Gigo Do

Gigo Do. Photo courtesy of UTSA

Gigi Do has more than 17 years of experience working in international education, including in her most recent role as deputy superintendent for Global Education, Engagement and Partnerships for the International Leadership of Texas (ILTEXAS).

Do’s contributions to the higher education international community have been featured in the New York Times and has won several awards in international education.

As the new executive director of UTSA’s International Programs, what made you focus on international education?

I was a refugee coming to the United States when I was eight years old, so all my life I’ve been exposed to a different background. I tend to gravitate towards diversity, and using my experience coming into a new country and not knowing what to expect. I identify with all the international students that come in and it sparked my interest; it began to open up my career into international education, and sending American students overseas. I also identify with them on how they are going to view the world being a newcomer, and I just felt that it was my mission to really steer that path for students to be able to see the world better. The fun thing is that it never felt like a job for me – I just feel like it’s a part of me. What I love about this job is that I’m always learning something new. International education is a growing field, and things that people typically did 10 years ago have changed quite a bit and for the better. More recognition to international education must be part of a student’s curriculum.

What is your background in international education outside of UTSA, and for how long?

I have been in international education since 1997, and it was fortuitous for me. I was a law student at that time, and the community college in Houston contacted me to work with a group of refugees. I thought it was a good supplement for my tuition for law school. I joined as a counselor and it just became a lifelong call for me. I quit law school, went into graduate school and dove into international education where I ended up working with refugees to then working with international students. There are thousands of students outside of the United States who really want our education, so we took the curriculum and placed it with our partners overseas in Vietnam, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other parts of Europe.

What do you expect to get from your position as the executive director of UTSA’s international program?

I came to UTSA with many network connections and international networks from all over the world in the last 27 years; they have a lot of resources and want to have a really good partnership to work with. What I’m expecting is for those networks to find UTSA as their destination for international partnerships. All of these changes are going to continue to build UTSA to become a world-renowned university and a destination for international scholars and students to come, and I hope it will enhance our domestic students more greatly.

Why did you choose UTSA in particular?

It’s amazing. This school is very progressive in terms of international education. I oversee scholar services, study abroad programs and international students services; and last year, we sent 618 students abroad, and that, to me, is very high ranking. We have award-winning scholars and have 33 faculty members who received the $500,000 SEED grant, seven of them are research scholars. I’m just very, very amazed. Our students have received the prestigious Benjamin Gilman (International Scholarship Program), and that is a very difficult scholarship to get. In order for those students to receive that funding, they have to come from a university that’s very open to the international education – this is a requirement for the scholarship. It just makes me feel that UTSA is a good place for me to be in because I can hone in my experience and help the university grow a lot more in international education. One of the president’s strategic themes for UTSA is to be worldly engaged. That’s my job right there, and I have that support in taking UTSA students to become world-ready citizens!

What are some plans that you’re currently (or will be) designing for UTSA’s international affairs and/or students?

One of the things that we want to do is scholar services. Not only do we want to continue to bring in world-renowned scholars to help our research community here, but we also want to work with those scholars that are currently faculty and embed them into our university for a longer term. We’re also trying to bring out other artists or performers from other countries to share some of the skills that they have for our students. In terms of international students, we currently have over 1,000 students enrolled in UTSA from 89 different countries, a majority of them represent countries that are mostly in the STEM field. We want to leverage that UTSA is a great research university in the STEM area, and that will hopefully bring more international students to study here. We hope to double the number of students who studied abroad last year. Our goal is to include study abroad in every major offered at UTSA as a part of their curriculum.

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