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Being a Traveler Not a Tourist with Jill Creighton

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If you ask Dr. Jill Creighton where her favorite place in the world is, she’ll tell you it’s the place she hasn’t been to yet. As a world traveler, Jill leads organizations in global engagement, social impact, and crisis management in the higher education sector.

Before starting in her current role as the Associate Vice President for Global Operations at the Institute for Study Abroad, Jill spent years working in student affairs – a passion that stretches back to her dissertation on American college students’ study abroad behavior. Jill also hosts SA: Voices from the Field, a podcast by NASPA. 

In this episode, Jill discusses her philosophy of navigating the world as a traveler and not a tourist, her observations of study abroad programs across the globe, and how the podcast SA: Voices from the Field is sharing the stories of the people who make student affairs programs come to life.

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Josie and the Podcast is produced in partnership with University FM, a podcast agency dedicated to higher education. University FM works with leading colleges and universities to tell stories on campus that build branding, drive engagement, and connect communities. Reach out to team@university.fm to connect on podcast strategy, production, and growth. We look forward to talking with you!

Element451 is a proud sponsor of Josie and the Podcast. Element451 is an AI-powered, all-in-one student engagement platform, helping institutions create meaningful, personalized, and engaging interactions with students. Our platform harnesses the power of Artificial Intelligence to seamlessly tailor content for each individual, bridging the gap between broad outreach and personal touchpoints. Fueled by intelligent automation and deep data insights, teams are free to focus on what matters most — building real connections with students. Learn more at Element451.com. 

Notes from this Episode:

More About Dr. Jill Creighton

Dr. Jill L. Creighton (she/her/hers) is the Associate Vice President for Global Operations at the Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA), overseeing teams across the Americas, Asia/Pacific, and Europe to enhance study abroad experiences for college students worldwide. With a background in student affairs and international education, she bridges theoretical frameworks with practical global applications.

Previously, Dr. Creighton held leadership roles at Duke Kunshan University, managing the entire student affairs portfolio for a diverse international student body. She also served as the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students at Washington State University, overseeing multiple departments and supporting campus life efforts across the university system.

In addition to her professional roles, Dr. Creighton hosts and co-produces NASPA’s podcast, SA Voices from the Field, offering free professional development for student affairs professionals globally. She actively contributes to the NASPA Global Division’s advisory board and has served on various regional and national boards in the field.

Connect with Dr. Jill Creighton

[00:00:00] Josie: Josie and the Podcast is produced by the amazing team at University FM. They are the higher ed podcast agency, helping communicators build community, share research, and inspire discussion with stories that resonate. Do you have a podcast idea and are stuck on how to put it out into the world? They can get you moving in the right direction with strategy, production, and promotion. Start podcasting with ease. You can reach them for advice at university.fm. The link is in the show notes.

Hello. And welcome to Josie and the Podcast. What does it mean to lead in the digital space with heart and humanity? On my podcast, Josie and the Podcast, I spend time answering this question with heart, soul, and lots of substance. My goal is to share conversations that encourage you, empower you, and entertain you to rethink digital strategy for yourself and the organizations you support.

All right. Let’s get to know today’s featured guest. Dr. Jill Creighton, she/her/hers, is the Associate Vice President for Global Operations at the Institute for Study Abroad, overseeing teams across the Americas, Asia, Pacific, and Europe to enhance study abroad experiences for college students worldwide.

With a background in student affairs and international education, she is bridging theoretical frameworks with very practical global applications, which we get into in this very episode. In addition to her professional roles, Dr. Creighton hosts and co-produces NASPA’s podcast, SA Voices from the Field, offering free professional development for student affairs professionals globally.

And a treat, you can also hear my interview on that podcast the same week that this episode is releasing. And of course, you can follow both Jill and I and our podcasts on all the socials. Those links are in the show notes. Everything we talk about, from resources, people, and posts, is on my website, josieahlquist.com/podcast. Enjoy!

All right. Welcome, Jill, to Josie and the Podcast. We are spread amongst time zones and countries. And I mean, also, this is just a great opportunity for us to catch up. It’s been a minute. Lots have been happening.

[00:02:53] Jill: Thank you. I don’t think I’ve seen you since-

[00:02:56] Josie: Boston.

[00:02:56] Jill: … Boston. Yep. So, it’s been almost a full year now.

[00:03:00] Josie: Time is weird, which is a little bit of the theme of the show this season, which we’ll dig into later. You have a very impressive bio. You do all of the things. We’re going to be digging into that. I talk about Instagram bios a lot, which we’ll talk about later, but your LinkedIn bio is, like, oh, this is so media. Like it.

It’s a great way to get to know people, is what they put in their bios. Yours says, “Leading organizations and global engagement, social impact, crisis management, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.” And you also mentioned you just had some sushi, and you’re located in Paris. So, that’s a lot. I love it. Let us know a little bit more about you just based on that LinkedIn bio.

