It’s an exciting time and a milestone day at Cultural Vistas as Jennifer Clinton, Ph.D., officially takes the helm as our new President and Chief Executive Officer.
We sat down with Jennifer to learn more about her diverse background and her vision for Cultural Vistas, and we discovered some fun facts about her along the way.
Q: Tell us about your time at Global Ties U.S. What will you take from this experience that will inform your role as CEO?
In my nearly six years at Global Ties, I learned and witnessed that there is incredible power in networks of people and organizations once they are aligned and mobilized towards a common goal. Cultural Vistas has strong networks of partners and alumni that can be mobilized in significant ways to advance its goals.
I also learned that the importance of articulating a big vision coupled with a strong commitment to persistence is a powerful combination for success. Many of the things we accomplished at Global Ties were unthinkable when I started. We always kept our eye on the big vision despite obstacles we faced, and understood the many baby steps it took to accomplish the big strides we made.
At the end of the day, whether at Global Ties or Cultural Vistas, we are in the people business. I learned that success is not about being the smartest person or organization in the room or the field, but how we treat our people, our participants, and partners in a very personal and relationship-centric way.
Q: How has your life experience shaped your leadership style?
I grew up in a family of six kids and am the third oldest. As one of the middle kids, I always saw my role as peacemaker, mediator, compromise finder. I will more often than not try to find ways to bring conflicting perspectives together to find win-win solutions.
Team sports was also a big part of my upbringing so I learned at an early age the importance of working through and with teams, and at the same time developed a pretty competitive nature.
Finally, as a product of the Midwest, I tend to be no-nonsense, very trustworthy with a pretty humble persona.
Q: How do you see the field of international education and exchange evolving?
I think the field is getting more and more sophisticated with respect to intentionality behind program design that necessitates clear articulation of programmatic and learning outcomes. Because individuals are pursuing multiple exchange experiences during a lifetime, there is a need for organizations like Cultural Vistas to be clear about what each experience will bring to an individual that goes far beyond mutual understanding or a broadening of perspectives.
Cultural Vistas has honed in on global skill building as one of the key pillars of its programs. I do believe there is room for us to dig deeper into what specific global skills we are helping to develop and how we measure the successful acquisition of these skills through different models of exchanges.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in international relations?
I am a naturally curious person who loves learning about new cultures and perspectives. As a young person, I grew up spending summers in Canada where my grandparents had a cottage. I was always intrigued by observing cultural, political and linguistic differences between the two countries. This led me to study French language and culture and pursue a number of study and intern abroad experiences.
Q: Can you tell us some more about your personal experience overseas study experiences?
I have both studied and interned abroad. As a sophomore in high school, I spent a summer abroad in Sweden competing to play basketball. During my time there I lived with a host family with whom I am still in touch. As a junior at Marquette University, I spent a semester in Avignon France, where I lived with a host family, and as a graduate student at UC Davis, I interned in a town outside of Bordeaux and worked in a tourist office helping visitors navigate the wine region. I have also traveled abroad pretty extensively for work primarily throughout Europe, Middle East, and Latin America.
Q: Women represent half the workforce, but only 4 percent of the top or CEO positions. Why it is important to have more women in leadership positions?
I believe women bring an important mindset to leadership roles. One has to be careful not to generalize too much, but I do find that women naturally demonstrate a strong sense of collaboration and inclusivity. In addition, though women can be very competitive, I find less of a “zero-sum game” attitude in that we often believe there is room for multiple winners versus thinking that if I win then someone naturally has to lose.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Cultural Vistas’ community as you begin your new role?
I love the spirit of innovation and strong dedication to quality that permeates Cultural Vistas. In addition, I love the fact that the people who make up the organization are really good, solid, smart and committed people that want to advance the mission.
What I want to do is help the organization realize its ambitions. I have learned that many of the answers to questions about the next phase of the organization already exist within the organization. I’m not here to provide all the answers — but I see my role as more of a coach who can help our people and organization achieve their full potential.