Meet the Dean

Rebecca Graves-Bayazitoglu joined the Office of International Programs (OIP) as senior associate dean on July 1, 2019. She oversees the Novogratz Bridge Year Program, the International Internship Program, semester and academic year study abroad opportunities, and fellowships advising. Graves-Bayazitoglu has worked at Princeton since 2003, serving as the founding dean of Whitman College and, most recently, director of the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning.

Joining OIP is an opportunity for me to pay it back, so to speak. Studying abroad in France as an undergraduate, and returning there to teach English through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program after graduation, broadened my world immensely. Working with everyone in OIP and across campus to provide varied and meaningful opportunities abroad for Princeton undergraduates is a chance to make sure every Princeton student has access to the transformative potential of international education. We, in OIP, want matriculation at Princeton to be the gateway to the world.

I still remember the day I opened a bank account in Paris. I knew lots of French vocabulary — the rooms in a house, body parts, colors, even literary devices — but not bank vocabulary! Somehow I muddled through, and left with my bank card and deposit book (it was a while ago, folks). I felt as if I had conquered the world.

For me, studying languages was transformational as a student, as a teacher and as a global citizen. When you are learning a new language, you are also learning a new way to think and to see the world. Language is a window into another culture, and a mirror that helps you understand your home culture. Even today, when English is spoken in so many places, inhabiting a new culture takes on added meaning when you engage with the language of that place.

My personal motto is from Jean-Jacques Rousseau: “I would rather be paradoxical than prejudiced.” What this means to me, and it is central to what living abroad offers to our students, is that I would rather be open to new ideas than to adhere to entrenched beliefs out of a desire for consistency. Studying and working abroad helps us recognize that there are many ways to live, work, speak and think, and forces us to question our unexamined assumptions.

The students I’ve advised at Princeton who have ventured abroad have learned to live with and appreciate difference, and to tolerate discomfort and ambiguity in a new way. Crucial to the Princeton experience, and to any liberal arts education, is gaining the ability to put your home culture in perspective and reflect on how it shapes your worldview. One of the data points about study abroad that I find most compelling is that students surveyed five or 10 years after graduation report that their experience abroad has only grown more influential as they have moved into their post-Princeton life.

When I flew to Europe in 1991 to study abroad for a year, it was the first time I had ever traveled by airplane. I was able to study in Paris because of my institution’s commitment to making sure all students had that opportunity, even students on financial aid. One of the best aspects of working at Princeton is knowing that the institution has the resources to support all of our students who want to study or work abroad during the academic year or during the summer. All of us at OIP are dedicated to making sure no student has to turn down a chance to encounter the world because of the cost.

I’m looking forward to expanding and strengthening the network of internationally engaged Princetonians on campus and beyond.

PHOTO: Mark Czajkowski