[00:03:44] Jill: Yeah, absolutely. Well, first of all, I want to give a shout-out to two higher ed expats, Peter Hansen and Dr. Kelly Alvarado-Young. Both of them now actually work at LinkedIn. And they gave me some pointers and tips on how to make my LinkedIn a little shinier than it had been in the past. So, I, I credit them for pretty much all of the good content that might be there now. And small secret, ChatGPT is actually really helpful in this space.

[00:04:15] Josie: So, so very helpful. Well, I will also link to those two individuals. Like, we’ve got so many good resources out there.

[00:04:24] Jill: And I think I might have just shorted Peter. He’s also a doctor. I apologize.

[00:04:28] Josie: As we think about what you’re posting and how you’re using social media as just, like, one tool, what is a post that you shared recently? And tell us why you shared it.

[00:04:40] Jill: I think most recently, it’s more likely our weekly drop of the SA Voices from the Field podcast. Our co-producer on the show is Dr. Chris Lewis. He and I co-produced NASPA’s official podcast. And he does an amazing job of creating promo stickers that are digital with a sound bite from the guests from that week.

And then I do my best to reshare them in a timely manner, so our guests can get out there, and their voices can be heard. So, I do that pretty regularly when we’re in season, but the other posts that I most recently shared on LinkedIn is a brand-new position for me that I’m really excited about.

[00:05:14] Josie: Very, very big news that we’ll get into in a minute. I also went scrolling on Facebook. And I always forget this, and then you’ll share something. I’m like, “Oh, that’s so…” So, you do acapella.

[00:05:26] Jill: Yes, that is also true.

[00:05:29] Josie: Are you… like, what are you, a soprano? Where are you in the orchestra of things?

[00:05:35] Jill: It’s, kind of, funny if you know any choral singers a little more personally. Sometimes, our identity can get a bit wrapped up in our voice part. So, I am an alto 1 in my heart, but as I get older, I think I might be turning into a soprano, which happens sometimes, but I’ve been singing alto 1 in a number of courses my whole life. My bachelor’s degree is in vocal and piano performance. And so, I sang in college.

I sang professionally with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra Chorus for a while. And then in the pandemic, I got really into virtual acapella because it was a way to connect with people. And it’s been such a great group. You can find us on TikTok, as well as on YouTube. The name is Chris Lombardi Acapella. Chris Lombardi is the producer. And he’s actually just exploding right now on TikTok, doing work with video game acapella music. So, that’s pretty cool for him.

[00:06:29] Josie: That is amazing. And there’s so many layers to all of us, whether we choose to share it on social or not, but that is such a delight. We’ll dig into your story more, but one way that I find that’s so interesting to get a little bit closer to the start of things is to talk about our technology timelines. And if you could remember your earliest memory of technology, any kind.

[00:06:57] Jill: Oh, 100%. My father worked for Boeing. And so, he was pretty on the forefront of tech when I was younger. And we had this giant block computer in our house. And it was a Texas Instruments branded box. It’s got to have been, like, 18 inches wide, 12 inches deep, maybe four or five inches tall. And it was heavy. And we had it connected to a black-and-white TV with, like, an old-school rabbit antenna and, like, a dial to turn the channels.

And I remember having to use basic, like, the programming language basic, to be able to launch a game on the computer. So, you had to, like, insert a cartridge, turn it on, and then write the command prompt on how to open the game. And so, it’s very specific memory for me.

It was a game called Hunt the Wumpus. And it was just, like, this very simple puzzle game where, as a kid, you had to go find this little creature, but it was based on whether your screen was giving you a red or a green dot. But our TV was black and white, so I never won.

[00:08:00] Josie: Oh, wow. You are an early coder.

[00:08:04] Jill: I definitely can’t code at all, but I can run a basic command prompt.

[00:08:09] Josie: Okay. How much space did it require? Was it really big?

[00:08:15] Jill: It was in the laundry room of our house. And so, it was, like, I grew up in a very middle-class neighborhood. And so, we did have a physical laundry room. And I remember a little desk, like, touching the washing machine, basically. And so, you could, like, sit and be warm next to the laundry wall, playing the game. So, that’s what I remember the most.

[00:08:37] Josie: Wild, wild. So, another core part of you, which was on your Instagram bio, and you could find it in all of your posts and even where you’re positioned today, you say, “Traveler, not tourist.”

[00:08:49] Jill: Yes.

[00:08:50] Josie: So, tell us more about this philosophy, what it looks like in practice.

[00:08:55] Jill: I try to do my best to be a traveler and not a tourist. And for me, that’s a mindset, but also a resource usage thing. I try to be quite aware of my impact in the world in a lot of ways. Environmental is one of them. I’m a huge recycler, but the most wasteful thing I know that I engage in is airline travel.

And that is a huge privilege I’m aware of, but it also… you know, there’s a lot of CO2 that goes into the air. So, I’m aware that when I choose to go to a new place, I am taking resources. I’m also using resources from the people who occupy that space on a permanent basis, whether those people are indigenous or simply local to the area.

