Toni-Lee Viney and Claire Lavelle awarded Education Abroad Partners of the Year

Education Abroad has named two staff members in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering – Toni-Lee Viney and Claire Lavelle – its 2020 Partners of the Year.

Viney, Mechanical Engineering manager of undergraduate programs, and Lavelle, Chemical and Biological Engineering academic advisor and department manager, have focused on increasing the number of engineering students that go abroad as part of their academic journey.

Toni-Lee Viney (left) and Claire Lavelle (right)
Toni-Lee Viney and Claire Lavelle

The award

Every year, the Education Abroad Advisory Committee honors one individual for distinguished service to education abroad. This year however, they could not select a single winner. Instead, they selected two.

“We appreciate Toni-Lee and Claire so much for being champions for education abroad and their students,” said Laura Thornes, Direction of Education Abroad for International Programs. “We couldn’t choose just one person this year because they both are doing important work and collaborate regularly on their events and strategies.”

The award criteria evaluates candidates who have distinguished themselves in the service they provide to students and the campus community through program leadership and innovative student support. This can include notable contributions toward student success initiatives, advising, event participation, scholarship engagement, strategy implementation to meet enrollment growth, and other goals.

Outstanding women call for the unprecedented

Viney and Lavelle are dedicated mentors to their students. Both enthusiastically engage in idea-sharing around supporting students in education abroad and promoting the value of the experience. They regularly think of ways to remove barriers for engineering students to go abroad.

For example, the women mapped exact course equivalents for many partner programs abroad so that students know how to stay on track to graduation. They advocated to get more scholarship funds allocated for education abroad participation. They are also creating pre-first year programs to help students make deeper connections on campus and see the global relevance of their majors. They host regular information sessions that have become so popular, they often run out of seats.

Both have made connections beyond the Education Abroad office and have been gracious hosts to visitors from Swansea University, Heriot Watt University, CEA, and others.

Celebrate Global Engineering event

In 2019, Viney, Lavelle and Deb Misuraca from the School of Biomedical Engineering created, organized, and secured funding for a new event called Celebrate Global Engineering which they intend to offer bi-annually. With Principles of Community in mind to celebrate international students, they offered students the opportunity to share information about their home countries at the event. They provided materials about education abroad and worked with international student organizations to provide educational entertainment. They also offered international food tastings while simultaneously supporting local restaurants. The event was held in the atrium of the Scott Bioengineering Building and was well attended.

Toni-Lee Viney, manager of undergraduate programs for the Department of Mechanical Engineering at CSU
Toni-Lee Viney, manager of undergraduate programs for the Department of Mechanical Engineering

About Toni-Lee Viney

Viney created the Berlin Bridge program, which allows incoming students the opportunity to complete an introductory course prior to beginning their fall semester at CSU. This opportunity has potential to enhance retention by providing students with a head start on their degree. Students participate in an intensive week-long course on the CSU campus, then travel to Berlin for 10 days where they continue learning and applying material in an international context.

She is actively working on additional programs. She traveled to Italy with an Education Abroad program provider to explore their facilities and options for engineering students, and is also working with Semester at Sea to create course options, including senior design. She will be sailing on Semester at Sea as the advisor and registrar on an upcoming voyage.

Toni-Lee attends EAAC meetings to help inform and influence best practices and has infused Education Abroad as a standout opportunity during orientation programs.

Claire Lavelle
Claire Lavelle, academic advisor and department manager for the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering

About Claire Lavelle

In 2012, Lavelle noticed her students were not having experiences abroad. When a request came to her office for an Education Abroad chaperone, she volunteered, and by 2013 was accompanying students to Swansea University – something she has now done many times. She investigated courses at Swansea and came up with a workable, life-changing program.

“Students who study at Swansea love the area,” said Claire. “It’s right on the coast of south Wales, the engineering buildings are literally steps from the beach, and students have the opportunity to travel all over Europe!”

Over the years, she has identified and visited other programs across Europe that are good academic fits for CSU engineering students, including the CEA Center in Paris. She is working to establish a bridge program like Viney’s, situated in Copenhagen with a focus on sustainability and clean energy.

Lavelle has worked with students from other engineering majors and guides advisors on the process of working with the Educational Abroad office and finding programs for their students.

She recently received the WSCOE Outstanding Service to Students Award and the Administrative Professional Star Award.