Leila Paje-Manalo came to UNH as a molecular biology post-doctoral student, with a PhD in plant pathology-virology. When she accepted a position as a student advisor with the Office of International Students and Scholars in 1991, it was intended to be a stop-gap until an academic or research position opened. Instead, it became her career, and a key administrative position that has opened UNH to students from around the world.
Leila was appointed assistant director of OISS in 1994 and promoted to director in 1996. The office has grown tremendously since, from a one-person operation to a team of 11 professionals overseeing a vast array of logistics related to bringing international students and scholars to UNH. Where other universities contract out this complex work, UNH has in Leila an extraordinary in-house resource. She has written all of our policies for hiring international employees. And she has single-handedly developed processes for sponsoring international faculty members and visiting scholars. Current and former students credit her with guiding them through the often long and confusing process of securing visas.
UNH’s international student and scholar presence has increased significantly over the course of Leila’s tenure. An office that once served roughly 50 students a year today supports 1,200 students and 195 faculty and staff members from more than 70 countries. Leila in particular played a key role in the development of two partnerships that have enhanced the university’s global reach —the Confucius Institute and the Navitas pathways program.
But Leila’s work doesn’t end when international students arrive in Durham. She’s been a leader in educating campus partners regarding the unique needs of students from other cultures, from mental health to academic expectations. And she developed a successful program called Buddies without Borders that builds relationships between domestic and international students. As considerable as her gifts for bringing international students here are, her talents for keeping them here are perhaps even greater.