And so, I try to be very conscious of how I take up space in other countries and other cultures, how I spend my money when I’m there so that I’m giving back into the local community, for example, shopping, small businesses when possible, as opposed to large chains, giving business, if I am going to engage in, like, some sort of activity to a local owner, that type of thing.

But also, it’s about cultural appreciation for me. And that’s not just going somewhere, seeing the big sites, and then taking off. I always try to learn some of the language of where I’m going when I can. And so, I can say one or two phrases in a lot of languages, but I can speak a little bit more fluently in French. And then when I was living in China, I did try to learn Mandarin Chinese. I’m not very good at all, but I can get by in, like, a grocery store kind of thing, but I couldn’t express a complex thought.

And so, I think a lot about, how can I make sure that I’m honoring the space that I’m occupying? How do I be respectful of the local environment? And how do I show up in ways that doesn’t continue to add to the picture of a crappy American tourist, because that is a stereotype that is around the world?

But I think of myself as a citizen of the world generally. I’ve lived in five countries now. That’s just part of my identity. I was born in Korea. I’m a transracial adoptee. Grew up both in the United States and Saudi Arabia. Spent a couple of months living in Germany as well. I lived in China for a little under two years. And now, I’m living in France, and about to be occupying space in the UK. I also am a dual citizen, though, which enables a lot of that. I’m a proud dual national of the U.S. and Ireland.

[00:11:28] Josie: I was going to ask, like, where did this originate? So, I mean, literally from the start, your timeline.

[00:11:35] Jill: Yes.

[00:11:35] Josie: Holy wow. And not only a refreshing, but an important perspective as people’s bucket lists are opening back up finally to do a lot more travel. I’m also finally getting back to get to go to Europe this summer, but I’m also a little ornery. And so, I have a scenario. If you could only travel to one country in the next 10 years, what would be the one for travel?

[00:12:03] Jill: Oh, that is such a painful question for me as a human being. So, if, if you ask me where my favorite place in the world is, I would answer wherever I have not yet been. And so, it’s very difficult for me to think about, you know, where I would return to. There’s also a Welsh word that I know that I can’t fully pronounce accurately, which is hiraeth.

And it’s a concept about longing to return to a home that no longer exists. And I feel like when I leave a place and return to it often, it is very different when I go back. And so, sometimes, I like to leave those spaces as I remember them. And sometimes, I return often. Just depends.

But I’ve also lived all over the U.S. So, you know, I’m not very good at sitting still. And that’s something that I think all of the people that are close to me in my life recognize. So, when I think about that question, the one country that I have continued to return to is Iceland.

[00:13:04] Josie: Oh.

[00:13:05] Jill: And that’s because of the nature there. It is just one of the most physically beautiful countries in the world, but it’s absurdly expensive, for the Western world, too. And it’s better in the summer because the sun doesn’t go down until really late.

[00:13:19] Josie: Oh, my gosh, I’m writing all of these, all of these down. You’re the influence, being a global citizen, international and travel, even connected to your dissertation, no surprise, it’s me-search as much as research. Study Abroad And Liminality: Examining U.S. Undergraduate Students Risky Behavior Choices Betwixt. Is that how you say that?

[00:13:45] Jill: Yeah. Betwixt and Between Borders.

[00:13:47] Josie: And Between Borders. Because you also come from a student conduct background, what are some things that you found? More and more students are studying abroad, the implications, both the impact, I’m just so curious, as you also have this perspective of respecting these lands.

[00:14:06] Jill: So, I think the first thing is that the topic for me was born out of my experience in student conduct. One of the jobs I had, kind of, in my early to mid-career step was at NYU as an assistant director in the office of student conduct and community standards. And my portfolio was what they called the global campuses or the study away sites. NYU had, at the time, 14 locations.

Now, it has a 15th. But those 14 locations are located on all six habitable continents. And so, the conduct that I would see, I was working directly with the student life directors and assistant directors that were physically located at those locations, and we would have a lot of conversations about the cultural nuances of acceptable behavior in a cultural context because what works for the U.S. does not work around the world, given the cultural situations that we find ourselves in.

And also, sometimes, that behavior is more conservative or less conservative than what you might think of as, “normalized,” in your own culture. And so, I was seeing a lot of choices that were being made, both positive and negative, and with consequence, and with really big consequence, for some of our students.

And I thought, “What is it about study abroad that gives people this kind of sense of permission to do things that you would never do in your home context?” Because during our adjudication process, I would hear constantly, “I would never do that at home.”

So, then the question is, well, why did you choose to do it in a place where the stakes are actually quite a bit higher for you as an individual because you risk things like deportation or incarceration in a country where you may or may not speak the language or understand the legal system? And that’s, kind of, how I got to the space of, I think this might be a phenomenon, and it might be worth studying. So, that’s how we opened that door.

