Q&A: Natalia Dyba, global initiatives

Natalia at home work station. courtesy photo.

How has work in Global Initiatives changed since remote operations began at UW Bothell? Natalia Dyba, director of Global Initiatives, answers a few questions from Maria Lamarca Anderson, director of communications.

Q. What would you normally be doing now and where?

A. Spring quarter is typically a bustling time of preparation for students and program directors gearing up for study abroad during summer break. In a non-pandemic year, between 60 to 70% of annual study abroad activity happens during summer quarter and early fall. I would be meeting with students to discuss their pre-departure questions and concerns. We would also be hosting several roundtable discussions featuring UW Bothell Study Abroad ambassadors sharing their experiences with travel to new places.

In addition, multiple groups of UW Bothell students — including the Gender Culture and Human Rights in India program led by faculty members Alka Kurian and Camille Walsh, and the annual MBA Global Study Tour — would have recently returned from short-term study abroad programs during spring break and might be involved in follow-up coursework. My office manages the India program, so I would be following up on vendor payments and reconciling the program budget.

While study abroad remains suspended through summer quarter 2021 and much of this activity is not happening, the pandemic has actually opened up new, virtual possibilities to connect globally.

Q. What are you trying to work on today?

A. Pandemic or not, my job always involves variety and juggling multiple projects. Recently, one of my larger projects has been building out Hyphen the World, a virtual internships program through which UW Bothell students work on projects with community organizations in India.

We had a successful pilot last summer which came together at the very last minute. This year, we are offering the program for credit and deepening the learning for students. I’m currently gathering feedback on a draft learning contract from faculty who will serve as mentors for Hyphen the World participants and corresponding with students at various stages of engagement with the program.

Today I also met with the COIL Fellows planning team to discuss our remaining workshops for the year, which support faculty on the Bothell and Tacoma campuses to implement Collaborative Online International Learning modules into their courses, connecting with counterparts in a different part of the world virtually. I participated in a discussion about performing global citizenship with the Global Scholars cohort. And I attended a planning meeting for the International Virtual Exchange Conference, presented initial findings about mapping high-impact practices across UW Bothell degree programs and discussed the logistics of returning to campus with colleagues who share space in the Student Success Center.

Q. What adjustments have you made to fulfill your work responsibilities?

A. I’ve learned that I’m more effective if I spread out my work hours into several chunks throughout the day, instead of trying to work an eight- or nine-hour stretch like I would when I was on campus. I take a proper break for lunch (most days at least) and take shorter breaks to do a load of laundry, clean up around the house or make coffee. I can’t stay in front of the screen for too long or I get headaches. Unfortunately, my eyesight has deteriorated noticeably over the course of the past year, so I am also trying to take vision breaks, looking out the window for a change in perspective.

Q. What are you doing to care for yourself or for others?

Natalia Dyba
Natalia Dyba. courtesy photo.

A. I really appreciate an email that Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Sharon A. Jones sent out early on in the pandemic saying this was not business as usual and we needed to adjust our expectations and practices accordingly. This has remained a grounding and liberating perspective for me. I try to not schedule early meetings, and I go for a walk with my 3-year-old daughter most mornings. Going to the park is a good way to start the day for both of us! I make time to bake, which is a source of stress relief for me. I also talk with family and friends several times a week to stay connected.

Q. Do you have a change of perspective to share?

A. Unfortunately, my dad passed away suddenly about a month ago. While it has felt so lonely to be half the world away from my family (who are in Europe), I’ve also come to appreciate how communal dealing with death is. So many of my colleagues at UW Bothell have reached out to provide comfort and support, and shared their own experiences with losing a close family member — thank you! I’m also glad to be attending one of the Grief and Loss healing spaces provided by the Office of Organizational Excellence & Human Resources next week. My perspective on life and death is actively evolving.

Q. What other thoughts or feelings do you want to share?

A. As we prepare to return to campus in person, I’m becoming more aware of the mental impacts of (my) prolonged physical isolation. I’ve developed distrust and anxiety in being in close proximity to others. I know that I’m not alone in this. I hope that we create time and space to make sense of these complex social and emotional needs as a community, and integrate this into our back-to-campus planning as much as we do spacing protocols, plexiglass barriers and cleaning routines.

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