deac, I am pleased to introduce you to one of my colleagues from Global Programs and Studies (GPS), Jessica Francis (MALS ’17).

Wake Forest faculty and staff headshots, Tuesday, August 6, 2019. Jessica Francis, GPS.

Jessica, so glad to have you as this week’s Meet A Deac! Will you please tell me your job title? My title is Director of Global Abroad in the Center for Global Programs and Studies (GPS).

And how long have you worked at Wake? Over 14 years at this point. I started as an International Studies Advisor at a front desk in Carswell Hall (before the GPS office moved to Reynolda Hall).

Tell me about your educational background. I received my undergraduate degree in Literature from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. During my time at St. Edwards, I studied abroad at the National University of Ireland in Galway, Tec de Monterrey in Mexico, and Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. I also received my MA in Liberal Studies from Wake Forest.

Wow! That is a lot of study abroad – which of course positions you so well to work in GPS. How would you explain your job in layperson’s terms? I oversee our semester abroad programs, coordinate our cross-cultural engagement courses, direct our community-based global learning programs, and support the Global Abroad advising team. I focus on supporting all of our students and helping them study abroad. I love meeting with students (and their parents and family members) to help them plan their time away from Wake.

Trying to plan time away from Wake has been a real challenge during the ongoing COVID pandemic. How did that impact you? The pause in abroad programs and the changing requirements were our two biggest challenges. For the 2020-21 academic year, we didn’t have any semester programs running. It was incredibly rewarding to re-launch our semester programs in Fall 2021, but it also meant (and continues to mean) that we are watching COVID cases, entry requirements, and departure requirements throughout the world to ensure that we are providing accurate and up-to-date information and support to our students, faculty, and staff when they are traveling.

The early morning light casts shadows on Taylor Residence and the Campus Grounds coffee shop, on the campus of Wake Forest University on Wednesday, April 10, 2019.

What do you like best about working at Wake Forest? Can I say ‘Campus Grounds oat milk chai tea latte’? All kidding aside, at Wake Forest there is opportunity (and support) to try new things. From staff to students, there is always someone willing to listen, and if it is a solid idea, often times there is funding to support it.

Speaking of willing to listen…what advice would you want to give our students? Talk to us! Everyone who works at Wake Forest is here to help you succeed. The more you share your ideas and get to the know the staff and faculty, the more opportunities will arise.

Any advice for parents and families? Take a pause. I have three young children, and this is something I deal with regularly. When my child is hurt, sad, angry (basically anything other than happy), if I take a pause, they often sort their issue out without my help (or with minimal intervention). My immediate reaction is to try and help them, but I am regularly amazed that when I give them the space to help themselves, they do.

Ready for the lightning round questions?

Book cover: Arthur Levine's "The Great Upheaval: higher education's past, present, and uncertain future"

Book(s) you are reading now: The Great Upheaval: Higher Education’s Past, Present, and Uncertain Future by Arthur Levine and Scott J. Van Pelt and A Little Life: A Novel by Hanya Yanagihara.

Dave matthews band

Favorite music: I have a pretty wide range from Dave Matthews Band to Lizzo but nothing beats singing along in the summer with my windows down to music from the 80s and 90s.

Great British Baking Show still

Favorite TV/movies/Netflix, etc.: Anything cooking related. I love The Great British Baking Show and Top Chef. I also really like Schitt’s Creek and Derry Girls! [ooh, I LOVE Derry Girls!!]

Websites you frequent: travel.state.gov, bbc.com, nytimes.com, studyabroad.wfu.edu!

Guilty pleasure: a really good glass of wine.

Introvert or Extrovert? Ambivert. I need my alone time to recharge and refresh, but I am comfortable speaking to large groups, presenting, etc.

Something most people don’t know about you: When I was a sophomore in college, I spent my spring semester studying in Galway, Ireland. While there, I spent every Tuesday night having tea with my Uncle Dinny. Thought he was more like a second cousin three times removed, he treated me as a niece. He would bake for us each time we met, tell me all about growing up in Ireland, and even help me with my homework. He turned 97 during my time in Galway and that was my first experience converting Celsius to Fahrenheit (unsuccessfully) in baking. I think he would be proud to know how much our time together has impacted me personally and professionally.

What question didn’t I ask that you want to answer? “When should my student start the study abroad process?” We love to talk to students about their options at any point during their time at Wake. That said, spring of their first year is a great time for a first meeting. We also host events and panels that are open for all students to join. Just head to our website to see our upcoming events.

Many thanks to you, Jessica, for all you to do help our students have transformative experiences abroad, and all the ways you support our campus!

Reminder to all – the Meet A Deac archive is here.

— by Betsy Chapman, Ph.D. (’92, MA ’94)

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