If anyone listening is interested in study abroad data, there is a research report that’s released annually. It’s called the IEEE Open Doors Report. Definitely, please go check that out for data. But as far as findings are concerned, I found what I expected in the data. So, I, I did a regression. And I used a traditionally aged population.

That population was more likely to engage in risky behavioral choices in the domains of alcohol and other substances, intimate relationships, and just, kind of, general choices, because there is a space of liminality in mid- to short-term study abroad, which is the space of being in between. So, you get this feeling that the rules don’t apply to me, that I can experiment. And that was also positive, too.

For example, if I am trying to discover some of my identities that I haven’t explored before, it might feel safer to do that in a context where the consequences don’t feel as deep. For example, one student disclosed they had been, kind of, self-reflecting on LGBTQ identity. And they could do that more clearly abroad than they could at home. And it felt safer. Even though their hometown and their family was quite accepting of their identity, it just felt different.

[00:17:32] Josie: This is so fascinating. I didn’t do study abroad. I do regret that a little bit, but, yeah, that discovery of being in another place to be able to… because student development, right? We want them to do that into some nuances until, of course, maybe that goes a little too far. How do you see that reverse when we get international students? Either full-time students or in their own exchanges, do you see similar behaviors of non-U.S.-based students in U.S. institutions?

[00:18:08] Jill: I think there’s a really big difference in short mid-term study abroad and mid long-term study abroad in terms of the attitudinal perspective that comes along with the space. So, when I look at international students who come to the U.S., it’s not typically a study abroad experience.

It’s typically a full arc of either two or four years depending on your institution type and possibly even into six years with a master’s or beyond with a doctoral degree. And the students that I see coming internationally into the U.S. in my limited experiences on, you know, six or seven higher ed campuses at this point, they are some of the most studious, hardworking, kind, interesting people I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting in life.

[00:18:51] Josie: I would agree. They were some of the best students that when I was on campus-based, for my own self, too, for my own growth as a staff member. So, Jill, this podcast has really grown. And my work is this intersection of marketing, communication, social media with a student lens, with a humanistic lens. So, this podcast has both student affairs and marketing and some leadership listening.

Knowing this perspective you have of both study abroad and international students, marketers, especially, that are very much focused on the enrollment side, if you could do a wish list, are we maybe setting students up to have misaligned expectations of what that study…

Because study abroad is a huge thing we market to get students to our institutions. And at the same time, we’re recruiting international students. So, I guess, to bring that back out, broad strokes, if you had an ear of a CMO about international study abroad, especially with recruitment, do you have any thoughts there?

[00:20:02] Jill: So, I actually would back that up quite a bit-

[00:20:05] Josie: Yeah.

[00:20:05] Jill: … because, you know, I’m a campus-based practitioner. I have been, my entire career. And I’ll think from my student affairs lens on this, which is there really needs to be more work done to actually create a cohesive cross-cultural experience for international students and domestic students.

What I’ve seen time and time again is that international students are not welcomed by domestic students, not with malintent, but with a lack of preparedness by the institution to have those populations communicate with each other, to learn from each other, to have meaningful experiences in the classroom and outside of the classroom. And those spaces are the ones that enrich our lives the most, in my opinion.

And because of that, I would want marketers to be able to find the stories of success where there were cross-cultural friendships formed because those are so incredible for so many reasons. But with that in mind, because campuses aren’t necessarily doing that very well, there is an opportunity for marketers to also connect with practitioners to ask for stories.

And if those stories aren’t there, how can we help each other create them in some ways, not for the sake of sharing a story, but for the sake of this will change the fabric of our institution and of our student experience? And I know so many of our campus-based international student services professionals are working tirelessly to make this happen. And they’re not always met on the other side by other student affairs professionals. So, I think that’s a gap that could be more easily connected to make that happen for everyone.

[00:21:48] Josie: Yeah. Well, and that you have now served in a role outside the U.S, which we’ll get into in a minute, what about, as we think about communicating and connecting to international students, whether if it’s an actual, you know, non-U.S.-based institution, like you were at, and/or attracting international students, is there any lessons there that you would, whether if it’s platforms, whether if it’s the perspective philosophy, I think that would be so helpful?

[00:22:18] Jill: I think it’s critical that CMOs that are U.S.-based and only have U.S. cultural context to work from really understand the cultural context from which a primary international student base is coming from. And I’ll use China as an example because that’s where I was most recently living. But the choice to go to college internationally in China is an incredibly family-based experience.

And so, if we think about the era of in loco parentis in the U.S, if we think about who’s targeted for college choice with present day materials, it’s really the high school student that you’re looking at, but in China specifically, it’s the whole family. And a lot of times, it’s the parents.

And then, also, realizing what the education system is in that country because the choice points are very different and also a little more limited based on your testing score in that particular nation. And it looks very different nation by nation. And so, understanding the expectation of, how do you translate the cultural context that you’re in to the context that you’re hoping to draw from?

