Taso Lagos

Seattle, Washington, United States

Study Abroad Program Director, International Study Abroad Program Director

Being a study abroad program director is both an educational as well as soulful mission for me. I got into leading overseas programs as a way to bring experiential learning to students, but also to challenge them academically and morally. For many students, it’s one of the few times in their college careers where they work alongside professors. At the same time, it allows students the chance for personal and professional transformation. Not all achieve this, but enough do to make it a worthwhile event.

I established the Athens Study Abroad Program at the University of Washington in 2005. The UW is one of the largest top 50 schools in the country with about 43,000 students. It has a well-developed study abroad program that sends thousands of students yearly to every continent on the globe. Since 2005 I have led 14 student abroad programs to Greece and Spain.

Here’s just a bit of what we will cover in our PivotPlanet session(s):
• Knowing the terrain of studying abroad - what it is and what is not.
• Feeling comfortable in leading others in another country.
• How to handle difficult problems and challenges that come up.
• What you can do to help students change their lives.
• Why becoming a global citizen is a critical factor in developing professional and academic careers today.

For me directing a study aboard program is more than a job - it's a passion and an educational mission. As more of higher education moves to the online world, study abroad programs become increasingly important in promoting experiential learning and direct contact with faculty members. These may lead to special experiences, like doing a study that gets published in a peer-reviewed journal, or working with a non-governmental organization that leads to a job after college. It’s also an opportunity to see students open their wings and become confident, assured, thoughtful citizens of the world.

NOTE: Taso donates his mentoring fees to the Athens Development Fund to help low-income students study abroad and to help further our program.

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I was born on a small Greek island in the Aegean. My family home had no indoor plumbing or central heating. We were farmers and lived within our means. My family left Greece when I was eight, and we settled in Seattle. I did all my studies at the University of Washington, where I obtained my Bachelors, Masters and, in 2004, my Ph.D. A year later, after being inspired by volunteering at the Athens 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games, I started the Athens Study Abroad Program at the University of Washington.

I just completed my second book on studying abroad. The lessons I've learned about life and teaching from running foreign study programs are innumerable. It's not always easy being a program director; after all, you have several young people's lives in your hands. And sometimes students do crazy things abroad; but they also do some amazing things. A student group I led last spring helped raised money for a local charity. It was an eye-widening experience for all of us. I liken this profession to a combination of philanthropy, education, cultural enrichment and spiritual advancement.

Study abroad opens up students to ideas and knowledge that cannot be gained back home. It's a new world for students, and it is one that can change their lives. And for the better. In today's more "globalized" reality, all the more reason to be able to adapt to other cultures to have successful professional and enriched career paths.