“As long as I’m working in international education, I’m always going to be student-centered. I’m always going to be thinking about what they expect, and what we can do to meet their expectations. What goals do they have in choosing Berkeley, Haas, GMP, and are we doing our part to provide that?” 

Dionne Daniels is a relatively new Haas faculty member, joining the Haas Undergraduate Program Office as Associate Director of Global Experience in June 2023. Though she’s only been part of the Berkeley community for a few months now, her student-centered and internationally-minded vision is clear and will undoubtedly continue to make an impact. She primarily manages the Global Management Program and provides academic advising and support to GMP students. She also advises all Haasies studying abroad, Haas reciprocity students, and Haas international students participating in additional training (OPT/CPT). She is passionate about equitable and inclusive education abroad for students and the long-term benefits intercultural experiences have on youth. Alongside her passion for international education, she enjoys spending time with loved ones outdoors and eating food made with love.

As a student in the Global Management Program, I have the privilege of calling Dionne an advisor and have had the opportunity to chat with Dionne about her experiences in international education. If you are eager to read about her study abroad journey to Japan, her decision to join the Haas Undergraduate Program Office, and advice for students seeking international experiences, look no further! 

Why did you decide to take this role and join the Haas community? 

For personal reasons and for professional reasons. 

I think professionally, I was looking for an opportunity to continue with international education but also have space to innovate and improve on something that would help advance international education in an intentional way. I found that this cohort opportunity with GMP was a great option for me to pursue. The last two schools that I worked at were business schools. I didn’t major in business when I was in undergrad and graduate school – I had no interest in Business. But somehow, I’ve been on this track, and I actually enjoy it, especially having a touchpoint with students who will go into the business world. I hope to encourage them to think more ethically and sustainably when they go on after undergrad and into their own business careers and take those lessons with them. And I think that international education could be a means to help drive those efforts. 

On a personal side, me and my partner were looking for a place that was closer to family, whether it was hers or mine. She’s from the Bay Area, so it was a good fit.

You’ve mentioned the term “international education” multiple times, what got you started on your journey working in this area?

That’s a long story—I’ll try to keep it brief. When I was in high school, I was a part of this choir group, and we were invited by the People’s Republic of China to sing in a two-week concert. It was for citizen diplomacy to build cultural relations between the US and China. The program would’ve been about 2000 USD, and coming from a low-income family, I couldn’t afford to go, but I stayed in the class because I liked singing. Throughout the course, our choir director would have people who spent time there come to speak to the class about the culture. I got really intrigued and thought, when I go to college, I will study Chinese, and maybe study abroad in China. I got to college, and my advisors said, “Are you sure you want to study Chinese? It’s really hard! Maybe you can do Japanese, it’ll be a little bit easier. Maybe you should do Japanese because that program is more developed.” Japanese isn’t necessarily easier, but I did study Japanese, and the program was more developed. 

I came into college undeclared and my friends were like, “You should major in International Studies because you like going to international coffee hour, you like doing all these things!” I started out as an International Studies major with a minor in Japanese. My Japanese TA suggested I major in Japanese because it was only two more classes. I then got to my Sophomore year, and my advisor asked, “When are you studying abroad?” I didn’t realize I had to study abroad as an International Studies major. I decided I’d go to Japan since I’m studying Japanese. It was my first time on the plane, my first time out of the country, and I loved it. It was a really eye-opening experience, as cliche as that sounds. I decided I wanted to go back to Japan, and I wanted to have more international experiences. When I came back, I was a Junior, I decided to work with the international programs office and continued to work with them after I graduated. I went back to Japan and taught English, and I have continued to work in international education since.

If you had one piece of advice for current students in GMP or current students in Haas who are looking to study abroad, or engage in any type of international experience, what would it be?

I think that the biggest piece of advice I can give to any person who is looking to have an international education experience–whether you’re in GMP or Haas or not even a student–is that, whenever you enter into a new cultural space, go in with an open mind. If there’s something different, it’s okay to be curious about that difference, but challenge yourself to withhold judgment. Sometimes, when we see something different, we tend to go, “Ugh, that’s weird,” or “Why do they do it like that?” If we go in with curiosity and learn the root of why things are, we walk away thinking “Oh, maybe I want to adopt that part of that culture, and take it with me – learn from the host. Maybe I can offer something new to the people I’m meeting in these cultural spaces.” 

I remember when I studied abroad in undergrad, I stayed with a host family that didn’t speak English, and I learned a lot! It was very challenging, but the main difference was the “no shoes in the house” rule. I began asking around, and after I found out why Japanese people do not wear shoes in the house–for many reasons but mostly for respect–it became something that I still do now. When I go to people’s houses, I naturally want to take off my shoes. I want to respect their home. That’s the least I could do for them to welcome me there. Even my grandma now asks me, “Why do you always take your shoes off?” I tell her, “I respect you grandma, that’s why!” 

What is your vision for your impact in the Haas community, within GMP or any related field? Do you have any upcoming plans or goals you are exploring?

As long as I’m working in international education, I’m always going to be student-centered. I’m always going to be thinking about what they expect, and what we can do to help meet their expectations. What goals do they have in choosing Berkeley, Haas, GMP, and are we doing our part to provide that? Does everyone feel included? Does everyone feel supported? 

I got a message on LinkedIn from someone I’ve never met before–they started working in my previous office after I left. She shared with me some of the things students at my last institution were saying about me, and they were heartwarming – it reminded me why I do this work. It’s not easy work. I’m not saying “this is the most difficult thing,” but everyone has challenges in their own profession, and I have them too. It always comes back to the students. I had some great mentors as a first-generation student. Without those mentors, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I think that sometimes we give extra support to people who have certain identities without realizing that all students deserve intentional support. I try to think about the students that I’m serving in that same vein. I don’t always know your background, but I’m going to treat you all with the type of support that you need and that you ask for. So if this is the type of support this person or cohort needs, we will try to meet that. Because without y’all [students], we wouldn’t be here.

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