And the other thing that I also am very aware of is the perception that U.S. college campuses are not safe spaces. And I don’t mean that from an emotional perspective. I mean that from a physical violence on campus perspective. It’s really something that we need to talk about. And marketing might not feel like a good place in your heart for that to live.

But it’s a question that I got a lot from my international peers who were thinking about sending their students to U.S. for college. And the question was, “Well, is it really safe? Is my student going to be harmed?” And of course, we cannot guarantee anyone’s safety in a very tangible sense because we don’t know, but we can talk about how we care for students, how we look after mental health in our communities, what our threat assessment processes look like.

And those are not, you know, shiny things to talk about in marketing, but those are the deep questions. And so, maybe it’s not something that you put out on, you know, a mailer, but it might be something that you address in a live Q&A session for prospective families.

[00:24:32] Josie: Yeah. I do think some of those, the ethics behind marketing and the realities where institutions are located and the safety of knowing who we’re recruiting or not, we might aspire our institutions to be at a certain place and to be ready for, whether if it’s international students or different type of diversity. Knowing that context to have that discussion, I think, is really critical.

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Tickets are $250, but with the code JOSIE50, you get a discount, bringing the price down to 199. But hurry, space is limited. This event will sell out. Visit engage.element451.com to learn more and register today. So, we talked a little bit about what you learned working internationally as an expat. And I guess that’s still what you are, but you’re also this dual citizen. It’s just so inspiring, Jill. I’m like, “Oh, yeah, I need to just get out of the States, too.”

But your big announcement that you, not only moving countries, moving positions, and the first time, welcome to the other side, working outside a campus-based organization in the first time of your career, but let’s, like, maybe back it up a little bit if you could. So, the theme of this episode is about change and transitions. And so, you have got them because you documented just the process of you getting over to China in the middle of a pandemic.

[00:27:02] Jill: Oh, yes.

[00:27:03] Josie: Your partner and you were separated. You maybe weren’t going to be reunited. I mean, I was here for this reality show. I mean, it’s your reality, but what a change. Whatever you’re willing to, kind of, share that story would be so interesting.

[00:27:19] Jill: One of the things that was really important to me in connecting with my partner was the fact that my partner uses he, him pronouns, that he was, kind of, up for whatever. He was also born outside of the United States. He’s born in Germany. And so, the reality of our identities is, kind of, third-culture kids, both of us. He’s not German by citizenship. He’s American by citizenship, but he also lived abroad as a younger person. He lived in Germany for a year.

We actually discovered that our families were both in Thailand in the same year in the ’80s. So, that was, kind of, an odd thing. I think we, we missed each other by, like, a month. We would have been, you know, no conscious memory of that time, but it’s just, kind of, a fascinating little touch point in that story.

But I, I remember when I was interviewing for the position in China, it was quite late on our end because I was on the West Coast, which is minus 15 or 16 hours from China, depending on if it’s daylight savings time or not. So, I think I finished my first conversation at, like, 1:00 a.m. And I, I remember I ran over. And he had already gone to sleep. And I, I tapped him on the shoulder.

And I was, like, “Hey, hey, hey, hey, wake up, wake up. I have a question. How do you feel about moving to China?” He was just, like, “Yeah, okay. Let me know.” And he went back to sleep. And the next morning, woke up, “Did you ask me if we could move to China last night?” I was, like, “Uh-huh.” He goes, “Yeah, okay. Just let me know when we’re going.” So, that kind of adventurous spirit is in both of us very deeply.

So, did decide to go in probably one of the most interesting times in history because it was COVID era. And if anybody knows what was going on in China during COVID regulations, it was probably some of the most strict in the world at that time. And so, there was a process of having to get negative PCR tests, which weren’t really happening in the U.S. anymore at that time.

So, finding an organization that would do that, having to have them clear within 24 hours, but not greater than 25 hours of the flight, and landing in quarantine, not knowing where you would be placed, what you would be fed, not speaking the language enough to fully understand what was going on.

I had a false positive test at the airport, which created a whole situation, ended up on a 80-person passenger bus by myself because I was a, “disease risk,” ended up in a convention center by myself. And I was just, like, “Wow.” And the first time I ever met one of my teammates was actually in my second to last quarantine hotel. He was in the room, like, one floor down and three rooms over from me. So, he stuck his arm out the window and waved at me.

And that’s how I, I first met one of my colleagues in China. So, I really have a deep appreciation for all of those who helped get me over there and get there safely and helped me interpret what was going on because direct translation doesn’t always work. For example, the last step for me leaving formal quarantine and going to apartment quarantine was to take a trip in 120 vehicles.

And I was, like, “120 vehicles? I’m so confused by this. Is this, like, a brigade? Is there, like, one sock in each car? Like, what’s going on?” And it was one of those moments that always reminds me that cultural things can be so simple but so hard because the number for 911 in China is 120. So, it wasn’t 120 vehicles. It was 120 vehicles, meaning ambulances.

