Graduate and international education is all about discoveries — the discovery of knowledge, the discovery of research and creative scholarship that improves lives, and the discovery of new countries, cultures and people. The Graduate School and International Education is celebrating our students, faculty and staff that make discoveries happen at the U of A.
As front desk administrator for the Office of International Students and Scholars, Lauren Denny strives to be a welcoming presence to visitors, as she is the often the first person international students come into contact within the office.
“I love to be a welcoming, friendly face when international students first arrive in the U.S.,” she said. “I help them schedule appointments and answer questions they may have.”
But Denny is more than a smiling face for international students. She is a helping hand across the entire ISS Office, including putting out a newsletter every Wednesday, running the ISS social media accounts, aiding the iFriend program and outreach office, and designing engaging graphics for social media and elsewhere.
During International Education Week earlier this month, you may have noticed individuals wearing shirts emblazoned with a postcard-esque design stating: “The World in Arkansas, Arkansas in the World.” Denny led the creation of this design.
“The IEW design was inspired by vintage postcards,” she said. “I included pictures of countries where the highest number of our students are from, so that the countries are literally ‘inside’ Arkansas.”
Her work helps create an environment of belonging for international students.
“The U of A is a great place to find community as an international student,” she said. “We have people who focus on creating connections and programming and to help all students feel welcome here and find friendship. And Northwest Arkansas is so welcoming to our students as well. We have many people in the community who are involved in our office and our programs. Local schools love to have international students come and talk to the kids about their home countries, and the kids really love it.”
Growing up in a town with “very little diversity,” Denny cherished any opportunity she had to meet someone from another country.
“I found their stories fascinating,” she said. “They could tell me about part of the world that seemed unreachable to me. I love to learn about our students’ favorite foods, family traditions, idioms in their language — everything.”
That experience, coupled with her passion for education, led to her interest in working in an international office on a college campus.
“Education is a precious tool that I wish to be accessible to everyone. It can open your mind to other’s perspectives, learn more about yourself and create change in your own life and community,” she said. “The international students at the U of A continually amaze me with their research, leadership and passion for learning.”
“In some countries, education is not easily accessible, so I want to support international students in higher education any way I can,” she continued. “Students coming here by themselves are so courageous, and if they bring families here, that’s courageous, too. It is amazing to see and to see them accomplish their goals.”
Denny is passionate about her work in ISS and what it stands for, and she has found her ISS team to be fun and supportive.
“Everyone genuinely loves working with international students and wants to help them succeed,” she said. “Our office is lots of fun, especially with all the events we put on. There’s something new every day.”
Denny is originally from Springfield, Missouri, but now resides in Springdale. She holds a degree in graphic design from the College of the Ozarks. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, drawing and having board game nights with her friends and family. She also loves thrift shopping and the feeling of bringing home a unique find from a flea market or thrift store. Additionally, Denny and her husband are both participants in the iFriend program and enjoy spending time with their friends.
“I hope that our international students feel welcome here, even if our culture is different,” she said. “I want them to know that we’re so happy they’re here and that they bring so much richness and many valuable perspectives to Arkansas.”