Rita Rowand Named September 2011 Employee of the Month

Posted: August 25, 2011 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: August 24, 2011 at 8:17 pm

By Lea Lubag

Rita Rowand helps facilitate international relationships by making foreign visitors to Mason feel at home. Photo courtesy of Rita Rowand

Being a people person is an attractive trait, but making someone feel at home in a foreign country is an invaluable talent. That’s a big part of why Rita Rowand, global relations specialist for the Office of Global and International Strategies, was named the September Employee of the Month.

Rowand serves as the university liaison to the global community. She is in charge of receiving incoming foreign delegations and international guests from around the world, visiting embassies, helping to arrange campus tours, scheduling meetings with faculty and staff and facilitating a positive start of an international relationship.

“I get the opportunity to meet very interesting people from all over the world,” says Rowand. “That’s one of the best parts of my job. I like to think of it as kind of a ‘soft diplomacy’ that we’re doing by encouraging these types of relationships.”

“Rita possesses extensive knowledge of faculty and programs at Mason,” says Anne Schiller, vice president for global strategies. “She draws on that knowledge to match visitors with units and faculty that would be excellent potential partners for initiatives that would benefit Mason and those visitors.”

For some, keeping your cool while juggling the schedule of activities for several distinguished foreign delegates would be stressful, but for Rowand, it’s perfect.

“Every day is different,” she says. “There’s not really a routine, and I think I function best in that atmosphere. I like having a different kind of day, every day.”

Besides her professionalism and attention to detail, Rowand’s colleagues say that what sets her apart is the genuine warmth, enthusiasm and charm that she brings to all aspects of her position.

Susan Graziano, global grants coordinator, notes that Rowand often brings home-baked goods and centerpieces for meetings with visitors and delegations.

“She makes our international visitors feel at home and makes sure that they leave Mason with a positive image of the university,” says Cheryl Choy, international MOU and agreements coordinator.

“She does her best to make our office a cohesive work group,” says Lisa O’Hara, who works with international programs. “She planned our office holiday party and book exchange, brought in plants and holiday decorations and often brings in baked goods to share.”

Rowand, a former travel agent whose family owned a German-style restaurant, says, “Hospitality is in my background — it’s all about making people happy through food and good conversation.”

She adds, “The team that we have in the Global Strategies Office is a really talented group of people. Everyone seems to love their job, so we work incredibly well together. It’s just extraordinary.”

Rowand holds a foreign language degree, an important skill for her position, and has a master’s degree in occupational and technical education. She will have a different kind of opportunity to practice her “global” skills as she heads to Berlin, Germany, in October to participate in the Fulbright Seminar for U.S. Administrators in International Education.

President Alan Merten will present Rowand with the Employee of the Month award in his office on Wednesday, Aug. 31, at 3 p.m. Rowand’s family, co-workers and friends are encouraged to attend the ceremony.


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