And it’s just things like that that constantly remind me that we really have to have a lot of humility in international spaces, that humility is a, is a survival tool. And we have to ask a lot of questions. And we always need people in the context that we are visiting to help us be okay in those spaces when we have big questions and, and help us also understand when maybe we’re mis-stepping and we don’t know it because it’s a cultural thing.

And those cultural hosts, it’s a lot of labor for them. And so, I also acknowledge that and try to, you know, trade with information or support in other ways or just acts of kindness because I do understand that it is labor.

[00:31:28] Josie: Yeah. So, your, your partner did join you. You were able to do some exploring of the area. And then I get a message out of nowhere. And it’s the middle of the year. And you’re transitioning to the UK. So, tell us about this exciting new announcement. What’s happening? What are you doing? And then I’ll ask you for some guidance for listeners.

[00:31:55] Jill: Sure. Well, as you mentioned, I’m making my very first foray into the world of higher ed adjacent. I think it’s still higher education. It’s just not campus-based. So, I’m not really sure what the, you know, adopted terminology is for that space, because I’m definitely not leaving the field of student affairs, but I am taking that skill set and transferring it, translating it into, kind of, a new realm.

So, my new position will be associate vice president for global operations for a study abroad company. It’s a nonprofit organization based in the United States with presence in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia, Asia Pacific, and Australia. And I’m extremely excited for this transition.

I’ll be getting to do some of the things that I absolutely love doing, which is looking at how to build successful teams at a distance. I’ll also be working to streamline operations within the organization and having the privilege of working with other professionals who are very, very passionate about the life transformation that can happen in study abroad.

[00:33:00] Josie: Well, congratulations. That position sounds like it was made for you. And so beautiful that the time and place all connected to have that opportunity.

[00:33:12] Jill: I’m incredibly thrilled about it. And I’ve been able to take just a very short career break in between transitioning countries because it is a lot of work to get from country A to country B, especially when you don’t understand the systems, and I’m trying to figure those out.

But I’ve also been a student of French language since, probably, I was 12 years old. And I’m spending time back in school trying to up my fluency. And I’m really excited, because next week, I get promoted a level. And that’s really big for me.

[00:33:40] Josie: You know, we all need little, little stickers, so we can put, put on to know we’re progressing,  I mean, especially with language.

[00:33:48] Jill: But I also want to acknowledge that the privilege of being an expat also allowed me to create some savings so I could have this experience. And that is a bonus of expat life, but it, you know, it doesn’t come without other types of sacrifices, such as not being able to see your family on major holidays or birthdays, such as, you know, missing things that are important to the people that you love and probably important to you, weddings and things like that, too, but I’m able to stay connected now more than ever because of Zoom.

I was able to get my septuagenarian parents on WhatsApp, which I’m really proud of. So, they send me, you know, WhatsApp photos. And we’re able to connect on Zoom. It’s such a rich experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything, but it’s not for everyone.

[00:34:34] Josie: And so, I think hearing some of those lessons is important because we have a lot of institutions, both that are U.S.-based that have locations in other countries, and then, obviously, those that are always based in those locations. What insight might you give to someone that’s thinking about becoming an expat in higher ed at a campus?

[00:34:56] Jill: The first thing is to understand what an extraordinary privilege it is to be able to be hosted by another country, and really acknowledging for yourself what that means and what you hope to gain from the experience and also what you hope to give in that experience because it does need to be a sharing of labor.

I just had a conversation on the SA Voices podcast with Dr. Denny Roberts. And he and I, kind of, shared the same sentiment, that, you know, if you’re invited to be in another culture, you have to be extremely careful about not becoming a neocolonialist because you’re invited to that space as an expert for what you’ve been trained to do, what you’ve probably been doing, you know, at least several years in your career, what a U.S. higher education system has offered you, and what you know about systems of education.

And then when you bring it to another context, there are things that you need to learn about how that context works and what your assumptions are and how your assumptions must be voided in order to be successful in those spaces because if you don’t take the time to look at those things, you, you are literally repeating colonial history.

And then there are also moments where you’re being asked to be in that space because those experiences are wanted. And so, that’s an, an incredibly interesting, weird, tough balance to strike, and one that I’m not sure I always got right, but I’m sure I did get it right some of the time.

[00:36:22] Josie: I think we have a lot that we could gleam from you. I mean, even, going back to your LinkedIn, you have, you have had the opportunity to work at a lot of different institutions, doing different types of work that, whether if it’s a work transition or change or, you know, like, complete countries, I think you could probably write a book on that at this point. Okay. So, I can’t help but squeeze this one in to talk about we’re podcast girlies. SA Voices From the Field, it’s in its 10th season, a four-year anniversary. Congrats.

[00:36:53] Jill: Thank you.

[00:36:53] Josie: I know how much work that is. Also, the uniqueness that it’s coming from an association, but the voice is its members, I think, is so powerful, and again, like, being on that student affairs lens. So, I will be honest, I totally got my idea for my theme of this episode listening to your last season’s theme about transitions and change.

