Elizabeth Frohlich spent her two years as a Public Fellow working as the Associate Director at the Forum on Education Abroad. Speaking with ACLS, Frohlich recounts her transition from a French Language and Literature PhD candidate with an interest in international education to her current role as the Director for Programs and Resources at the Forum.
ACLS: How did you come to pursue a non-academic career?
EF: I had the opportunity to work for one of my university’s study abroad programs on-site in France while conducting research for my PhD in French Language and Literature. I found supporting students as they navigated the potentially transformative experience of education abroad to be more gratifying and energizing than my academic work, and that led me to pursue a career in international education.
ACLS: Is that what drew you to the fellowship placement at the Forum on Education Abroad out of the 13 opportunities available in the Public Fellows program in the year you applied?
EF: The placement at The Forum on Education Abroad was exactly the kind of opportunity I had been seeking. I knew that I wanted to transition to a career in education abroad, but was unsure of how to make that happen. The fellowship at The Forum was a perfect fit. I also appreciated the fact that The Forum is a membership organization with over 700 institutional members, and that I would have the opportunity to interact with leaders in international education from around the globe, and learn about different types of institutions and program models.
ACLS: Name three aspects of your doctoral studies – or skills that you learned there – that are most useful in your current work.
EF: My doctoral studies taught me to be flexible, which has proved to be quite valuable in working at an organization that strives to meet the needs of the education abroad field in a timely manner. My job description has been somewhat fluid, with new projects developing spontaneously based on our members’ needs. Tied to this is the ability to prioritize and juggle multiple responsibilities simultaneously. Finally, the writing skills I developed while completing my graduate work continue to serve me well every day.
Elizabeth Frohlich (left) and Forum staff with Ireland’s president Michael D. Higgins and his wife (center), taken in December 2012 at the Forum’s European Conference, hosted by University College Dublin.
ACLS: How did your fellowship experience at The Forum prepare you for your post-fellowship role as Director for Programs and Resources?
EF: The transition from the fellowship to my current role was organic. I became increasingly involved in The Forum’s operations as time went on, and my responsibilities grew accordingly.
ACLS: What has been your biggest accomplishment at The Forum?
EF: Since joining The Forum on Education Abroad, I have launched an oral history podcast, helped to establish a special collection of education abroad historical material, was involved in revamping our
Quality Improvement Program, and was part of a team that developed professional certification program for education abroad professionals. It has been rewarding to see all these different projects come to fruition.
ACLS: What is the most challenging part of your job?
EF: The Forum relies on committees of volunteers from member institutions and organizations to accomplish much of its work. One of my responsibilities is to drive the work of several of these committees forward while respecting the fact that most volunteers are dedicated to demanding day jobs. It is always challenging to strike a balance.
ACLS: What advice would you give to a humanities PhD who is interested in pursuing a non-academic career?
EF: Don’t despair. Your doctoral work prepared you to excel in a multitude of non-academic careers, and there are opportunities out there—it’s just that the path from a PhD to a non-academic position is not always as obvious as the path to a career in academia.
ACLS: What advice would you give to an applicant to the Public Fellows program?
EF: Do your research on the organization to which you are applying. This will ensure that you are prepared for the application process, but more importantly, it will help determine whether or not the position is indeed a good fit for your interests and skill set.
Find out more about the ACLS Public Fellows program here.