In the study abroad wing of Loretto Hall, Kimberly Mantia-Ochoa moved out of the office she shared with the work study students and into her own office across the hallway. Mantia-Ochoa, former department associate, was hired as the new study abroad advisor to replace Carrie Mosebach.
Mosebach, who received a study abroad advising position at Washington University, had her last day at Webster University Jan. 13th. Mantia-Ochoa decided to apply for the opening.
“I wanted to advance and I wanted to take the next step,” Mantioa-Ochoa said. “I felt the adviser position would be that, so I applied. I’ve been here for a few years, so I know Webster programs pretty well. I’ve worked alongside Carrie (Mosebach) pretty closely so I got to learn some advising aspects.”
Each university’s study abroad offices are run differently because they have different programs and policies. Mantia-Ochoa’s time in Webster’s study abroad department allowed her to become familiar with the school’s specific process. Her knowledge within the area was a factor in her hiring, Taylor Ringenberg, junior photography major and work-study student in the study abroad office, said.
“It’s really cool that she got the job,” Ringenberg said. “ We were all hoping that she would because she’s been working with Carrie (Mosebach) for three years. She knows what needs to be done, she knows the deadline, she knows how things are done and I think she was perfect for the job. It’s just the right place for her.”
Right now, Mantia-Ochoa is getting comfortable with the new position and working on processing the applications from students who want to study abroad in the summer and fall. She has goals to make the position her own, and change up some things as she sees fit. Her idea is to start a re-entry program for students when they return home from their trips, to deal with the unexpected reverse culture shock that often occurs when studying abroad.
“I definitely want to have my own spin on things,” Mantio-Ochoa said. “ Right now I’m concentrating more on the advising this semester, but hopefully this summer I’ll have more time to sit and learn more from this past semester about things I would want to add or things I would want to change.”
The job opening gathered many applications. After the screening process, 12 applicants made the cut and were interviewed over the phone. Eleven of the candidates were from the St. Louis area, but none of them — with the exception of Mantia-Ochoa — were from a university. Also, none of them — again, with the exception of Mantia-Ochoa — had advising experience. This was a vital quality the department was looking for in the person to fill the position.
Mantia-Ochoa worked as the department associate for three and a half years. Most of her work was clerical: accepting applications, making packets for students, scheduling meetings and answering the mainline phone.
However, when Mosebach was out of town or out of office, Mantia-Ochoa helped by taking time to speak with and advise students interested in going abroad.
Guillermo Rodriguez, director of study abroad, said that if Mantia-Ochoa had not applied, a decision between the other candidates would have been very difficult to make. Some of them had MBAs, but no advising experience. The position calls for a bachelor’s degree at least, but Rodriguez said the communication skills, empathy and understanding student needs is of equal importance to the education requirements.
“We need to understand the reason why a student wants to study abroad,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not a reason to study abroad because you have problems in your house and you want get out of town. That would make things worse. That’s where the interpersonal relationship is important.”.
Having studied abroad in Spain while attending Mizzou, Mantia-Ochoa is able to relate with students who are about to go experience the world themselves. Her trip was a cultural emersion program in which she lived with a host family and took all of her classes in Spanish. She understands the frustration and worry that comes with going to live in another country, she said.
Mantia-Ochoa is the only study abroad advisor who will be responsible for students going to the traditional Webster campuses in Europe and Thailand. She also guides students from other universities who want to attend a Webster location.
Kimberly McGrath, study abroad assistant director, helps students looking for a cultural emersion program like those offered in Mexico and Japan. Rodriguez assists those wanting to go outside of the system and go abroad in locations offered by other universities. Mantia-Ochoa handles a bulk of the students, with around 250 an academic year, Rodriguez said.
Although the department is excited for Mantia-Ochoa and her new position as study abroad advisor, Mosebach will also be missed, Rodriguez said.
“We expect that (Mantia-Ochoa) does a great job,” Rodriguez said. “We expect that (Mosebach) does a great job at Washington University. She was here for three years and did a good job. It’s just a nature and you like people to move on.”