So, I just found it, especially, this period of time we’re in, I think people are trying to make meaning and/or are looking to their own transitions. And I think I heard that that’s going to be your theme going into the next season, too, maybe, or it is currently.

[00:37:34] Jill: Yes.

[00:37:34] Josie: So, for those that don’t know about SA Voices From the Field, what are you learning? What are you loving? What can we expect?

[00:37:41] Jill: So, SA Voices From the Field is NASPA’s official podcast. It’s been absolutely my pleasure to be able to host it since February of 2020, which is a heck of a time to start doing anything in the world. It is co-produced, as I mentioned earlier, with Dr. Chris Lewis, who is a full-time director of graduate admissions at the University of Michigan-Flint.

And together, he and I visioned the show. I do the hosting and guest coordination. And he does the audio engineering side of the house. So, we’re a small and mighty team. And then we collaborate with Ivan Gil, who’s the assistant vice president for marketing communications with NASPA.

And we try to put out a product that highlights voices within the student affairs profession who may not have had the opportunity to be highlighted yet or who can really speak to our particular theme or area of expertise. As you mentioned, we’re doing a second season now on the theme of on transitions in student affairs. It is, by far, the most popular season that we’ve had on theme as far as people being interested in telling their stories.

And also, we’ve seen some, some nice download numbers from people listening to these stories as well. I really love getting to dig deeper with guests and meet some amazing people that maybe I wouldn’t have already gotten to meet, or had the opportunity to meet, or, you know, maybe I, I knew their name for something, but now, we’ve had a chance to actually talk to each other.

It’s my favorite way to contribute into the body of literature for the profession, one, because I really hate writing journal articles. I’ll do a blog now and again, but when I finished my doctoral dissertation, I was, like, “I think I’m good. I think I’m done.” I probably need to turn my dissertation into a journal article, but the energy for that is simply not there for me right now.

And so, I feel like I can make this contribution by getting to draw the best out of people and figuring out what it means to have the ability to literally choose who is speaking, which is a duty and responsibility that I take really seriously, trying to do the best we can to be representative of a broad cross section of the profession that is student affairs, that is institution type, that’s east to west coast, north to south.

We did a whole season on only international student affairs, professionals, diversity of identities, you name it. We’re trying to, to really showcase who we are because we’re really good at telling the stories of our students, but we’re not so great at telling the story of us.

[00:40:21] Josie: I was nodding my head aggressively. Podcasting has been around a minute, right? But in higher ed spaces, I think they might still see it just as chatter. It’s like a breakout session, not the keynote. And we are producing transcripts and meaningful dialogue. That’s a session title right there, or a dissertation for someone because…

[00:40:46] Jill: It’s narrative ethnography at the end of the day.

[00:40:47] Josie: Oh, my god, it gave me chills. Well, bravo for how long that show has been around. And continue it on. I find it so very critical.

As we start to wrap up, I will do a little plug that I’m going to be on SA Voices the same week that this comes out. So, you’ll get a first experience. If you have not already, make sure to like and subscribe and share all those good things that we have to say as podcasters. And I’m sure you’re open to guests who are wanting to share their stories. I find all types of position types and locations and all the things. You, guys, are so good at doing that.

[00:41:23] Jill: If you have a transition you’d like to share on our show, please outreach to us at savoices@naspa.org. That’s S-A-V-O-I-C-E-S@naspa.org. And we always accept cold outreach from people that are in the profession, especially if you have a transition story that we haven’t told yet on the show.

We featured all sorts of transitions, from a contributing member of an office to becoming the supervisor of the office, from entry-level professional to VPSA, from VPSA to president. We shared the story of someone who went through their gender transition within their professional field.

And so, it’s been all sorts of amazing opportunities to talk to people about all aspects of their world. We’ve also had somebody who recently transitioned from full-time doctoral student and associate director to director and doctoral student. And that, that’s just a wild thing to do in general in terms of, you know, your own ownability and capacity.

[00:42:23] Josie: Yeah, wow. Stories can just be so powerful and offering the platform and space to do it. Okay. So, as we wrap up, because right after this, we’re recording your episode at the same time, is where can people find you to connect?

[00:42:39] Jill: LinkedIn is the best way. Just search for Dr. Jill L. Creighton. There are multiple Jill Creightons. That’s why I used the “L.” There’s one who’s a children’s author. She wrote a book called 8 O’Cluck, which is, like, telling time on a farm. There’s also another Dr. Jill Creighton who’s a doctor of medicine in Long Island. So, Dr. Jill L. Creighton.

[00:42:57] Josie: Amazing. So, you’re especially active on LinkedIn and, of course, the podcast, but if you knew your last post or podcast episode was going to be your last, what would you want it to be about?

[00:43:12] Jill: That is a tough question. I have never thought about that before. I’m not sure what I would want the subject matter to be, but I do know that I would want to be sure to express my gratitude for those who have given me space to work with this show and then also to those who’ve chosen to listen because we really wouldn’t have a show unless people chose to listen to it, and then give gratitude to every guest that’s ever come on and shared their story.

