Jenny Kawata leaves Allegheny for her alma mater, Slippery Rock

Jenny Kawata, director of international education and adviser to the International Club, spent her last official day as an Allegheny faculty member on Wednesday, Nov. 30. Kawata will be the director of global partnerships and exchanges at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, her alma mater and the place where her international journey began.

As a young woman, Kawata could not wait to travel around the world and experience different cultures and perspectives. She would often pretend to speak another language with her mother while grocery shopping, knowing languages would lead her to her life’s passion.

A native of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Kawata was a first-generation college student and the first to study abroad in her family. As a college student in 1992, Kawata boarded a plane to study in Japan. She was scared but thrilled to go to a country whose language she had been studying throughout college.

After studying international business at Slippery Rock University, Kawata taught English in Japan for three years through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program.

She returned to the United States in 1998 to complete her Master of Arts in teachers of English to speakers of other languages at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. After teaching English as a second language in Japan, Kawata made the decision to come back to the U.S. permanently in 2005.

Kawata joined the Allegheny faculty in 2008 as the director of international education and adviser to the International Club. She spent her first years at Allegheny as a professor in the modern and classical languages department, where she helped international students prepare for their courses at Allegheny.

Her passion has led her to travel to more than 20 countries, including India, Kenya and Indonesia. She has encouraged students to collaborate and find out more about the world around them.

“[At Allegheny] I can get to know the students,” Kawata said. “I can help them identify locations for studying abroad or locations that can help them achieve their personal, professional or academic goals. I can work with our international students who are coming here to help them find a new home in Meadville and the [U.S.].”

Lenee McCandless, now the international student adviser, was an intern for the international office when she first met Kawata and has worked alongside her for more than three years. She said she sees Kawata as an amazing leader who has helped her professional and personal growth.

“I have never known Allegheny without [Kawata],” McCandless said. “[During] the international dinners, both of us always end up doing dishes and stand there for maybe twelve hours total, so we get exhausted. The two of us in the dish room still manage to smile. We were so tired and spent two days on our feet, but we were still able to smile because you just know that you are surrounded by wonderful people. I think that sums up Jenny in a nutshell.”

Kawata said she wants to leave having made an impact on internationalization at Allegheny.  She said she believes that being present with people can only make a workplace better. Kawata has displayed photos of previous students she has helped over the past eight and half years in poster frames across from her desk.

“Every day I come to work, I might be able to help someone in a way that impacts their lives,” Kawata said. “It’s not just a job. It’s really about what positive impact I am making today.”

Maggie Dugan, ’18, a German and English double major, met Kawata her freshmen year and has worked as a student assistant for the international office since fall 2015.

“Working with international students and raising cultural awareness is something that I didn’t think I would ever do in college,” Dugan said. “[Kawata] has helped me with that in a lot of ways. In terms of school work, she’s made it clear that my schoolwork is first and that this job comes second. I love this job so much.”

Dugan also plans on going back to Germany after she graduates to teach English as a second language.

“If I had the opportunity to work in the same position as she is in, I would take it,” said Dugan. “Being able to work with somebody like [Kawata] is unreal, and it’s an experience that you cannot find at another school.”

This year, Kawata helped the International Club organize the bazaar for the International Foods Dinner, where more than 250 guests were served dishes from various international cuisines. She also helped the international office collaborate with Allegheny faculty and the library staff to bring the Global Gators display in front of Grounds For Change in the campus center.

During her farewell reception on Monday, Nov. 28, students and colleagues who have traveled with her and worked alongside her gathered to say goodbye to Kawata.

“In terms of professional growth, now is the time that I can explore other areas that I’m interested in,” said Kawata. “We will all ask that for ourselves as professionals—what our goals are, we are always continually evaluating. It just comes down to returning to my alma mater and having this opportunity for developing in ways as an international educator that make me excited. It’s hard to leave though. It’s a bittersweet decision because I’m really close to my students—I love my work here, but you have to think about your profession and your goals.”

While the college searches for someone to fill the position, Terry Bensel, associate provost and director of the Gateway, will be assisted by McCandless in fulfilling the duties of Kawata’s position.