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Name: LaSharon McLean Perez

Job: Assistant Director of Study Abroad

With a major case of wanderlust, LaSharon McLean Perez brings her adventurous spirit to her position as the assistant director of study abroad.

“The best part of my job is seeing the excitement of a returned student,” says Perez. “Knowing that a lot of UCR’s student demographic is first generation students, they are students who never even saw the possibility of leaving California … and to see them come back with that sparkle in their eyes and being their source of encouragement that allowed for them to go is so rewarding.”

Perez oversees the UC Education Abroad and Opportunities Abroad Programs, which means she spreads the contagious travel bug to Highlanders.

“A typical work day is mostly spent–nearly 50 percent– meeting and advising students about study abroad procedures and pre-departure requirements. Then the other 50 percent of my day is either crisis management with students in the pre-departure phase and/or students already outbound or researching new funding models and scholarships,” Perez said.

“You need to have a lot of flexibility because with this particular job, crises can happen at any moment,” she said. “The tsunami in Japan (2011) was the biggest crisis that I’ve ever had to deal with in this position. When events like that happen, you need to have the flexibility to balance taking care of students or other students abroad while trying to focus on a major crisis overseas.”

UCR is not a foreign destination for Perez. It is where she completed her Bachelor’s in Theater, MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts, and where she worked as a student volunteer, intern and staffer. It was also during her undergraduate years that she studied abroad for two quarters in Italy.

After her undergraduate career, Perez left the country to go to graduate school in Australia for two years. Perez took what she calls a “strategic risk for opportunity” and returned to UCR when she graduated from her master’s, working the front desk, which eventually led to her position today.

“This was not something that I thought I was going to make a long-term career, but what actually kept me here is the students,” Perez explained. “Being that I was a UCR student, I understood the demographics of the students here and they really are the heart and soul of what I love about this place.”

Currently, Perez is investing her time on a new study abroad scholarship campaign entitled, “Give Highlanders the World,” which is scheduled to launch in early November.

“I would really like my colleagues, staff and faculty to get involved and join me in donating to the fund that will allow Highlanders to get a chance to study abroad and to look at new opportunities. So please DONATE! ,” said Perez.

Although Perez has traveled to more than 20 countries and 45 U.S. states, two countries that are still top priority for her to visit are Romania and India.

“I have a love affair with very Gothic, Old World stuff so Romania is a place I really want to see. And there is a running joke that I was Hindu in a former life, so India for me is a place of mystery that I really want to go to,” said Perez enthusiastically.

— Bethanie Le

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