[00:43:37] Josie: But you all are going into your 10th season. I really hope, on LinkedIn, you can give us updates. And I know a lot of people are watching campus partners like us. And there are transitions and our impact. I think there’s a lot more inquiry into what that career path is. As you think about how you’re putting yourself out there on the interwebs, how do you hope that those strategies are impacting the world? In other words, what’s your purpose for leading online?

[00:44:06] Jill: I just want to have conversations with people, to be honest. I don’t really have an agenda. I just want to talk with people that are saying interesting things and be able to, to create real and meaningful connections with others because I think the danger of social media in general is that the connections can be superficial in nature or performative in nature.

And that’s what I love about podcasting is that it’s pretty hard to be, you know, overly performative in a long format. I try to keep my Instagram just personal. And my Facebook is really heavily locked down just to friends and family. So, LinkedIn is really where I have a professional social media presence.

I have thought about buying a domain and just putting that to work, but I’m not sure that I have anything of value to put on the internet in that type of format at this point because all of my online work is catalogued through NASPA, really, at this point, through blogs and through podcasting. And I do it in service, so it’d be, kind of, weird to put it on my own site.

[00:45:10] Josie: Well, I think it goes back to not having an agenda. Like, that is also the service. And we are appreciative for it.

Jill, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I appreciate it so much. You’ve got me really thinking deep about my travel plans, marketing a little bit differently. And we’re going to hop over and do our podcast now.

[00:45:33] Jill: I’m so excited to have you on SA Voices From the Field. Again, if you’re listening and you’ve never listened to SA Voices, you can find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you normally download your shows, because part two of this conversation will be dropping on the other feed.

[00:45:48] Josie: Wow, wow, wow. Every time I’m tuning in or talking to Jill, I am taking notes. I am fired up about her journey, this approach as a global citizen, and her new role. And she’s just such an adventurous spirit. No matter where she is, she is soaking in life, but also through a cultural lens where she calls to be a traveler, not a tourist.

And this is April. You might be thinking about your summer travels, or maybe you just got back from some kind of, you know, spring trip, where you were in a different country of your own or location. And I think the mindfulness, while we want to detach so much when we go to different places, and, and we want to immerse, we always want to think about impact.

And she provided so many tangible ideas, from shopping local, learning the language, and then being that true champion for appreciating the culture. This has really stuck with me as I am going to be traveling internationally this summer. Goodness, Jill, I will try my darndest with the help of some apps to increase my language repertoire, but I love the shop local, pre-education, and just that overall impact.

Of course, I had to ask Jill about her research, which, again, this job she just got, I feel like it’s so beautiful and full circle because her research was on study abroad and how to empower students while they might be showing different sides of themselves. And this happens not just on study abroad. It might happen, you know, when they join an organization or they go to an event on campus. But goodness, possibly, stakes are much higher when a student is in a different country. So relevant. So important. I can’t wait to see the global impact Dr. Creighton is going to have in this new role. And she’s already having it because of SA Voices From the Field, the podcast that she is a host and co-producer of. I love my podcast girlies. So, please, please, go. Even if you’re not in student affairs, I think, especially, my, my marketing, my enrollment folks, you could learn so very much from your colleagues on the student engagement side. And she is always looking for guests. So, if I can connect you, or honestly, if you just straight out reach out to her and you’ve got a topic in mind, I think that might be helpful, too.

And they are going into a new season where they are continuing to talk about transitions. And if you tune into my episode, I talk about my transition away from working on a campus into stumbling my way through creating a business and a podcast, and now, who you see or who you hear listening to you today. So, big, big thanks to Jill. I appreciate you coming on to share your story. Keep shining that light, that impact world and the local community that we have. I’m sending all kind of hugs your way.

Thank you so much for joining me today for Josie and the Podcast. You know what to do, right? I hope you have been listening for a minute, but I need you to make sure you’re subscribed, that you might give a little review, that you might share this episode with a friend, a colleague. I would be so, so very appreciative. As always, I’m on all the socials, @JosieAhlquist, the podcast, X, Threads, and Instagram. And all the resources in the past episodes, find them at josieahlquist.com/podcast.

I am taking a little time off this summer, a little, as I shared, I’m traveling internationally, but my dance card is filling, but also a little open in the fall, but if you’re looking for late summer stuff, come find me. Speaking, consulting, coaching, I create custom packages for you that integrate what you need right now and including what your funding is available.

And if you need something grab and go, you’ve got my book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education. Don’t forget about the Student Social Media Academy. This would be fantastic for a student that you are including in social strategy. This would be a great thing for them to do over the summer, self-paced online course. I think they will love it.

Thank you, again, to our podcast sponsors, University FM and Element451. Learn more about them, university.fm and element451.com. I am sending digital hugs, loves, and waves to whatever corner of the world you’re listening in from. This has been Josie and the Podcast.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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