A quick or long look at Denise Dimon’s resume, take your pick, is reason enough to understand why the new Associate Provost of International Affairs and Director of the International Center at the University of San Diego is a natural fit.
Dimon, PhD, a USD business professor since 1982, was director of USD’s MBA program when it launched its full-time track, revitalized the International MBA program and increased study abroad options for undergraduate and graduate business students. She’s been director of the Ahlers Center for International Business since 1999.
The former Fulbright Scholar’s vast international experience includes visiting professorships in Mexico, Latin America and Europe, serving as Business Association of Latin American Studies (BALAS) president and as co-editor of Latin American Business Review, a quarterly academic journal. She’s also completing a two-year U.S. Department of Education grant that examines the development of faculty and staff expertise and educational opportunities in Latin America and Asia.
Provost Julie Sullivan’s announcement about Dimon’s new role — and that she’ll still teach classes and stay on as Ahlers Center director — is a testament to her track record.
“She brings a wealth of international and administrative experience to this position,” Sullivan stated. “I’m confident that our international programs will continue to flourish under Professor Dimon’s experienced and enthusiastic leadership.”
Colleagues, many of whom are younger women that have thrived in important roles assigned under Dimon’s leadership, describe her as a “visionary” and admire her “tireless professional commitment.” Danielle Steiner, Ahlers Center assistant director, said working with Dimon since 2008 has been “one of the most fulfilling chapters in my career to date.”
“She leads by example and is an incredibly hard worker; I have no idea how she balances everything,” said Kira Espiritu, director of the International Center’s Study Abroad Programs, who worked with Dimon from 2000-07 in the Ahlers Center and is now reunited with her mentor. “I admire Denise and I tell her often that she really has taught me most of what I know about working in international education.”
Dimon certainly has no plans to slow down. Her focus is on deepening the role of international education at USD. Support from higher-level administrators makes internationalization a strategic direction of the institution and gives Dimon the green light to explore ways to foster a student’s global awareness, an appreciation for cultural differences and opportunities on and off campus.
“I view the International Center as not the only place where international activities happen; it has to be happening everywhere,” Dimon said. “I see the center as a facilitator, a supporter of all the other schools and their programs. I see opportunities to develop more synergy, too, not just for undergraduate or graduate students, but across the entire campus.”
Her background within the business school and the Ahlers Center, of which she said was modeled after she taught business courses to USD law students in its international program, should help her navigate best practices when collaborating with other schools on campus.
“Denise is very skilled at both seeing the bigger picture yet keeping an eye on the smaller details crucial to the success of any project or program,” said Katie Singleton, Aherassociate director of the Ahlers Center. “She’s constantly thinking about the present and future, on all levels. Not only does she ensure every project or program she works on yields a high quality result and/or experience for our students, but she’s also mapping how it fits into the larger goals of the university and the individual school.”
The university’s study abroad program is a popular avenue for many students’ introduction to an international perspective. A Institute of International Education study has ranked USD second nationally in undergraduate study abroad participation the last two years.
Students can take classes throughout Europe and in parts of Latin America and Asia during Intersession (January), semester and summer. These classes are connected to a student’s major, satisfy a general education requirement, helps them with a research project or, in the case of the Second Year Experience program, provides USD sophomores a unique opportunity to see another part of the world while making a stronger connection with their fellow classmates.
“It takes you out of your comfort zone,” said Dimon about the importance of an international experience. “I think being out of your comfort zone makes a person more creative and more responsive to change. Having the ability to positively react to change and ambiguity as a part of your skill set helps prepare you for the future.”
And, she added, “I know if I was an employer, I’d be looking to hire people who can think about the next thing, the next change. I definitely think a global perspective and having an appreciation for it can help.”
In the International Center, global perspective works two ways. The Office of International Students and Scholars, led by Director Yvette Fontaine and Associate Director Chia-Yen Lin, lead a staff that works closely with foreign exchange and international USD students and faculty to help them acclimate to USD and the United States.
“We have a lot of programs to help our international students be successful. We have a staff that knows what the culture shock can be like and help students understand different teaching styles or expectations in the classroom,” Dimon said. “They also work with faculty to help them understand what students might not be understanding. It’s often not language, but the cultural maze of a different way of living.”
Dimon said her own international education, done mainly in classrooms at the University of Colorado (BA Economics), University of Denver (Masters in International Management) and University of Illinois (MS, PhD in Economics), came when she was a Fulbright Scholar in Argentina and Uruguay.
“I didn’t start travelling until my late 20s and early 30s,” she said. “I studied international things such as economics and development, but I had not done a lot of travel at that point. When I did my Fulbright, though, I took my husband and two small children to Argentina. It was a wild ride. This was when … it’s just different now. Globalization had not hit at that time. People did not speak English. I knew Spanish so I was OK, but it was a real immersion experience. My kids, as a result, are very internationally focused. They both attended Spanish-speaking schools and they both have (USD) degrees with an international focus.”
That, more than anything, opened the international door for Dimon.
“When it shapes your family’s life, it shapes your life,” she said. “My career has been shaped by my connections that started when I did the Fulbright. I’ve met many of my friends through my international networks and it has influenced my teaching and my research. It’s kind of who I am.”
— Ryan T. Blystone