When Kathleen Sideli (M.A. 1975, Ph.D. 1983) retired from the Office of Overseas Study on June 30, 2022, it ended a career of almost fifty years at Indiana University. She originally arrived in Bloomington in 1973 to pursue a graduate degree in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, encouraged by Professor Russell Salmon who had been a close colleague of her mentor at Molloy College. Sideli was attracted to IU because it offered a study abroad component for graduate students.
Kathleen Sideli Retires
Yet, the suspension of that option in 1974 led to a one-year position with IU’s undergraduate program in Madrid which, in turn, resulted in her future career as a study abroad administrator. Coincidentally, Merle E. Simmons, the director of graduate studies who offered Sideli an assistantship in 1973, himself launched and managed the set of academic year programs that eventually were administered by Overseas Study, including the department’s program at the Complutense University of Madrid, whose first IU director in 1966 was Daniel Quilter, Sideli’s spouse from 1978 until his death in 2008.
In 1979 the Office of Overseas Study hired Sideli as its first advisor, a part-time position she held while teaching Spanish courses. A decade later that position became full-time as the office expanded, resulting in IU becoming one of the top institutions for sending students abroad. She soon held national leadership positions, through NAFSA: Association of International Educators and the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). And in 2001, she became the founding president of The Forum on Education Abroad, which has grown to more than 800 institutional members. In 2003, she was appointed director of the Office of Overseas Study and associate dean for International Programs with responsibility for study abroad on all IU campuses. When Michael McRobbie became IU president in 2007, he brought a new urgency for further internationalization, establishing a $20M endowment matching campaign for study abroad scholarships. Today, as the associate vice president for overseas study, Sideli has collaborated with IU units to send more than 4,400 IU students abroad annually on diversified programs around the world. All IU campuses offer study abroad programs and more than a third of IUB undergraduates have at least one international educational experience as part of their degree programs.
Among Sideli’s most satisfying experiences has been working with faculty from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese who have served as resident directors of the IU program in Madrid as well as other locations in the Spanish-speaking world. She attributes her academic training with giving her the necessary background for her responsibilities since study abroad programs are microcosms of institutions of higher learning, involving language acquisition, academic issues, cultural adaptation, and student services challenges in areas such as health and safety, residential life, volunteer service, etc. “On the two occasions I directed the Madrid program, Kathy was an unfailing source of advice and support, especially at the most challenging moments,” recounts Professor Reyes Vila-Belda, “She was always available despite being on the other side of the Atlantic and six hours behind. She respected my role as a director, but at the same time I knew I could count on her. It was a pleasure working with her.”
While the coronavirus pandemic posed unique challenges to the world of international education, IU began to relaunch its programs in 2021. Although Sideli will miss the daily excitement of managing IU programs around the world, she stated, “I will carry with me forever the memories of my decades of fostering international engagement that deeply impacted IU students as well as the faculty and staff members who made those opportunities possible.”