Saluki Pride: Elaine Conrad is an SIU ‘mom’ to international students, fosters connections between international and regional communities

woman smiling while handing papers to another person

Elaine Conrad, is a second “mom” to hundreds of students from all over the world, helping them in myriad ways as they adapt to their home away from home at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. And she does it quite well, her colleagues say.

“She has her hand on the pulse of the student community and strives to make sure they are taken care of academically, culturally, mentally and otherwise,” said Tina Sickinger, graduate, law and international recruitment and retention coordinator for the Graduate School. “I applaud Elaine and the work she does to serve the international student population.”

As the community and educational programs coordinator for the Center for International Education, Conrad is also the staff adviser for the International Student Council, which serves as the umbrella organization overseeing all of the international registered student organizations. She also brings together SIU’s international population with the greater SIU and regional communities.

Get to know: ELAINE CONRAD

Name: Elaine Conrad

Department and job title: Community and educational programs coordinator, Center for International Education

Years at SIU Carbondale: 18, in addition to my time as a student.

Give us the elevator pitch for your job.

A major part of my job is developing and administering educational and supportive services for international students and for the Carbondale region through new international student orientations, community programming, forums and workshops. Under the umbrella of the International Friends Club (IFC) and through a large American campus and community volunteers, we operate more than a dozen different programs to serve not only international students, scholars and their families, but also the SIU and Carbondale community as well. Many people are not aware that at SIU, we have students from approximately 100 different countries, and through them, we are able to bring the world to Southern Illinois.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I have the privilege of working with students from all over the world on a daily basis, and of acting as their advocate and adviser. I learn something new from our students every day! My job is to act as a liaison to promote intercultural understanding by bringing international students together with domestic students and the SIU and Southern Illinois community.

Why did you choose SIU?

SIU helped me rebuild my life. I worked full-time in a nonprofit organization when I went back to school. Like many other women, I was juggling career, classes and motherhood. After earning two bachelor’s degrees 25 years ago, I continued on to complete my master’s and Ph.D. degrees. Along the way, this incredible opportunity to work at the university that had helped me to rebuild my life came along.  How fortunate am I to now be able to work at a job I love to give back to the university that gave me so much?

My favorite activity away from work is … 

Going to antique shops. Every antique has a story. About half of my house is filled with family antiques, including a collection of antique phones my brother started 20 years ago by sending me a different old phone every year for Christmas.

What was your first car, and would you like to have it once again if you could? Why or why not?

My first car was a tiny, old, rusted Fiat. We purchased it for several hundred dollars in 1971 when living in Belgium. And no, I would not like to have it again. It was a model that was so unsafe it was not allowed in the U.S., and it broke down constantly. We could see the ground through the holes in the floorboard as we drove along – very cold and unpleasant on rainy or snowy days.

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