By Julie Kayzerman
As he prepares to leave the College, Jon Stauff can pinpoint the exact moment he became inspired to dedicate his work to giving students the opportunity to study abroad.
He was a junior in college spending a semester in Germany when everything came together in his mind as he was walking alongside the Berlin Wall.
“It was 1985 in the height of the Reagan administration when we were told that communists were an evil empire,” Stauff said. “But what was clear to me was that when I crossed the Berlin Wall into East Berlin and met with the Communist border guards and the people of East Berlin, I could see that they were people just like us.”
Suddenly, the Cold War became a real experience for Stauff.
“The weapons that we had pointed at Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, I could see the target,” he said. “The people were the target, these buildings were the target, the soldiers that were searching my bags going across the border were the target… and what was a very abstract construct prior to that experience, became very real and very human.”
At that moment, Stauff felt that it was up to him to become a college professor and try to make that experience real for other students.
“I felt if I could only get a couple of students from East Berlin together with a couple of students from West Berlin, they would probably find ways to work together,” Stauff said. “And if I could do that with my students at home, it could come together and maybe make a better world.”
And that’s exactly what he did.
Stauff, the senior international officer and director of the Center for Global Engagement and a history professor, has had a tremendous hand in the growth of the study abroad and international education programs during his six and a half years at the College. While he will be resigning from the College on Friday, Feb. 19, to take a position as the vice provost for Global Education at Monmouth University, he will not go without having left a significant mark.
When Stauff first arrived in 2009, there were 275 study abroad students, four student exchange programs, 12 international students and just one semester-long abroad program. In 2016, the number of study abroad students has increased by 72 percent to 476. There are currently 12 student exchange programs, 61 international students and 10 semester-long programs. During his tenure, he successfully implemented an English as a Second Language (ESL) program and added a director of international recruitment to the office. He has spread the faculty-led study abroad programs from just two schools to being an opportunity within all of them.
“I liked the idea of creating access to study abroad. I want people to feel that they have the chance to do this whether or not they have a lot of money,” Stauff said. “Accessibility is my goal in life to these opportunities, so what I’ve done at (the College) is create more accessible semester long study abroad programs so that more students can go away for as much as they pay for a semester here.”
Yet Stauff’s biggest accomplishments simply boils down to the transformation of the office going from a by-the-books operation, to a place for students to plan their futures.
“You come to this office not just to fill your bureaucratic requirement, but you come to this office seeking advice and counsel on how you can shape your future educational experience,” Stauff said. “That’s one of my biggest achievements.”
Junior political science major Ryan Dinon recognizes Stauff as an invaluable resource on campus.
“I recently returned from a semester abroad in Frankfurt, Germany, and I largely owe that experience to Dr. Stauff’s guidance,” Dinon said. “Whether I have had questions about German history, studying abroad or my career plans in general, Dr. Stauff has always been willing to go above and beyond in helping me sort everything out.”
History professor Cynthia Paces has worked closely with Stauff on several projects since he arrived in 2009.
“Because Jon is from New Jersey, he has been very committed to the students here. He understands the financial situation of students and has worked to make study abroad accessible to TCNJ students,” Paces said. “By creating TCNJ partner programs in various locations, such as Prague, Bologna and Heidelberg, students can go abroad for the same cost, if not less, than staying in Ewing.”
Stauff highlights remarkable numbers in the growth of programs that he has worked on. Yet, off paper, Stauff has hugely achieved greatness in the culture shift on campus, with a turn in attitudes toward international students.
“While I’ve had a big impact on how study abroad has grown on campus, I really want to highlight the different attitude we have now toward international students and diversity,” he said.
When he first came to the College, the attitude was one that focused on serving the youth of New Jersey and didn’t seek out International students, according to Stauff.
Although leaving the College is bittersweet, Stauff is looking forward to working with graduate students and having the opportunity to use his talents on a bigger stage at Monmouth University, he said. But according to Paces, he will be sorely missed.
“We will miss his wonderful sense of humor and his thoughtfulness,” Paces said. “He cares so much about students and faculty, and he wants us all to have the transformative experiences that international travel affords. Because of his generosity, we have learned how to make global engagement a priority, and we will continue to develop the important programs he created.”
As he moves forward to begin his new chapter at Monmouth, Stauff can leave knowing that his work here is done.
“We’ve gone from, ‘We’re here for the youth of New Jersey and we don’t want international students,’” he said of the College, “to, ‘What can we do to bring international students and make them comfortable?’
“And that to me – I’ve done my job,” Stauff said.