All Roads Lead to Susquehanna

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Maria FinchNo matter what roads are traveled on the way to Susquehanna, the reasons driving people here are still the same. First and foremost are our exceptional faculty and academic programs. The core substance of the university wields a gravitational pull that keeps Susquehanna competitive in the college marketplace. It was strong enough to pull Associate Director of Cross-Cultural Programs Maria T. Finch away from supporting international causes by working for a nongovernmental organization (NGO). “I have a passion for getting Americans out into the world, genuinely connecting them with cultures different from their own,” she says.

Finch lived in Portugal during her “gap” year between high school and undergraduate work at Vassar College. After college she volunteered for the Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa, understanding that with more experience she’d like to work on the administrative side of the desk. While she would eventually return to the Peace Corps as associate country director in charge of community health and economic development in the South African country of Lesotho, Finch first worked for a small business that placed international students in American colleges and universities. From there she went on to earn a master’s degree at Columbia University, completing half of her coursework in international affairs and the other half in entrepreneurship. She designed her graduate program to prepare herself for developing a business that would place willing Westerners in cross-cultural environments. Her combined experiences are perfect fit for Susquehanna’s GO (Global Opportunities) program —part of the new Central Curriculum, which she now administers alongside Scott Manning, director of cross-cultural programs, and associate professor of French and Italian. “The Global Opportunities program seemed really progressive to me, and I was attracted to the entrepreneurial aspect of it,” she says.

After leaving Columbia, Finch ran her own company, Cultural Connections, taking Westerners to Thailand and Mongolia. Following Sept. 11, she moved to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where she worked alongside two doctors to distribute billions of dollars in grants to organizations working with HIV and tuberculosis in developing nations. Her experience at the Gates Foundation involved interacting mostly with CEOs of nongovernmental organizations. This led her to pursue fundraising work for MercyCorps. She was back in the field, visiting rural projects and telling donors the stories she picked up there. But she missed teaching eager learners about culture. So she returned to her dream of working in Peace Corps administration. After two years, Finch was looking to return to study abroad education. She wanted a unique opportunity.

That’s when she found Susquehanna. “I’m excited for what we’re developing in the GO program. I think the experience of cultural exchange will allow our students to assertively promote their strengths [to future employers and graduate schools].”

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