“We all want to see each other be successful,” says Patrick Parnell

Patrick Parnell, Director of International Services at Missouri State University and Chair of Study Missouri Consortium.

Patrick Parnell’s work as Chair of Study Missouri Consortium is driven by a desire to give others the kind of life-changing global experiences he first had in 1995.

Patrick, who grew up in St. Louis, wanted to take his high school Spanish studies to “a new level” by traveling abroad through AFS-USA between his junior and senior years.

“I ended up off the grid in northern Argentina near the border with Paraguay,” he recalls. “It was totally different than what I imagined Argentina to be. It was mind-blowing and amazing.”

Patrick, who lived in Argentina for three months with an “incredible” family, was completely immersed in the Spanish language, both at school and at home.

“I was forced to really stretch and to challenge myself and to do the best I could,” he says. “I became a better problem-solver. I became somebody who was more dynamic and more able to go with the ups and downs, the ebb and flow of life.”

After his study abroad experience, Patrick knew he wanted to major in Spanish in college. He also planned to study Portuguese, but when his school, the University of Denver in Colorado, didn’t offer Portuguese, he chose Italian instead.

“Before I knew it, I was spending the fall of my sophomore year in Bologna, Italy. I took actual classes in Italian and language support courses at the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the Western World. I lived independently with another Italian student in an apartment. Again, it was just a killer experience.”

Patrick (far right) with his host family in Uruguay in 1999 during his study abroad program.

As a senior at DU, Patrick spent the year studying abroad in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, through ISEP. He enrolled at the Catholic University of Uruguay. Having a third immersive study abroad experience “sealed the deal” for him to pursue a career in international education.

“I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do for a career, but that really propelled me,” he says. “For me, it wasn’t only about the culture, but about language and the importance of foreign language and the importance of being bilingual in the world.”

In addition to his work with Study Missouri, Patrick is director of international services at Missouri State University, a position he’s held since 2013. Prior to that he worked at the study abroad office at the University of Missouri-Columbia for four years, then at the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service as an international trade specialist for five years.

Patrick knew of Study Missouri, a consortium that works to make Missouri a preferred study destination for international students. But he didn’t get involved until he learned from colleagues that the organization was looking for someone to represent the consortium at NAFSA in 2016. Patrick raised his hand.

“I was pulled in immediately,” he says, calling Study Missouri a “perfect fit” for him. “It was exactly what I love to do in terms of promoting the state of Missouri to people from around the world and sharing information about the institutions and opportunities here. While I have a very expansive view of the world and strong pull to be in other places, I still have a local pull as well. This is where I grew up. This is where my roots are. I see a lot of opportunity here.”

Patrick representing the Study Missouri Consortium at NAFSA, 2016.

Prior to the pandemic, the consortium was “on a good trajectory,” Patrick says. “We were building speed. We had upwards of 40 members across the state.”

But everything changed in spring 2020 when the pandemic hit. Membership numbers plummeted just before he was named chair of Study Missouri in summer 2020.

“I’m in a comeback position right now,” Patrick says. “I’m very optimistic that, with my colleagues and friends across the state, we can successfully achieve that comeback.”

The value of being a member of Study Missouri, Patrick says, is four-fold:

  • First is for institutions to advocate for international education opportunities in Missouri.
  • Second is to develop relationships with other institutions across the state that can provide resources to others in the field.
  • Third is to promote the state of Missouri overall.
  • And fourth is the activities and programing Study Missouri promotes, such as International Education Day at the state capitol, which was held virtually in 2021.

“This is a rebuilding period,” Patrick says. “I think we’re poised to be successful in 2022. There’s definitely room and opportunity that exists with the state consortium. I think it’s really important that we think about our collective power in international education in the state of Missouri. We all want to see each other be successful. If you care about where you live, you want to see where you live be a better place.”

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Via TRM believes global experiences will change our world. That’s why we created traveler relationship management and travel risk management software, which helps universities and study abroad program providers to empower global experiences. With this blog, we’re looking to feature people who, like Patrick, share Via’s “why.” If that’s you or one of your colleagues, tell us more. We might just feature you here!

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