The inaugural director of the Global Brown Center for International Students Christina Bonnell left the University in early October after two years of working to develop the center.
Bonnell began her directorial position in May 2017 when the center, then known as the International Student Experience, was just getting started. The center is meant to serve and support the international student community, through orientation programs and assistance on advocacy initiatives.
Bonnell left her position Oct. 11 to pursue a Ph.D. in International Education at the University of Virginia. In addition to her desire to pursue higher education, Bonnell noted an interpersonal conflict with an upper-level administration official as a factor in her departure.
Earlier this October, her supervisor, Assistant Vice President for Campus Life and Senior Director of the Institute for Transformative Practice Nicole Truesdell, published an announcement regarding Bonnell’s departure, noting her accomplishments and the legacy she left at the GBC.
“The success of Christina’s work as she has built up the GBC is both impactful and far-reaching,” Truesdell wrote. “While we are sad to see Christina leave, we are also excited for her future as she continues on her educational journey.”
Bonnell’s departure follows that of Joshua Segui, the former director of the Brown Center for Students of Color, who left the University in June. Both the BCSC and the GBC are part of the coalition of seven campus centers known as the Institute for Transformative Practice, which are overseen by Truesdell.
During her time at the University, it was Bonnell’s task to “create the center from scratch,” Bonnell said. In doing this, Bonnell expanded programming for international students and formed strong relationships with other student centers and departments on campus.
Bonnell’s key accomplishments included expanding and enhancing the International Mentoring Program for undergraduates and the peer mentoring program for Graduate International Orientation, Truesdell wrote in the public announcement. Bonnell also fought for a number of services that would help international students with the logistics of moving to the United States, according to Anton Tekhneriadov ’20. She provided first-year international students with an airport shuttle to pick them up for pre-orientation, and advised international students on how to obtain a VISA or work permit.
“Christina called up Bed Bath & Beyond and got international students 10 percent off with their student ID,” Tekhneriadov said. “Unlike many domestic students, international ones can’t ship a lot to campus when moving in.”
Without Bonnell’s leadership, the program would not be what it is today, Program Coordinator for the GBC Soyoon Kim ’19 said. “As a concrete example, I would not be able to do nearly half of my job as Program Coordinator as effectively had Christina not taken the time to form strong relationships with all event stakeholders during her time at Brown, from (the) folks at media services to catering,” Kim said.
The Campus Life office is currently in their final stages of the process to select a new program director, and they hope to have one in place by the beginning of next semester, Truesdell wrote. A six-person search committee, made up of three students and three professional staff, conducted a search and brought four candidates to campus Nov. 12 through Nov. 15 to meet students and staff, she added.
In the meantime, Truesdell and Chief of Staff and Director for Strategic Initiatives Loc Truong are providing administrative support for the center.
Though she left the center, Bonnell feels confident in the program’s ability to grow. “The GBC is in a really good position to become more of a home away from home for students,” Bonnell said. “I’m very confident in the search committee.”
Clarification: A previous version of this article stated that Bonnell noted interpersonal conflicts with upper administration as a factor in her departure. In fact, Bonnell had an interpersonal conflict with an upper-level administration official. The Herald regrets the error.