SRU says “Adios,” “auf wiedersehen,” “totsiens” to Frigot
Nov. 23, 2015
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Pam Frigot, Slippery Rock University director of Global Engagement, has announced her Dec. 25 retirement, closing a 34-year career during which she has more than doubled the size of the international program.
Frigot has served as an international student recruiter, adviser and office director. Her leadership helped grow foreign enrollment from 60 undergraduates a year to as many as 245 and led to 26 new international partnerships. More than 2,000 international students have enrolled during her tenure.
That's a summary of her office-chief accomplishments. Frigot also contributed to the International Dinner menu, helped students with visas, explained American customs and even provided 3 a.m. rides.
"There are stories, there are always stories," she said. "I regret not writing a book of all the interesting experiences with students and programs. I tell our international staff now, 'Write your book, start writing all these things down.' They just happen one after another."
Frigot said her proudest accomplishments include formalizing an international student program, growth of the international spring break seminar and keeping a tradition going, having just completed the 41st Annual International Dinner. The dinner, featuring recipe's submitted by international students and entertainment, has grown to 400 people annually.
"It's one of the longest standing traditions at Slippery Rock," she said.
Frigot said she always approached her job and relationship building with foreign students in the courteous manner she would hope to encounter overseas. She has been to 37 countries.
Her connection to SRU goes back to the mid 1970s. A Greentree native, Frigot said she enrolled as a physical education major but realized quickly it was, "Not for me." Influenced by former communication professor Roy Stewart, Frigot said she switched to communication and "never looked back."
Frigot received her undergraduate degree in communication in 1979 and master's degree in English in 2011.
As a student, she worked for the SRU new student orientation program during the summer because her father's dry cleaning business was "stinking hot." The orientation position introduced her to the idea of a career in higher education. She landed an internship at Grove City College, and then as an assistant director for admissions at SRU, became involved in international recruitment.
"They looked at me and said, 'Oh, you'll be interested in doing that. You like to travel. They were dangling that carrot," Frigot said. "I thought, 'ok, I can do this. I started with what we had at that time, a very small international student population, and we went on from there."
Frigot said she considered a career in human resource management or internationalism. Living in London for 18 months in the 1980s - her only SRU employment break - Frigot met her husband Barry and decided she'd like to work with international students. The Frigot's have one son, Tim, who is in his final year in SRU's doctor of physical therapy program. They live in Mars, Pa.
Reflecting on the changes over the years, Frigot noted that recruitment in the pre-Internet years was a much simpler process.
"Back in the day, we used to send a paper catalog to educational centers; we built a data base of international schools, advising centers and institutions where international students came from," she said. "And every two years, we would do this massive mailing. Back then; if your catalog was not on the bookshelf, you didn't exist. As long as our catalog was there, we had a chance of getting students. That's how we got our foot in the door."
Today, that is no longer the case.
"Today, you have to have multiple prongs to recruit international students," Frigot said. "You need to have a solid Web presence and outreach. Sometimes you need to have someone in the country, or visit, or build a partnership with an institution, or work with recruitment agents. Recruitment has really changed over the years."
Frigot said part of her approach was to help international students adjust but not to coddle them to the extent of becoming an enabler.
"We welcome them with open arms. We serve them extremely well when they get here," she said. "We help them acclimate to American. We help them acclimate to America, SRU and western Pennsylvania. We always try to do much for students when they arrive here, and then we slowly let the apron strings go, so that they can begin to function independently."
Truth be told, Frigot has provided "mothering" as well, helping students with language barriers, homesickness and class scheduling.
"You would not believe the number of international alumni who will tell me, 'Pam I never could have gone to a large school. I needed a school like Slippery Rock University, where there is an environment of caring and nurturing, where faculty took the time to listen and help me with all kinds of things, including recommendations for graduate school or jobs. They then went on to excel over graduates from more prestigious intuitions," Frigot said.
Frigot cites her years as student recruiter and adviser as career highlights.
"I'm also really proud of our alumni relations we have with our (international) alumni," she said. "I hear from a large number, I see them when I travel, I see them on Facebook and LinkedIn. I see them when the come to visit. That's been most rewarding because we have become friends over the years, and I can see how SRU has helped them succeed."
She's also proud of helping to grow spring break opportunities from five or six programs to 21 for spring 2016. SRU is nationally ranked for the number of students it sends overseas in short-term study away programs.
There were many other accomplishments. Frigot has received SRU's Woman of Distinction Award and President's Award for Outstanding Service.
She served two terms on the board of directors for the Pennsylvania Council for International Education. She was SRU's SCUPA representative and state treasurer. She coordinated Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education International Officers Group for eight years, coordinated the Pittsburgh Area NAFSA-Association for International Educators Networking Group for four years and served on the NAFSA Trainer Corps.
Frigot consulted for The Open Society Institute in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovak Republic, Croatia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
She said domestic SRU students benefit from the multicultural aspect foreign students brings to campus, she said.
After her retirement, Frigot said she has no immediate travel plans, international or otherwise. Her plans are to read for pleasure, convert her springtime weed garden back to a flower garden, sleep in, golf and exercise more.
"I also want to cook using all the recipes people have given me," she said.
SRU is in the processing of endowing a scholarship in Frigot's name to support where her heart has always been - international students.
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