The way Mary Kay Mulvaney sees it, every student should study abroad at least once during college.
“Our students really should have a global consciousness as they move into various kinds of leadership positions,” says Mulvaney, professor of English and director of the College’s Honors Program. “It’s an invaluable part of an education.”
Now, Mulvaney’s tireless work in support of international education has earned her a prestigious award from a national organization. In November, the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) recognized her as a National Collegiate Honors Council Fellow, in part because of her study-abroad work.
The NCHC, a professional association of undergraduate deans, faculty and staff devoted to honors education, awards Fellowships each year on the basis of leadership, outstanding teaching and contributions to honors education. Mulvaney and seven other honorees received the award at the NCHC conference in November 2015.
“It was a humbling honor,” Mulvaney says.
Mulvaney has been involved in the NCHC since 2004, most recently serving as co-chair for an international education committee and co-editing the NCHC monograph Preparing Global Leaders: Honors International Education, a collection of essays by multiple contributors (including Mulvaney herself).
When Mulvaney first joined the NCHC, international education wasn’t getting much attention. Only a handful of people sat on the international education committee. But under her guidance, the committee grew, and the NCHC national conference began hosting international education forums and events.
“In Mary Kay’s case, I think her nomination was based on her investment in international education,” says NCHC Executive Director Hallie Savage. “Not only has she planned and orchestrated [travel] for hundreds of students, but she’s also guided faculty, and she’s done it on a national and international level for a long time. She’s looked on as a fine leader in honors education.”
A focus on international education runs throughout Mulvaney’s work at Elmhurst as well. Since taking over as director of the Honors Program in 2004, she’s encouraged hundreds of students to go overseas. Last year, 45 percent of Honors Program students studied abroad—a significantly higher percentage than among the student body as a whole.
Today, Mulvaney continues to encourage students to broaden their college plans past the U.S. borders. “If I had my way and we had unlimited financial resources, I would want to require study abroad for every student,” she says. “I think it’s an extremely valuable experience.”