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K-State Today

May 27, 2011

Advocate for change: Maria Beebe takes part in new program promoting global learning and engagement

Submitted by Julie Fosberg

An international education expert at Kansas State University is among the inaugural trainees of a new grassroots program promoting the importance of global learning and engagement.

Maria Beebe, assistant director of international scholars and students services at K-State's International Student Center, will take part in the Connecting Our World Grassroots Leadership Program, offered by NAFSA: Association of International Educators. The association is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to international education.

The Connecting Our World program is a grassroots organizing initiative to give international educators nationwide the tools to advocate for the importance of global learning and engagement in their own communities.

Beebe was selected for the program based on her experience and leadership in the field of international education and in grassroots organizing and community outreach. Membership in NAFSA also was a requirement.

Each participant in the program will implement a tailored grassroots leadership plan to address an issue of concern and then reach out to the local community, building support and bringing about positive change.

Beebe's issue will deal with driver's licenses for international students and scholars.

"It's a problem for some of our international students and scholars," she said. "In some cases the U.S. Department of Homeland Security allows them to work here. In fact, they must work to maintain their visa status. But then the Division of Motor Vehicles won't allow them to drive to their jobs. It's very frustrating, and this is an issue nationwide. My goal, in being part of this program, is to bring awareness to those who have the power to make a change."

Beebe's longtime interest in immigration advocacy was the main reason she wanted to be part of the Connecting Our World Grassroots Leadership Program.

"I enjoy working with and learning about immigration law and policy," she said. "This program was particularly appealing because I'm in its first cohort and it will be interesting to help shape its future. In addition, NAFSA is going to provide us with training and support for tackling our individual issues."

Beebe and the other trainees will also develop resources and tool kits from their experiences that will be published at the program's website, http://www.ConnectingOurWorld.org, for other advocates to draw from when tackling issues of concern in their own communities. The Grassroots Leadership Program will provide tailored training as well as a forum for discussing and sharing ideas as the participants do their work.

"We look forward to working with this outstanding group of international education activists over the course of the next year," said Marlene M. Johnson, NAFSA executive director and CEO. "The well-known phrase 'all politics is local' has perhaps never been more true, and this program aims to support international educators as they engage more directly in their local communities to lead initiatives that further global learning and engagement."

Beebe began working at the International Student Center in 1999. In her current position she advises foreign students and scholars.

Beebe is active in NAFSA, serving as its Region II conference planner in 2008 and 2009. She is also in NAFSA's Trainer Corps and trains others in international scholar advising.

She earned a bachelor's in political science and Latin American studies from Pennsylvania State University, and is currently working on her master's in political science at K-State.