Marilyn Trautman

Staffer spends 11 months down under

July 26, 2007

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By Diane Luckow

For Marilyn Trautman (above), a graduate and long-term employee of SFU, an 11-month job exchange at Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, Australia was a great way to gain new job experience in a new field.

An admissions recruiter for student services, Trautman advises and recruits students and evaluates their applications for admission. So it was a bit of a leap to jump into a job coordinating ANU’s international exchange program.

“I was dealing with both ANU students and foreign students, communicating with exchange partners around the world, and helping to make new exchange agreements,” she says. “It was very challenging and busy, but also very rewarding.”

New experiences and perspectives are the benefit of SFU’s international staff mobility program, which accepts applications twice each year from staff who are interested in working at, or visiting, foreign universities. Now, Trautman has the experience she needs to work in the field of international education, plus she brings back to SFU new ideas and procedures.

She enjoyed working as part of a close-knit team that worked together on all initiatives. “I felt very appreciated in terms of the effort I was putting in,” she says. “It gave me a lot of confidence.”

Trautman would like to see SFU’s Student Services develop a more team-oriented approach and says this may well occur under new registrar Kate Ross, who has already implemented bi-weekly, half-hour stand-up meetings.

The Australian university also had a very pro-active human resources department which offered a career-mentoring program and a career-advancement program to move people to the next level. “

My supervisor in Australia was very cognizant of where people wanted to go and the opportunities that would move them forward,” she notes. “It was very admirable to see that.”

Preparing to Go

Anyone contemplating an international job exchange needs to prepare well in advance, says Trautman. In addition to drafting a proposal and obtaining departmental approval, you may also wish to submit an application for funding through SFU International’s Staff Mobility Initiative (SMI). Deadlines for SMI application are January 20 and September 20 each year. Once you receive approval, it’s time to find a partner institution and someone who is willing to exchange jobs. “I submitted exchange proposals to six or seven partner institutions in Australia,” says Trautman, “and received two expressions of interest.” There’s also the issue of job pay and liability. Trautman says it took three months for the two institutions to finalize the contract and details concerning salary, benefits and workers’ compensation.

A wife and mother of a small child, Trautman also needed to organize her family’s stay in Australia. Her husband, a student at SFU, organized an international student exchange at ANU to coincide with Trautman’s new job. And Trautman had to wait-list her young daughter for ANU’s daycare. She was on the waiting list for six months but fortunately got in by the time the job exchange began.

Personal Highlights

Trautman found the personal opportunities of the exchange were just as important as the job opportunities. She enjoyed living on campus in a special facility for visiting faculty and staff, where she met people from all over the world. She and her family travelled extensively, visiting the Great Barrier Reef and also New Zealand where Trautman met up with 45 cousins. The relationships she developed with co-workers was another highlight. “They were all so welcoming and they went out of their way for us.”Trautman says she’s very grateful to SFU admissions for letting her participate in the exchange.For more information on international mobility programs visit

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