Spotlight on Molly McSweeney

Molly McSweeney works as Assistant Director for Student and Community Engagement in the Pitt Global Hub, where she manages events and programming, serves as a resource about how Pitt students can internationalize their experiences, and co-administers the Global Distinction as she supports UCIS Engagement efforts. With more than a decade of experience in international programs, and experience living, working, and studying abroad, Molly earned an M.A. in Cultural and Educational Policy Studies from Loyola University Chicago and B.A. in Psychology from Dickinson College.

What brought you to Pitt? How did you end up in your current role?

Prior to working at Pitt, I’d worked in international admissions and recruitment at a public university in Virginia and in different areas of international education for several years before that. After living and working abroad for a few years and moving to Pittsburgh in 2020, I was interested in working again in international higher education. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, I was fortunate to connect with various individuals who work at Pitt, or who partner in some way with UCIS. This offered terrific ways to learn about Pitt and UCIS, as well as Pittsburgh, and little by little I wound up in my current role. First, I worked in a temporary Student Employment position in HR, then I landed a role as Community Engagement and Scholarship Coordinator in the Nationality Rooms and Intercultural Exchange Programs (NRIEP). When the Assistant Director for Student and Community Engagement position opened, I could not pass up the chance to throw my hat in the pot, considering my broad background in international education.

What does a typical day in the office look like for you?

During the academic year, when I typically work in person, I start the day by giving a look around the Global Hub to make sure it has a welcoming, presentable touch to it – checking the digital screens, setting out the schedule of the day’s events in the Global Hub, replenishing materials that provide information about the many ways students can internationalize their Pitt experiences.

Around mid-day, more students start to trickle into the Global Hub, there’s an uptick in things like language club meetings and Global Distinction Drop-In Hours, as well as other events, and more students generally wind up studying in the Global Hub as classes end and a fair amount of traffic passes through the first floor of Posvar. Wednesdays are typically the most hopping days, with various student language club meetings going into the evening.

Speaking of which, Global Hub events also occur in the evenings. I couldn’t do my job without such terrific students who work in the Global Hub during certain hours of the day and are available to assist with events and help answer questions that other students have about ways they can internationalize their Pitt experiences – for instance, through study abroad, language learning, joining a club, applying for scholarships, or getting involved in the local community.

In addition to guiding students and visitors in finding their way, some of the other enjoyable day-to-day things that happen in the Global Hub are greeting the Facilities crew that helps keep things in good shape, staff and faculty as they are on the way to and from their cars in the Posvar parking garage (a lot of people park there!), and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute students who stop by to enjoy “the movies” on the big screen, before heading for their classes down the hall. In this student-centered space, it can be interesting to think about who is a student and how people find themselves in the Global Hub.

What’s the accomplishment at Pitt that you’re proudest of?

While I’ve held a few different roles in my short time at Pitt, in many ways I feel like my accomplishments are still evolving. That’s definitely not to say that I have not accomplished a good number of things. But given the amount of change that we have all encountered in the past three years, I think it’s safe to say that understanding the impact of these accomplishments is a work in progress.

One thing that I am particularly proud of, though, is planting seeds toward instilling a sense of legacy-building, especially in students. A couple examples of this are renaming the NRIEP scholarship ceremony to Let the Journey Begin, which signifies students’ lifelong intercultural development and encourages continued engagement with the NRIEP, and contributing to the inaugural UCIS Digital Narrative Project, through which students who participate in summer global experiences add personalized digital content to the Experience Wall screen. I also encourage students who work in the Global Hub to think of ways they’d like to leave “their mark,” since they are so pivotal to the Global Hub.

As the NRIEP is nearly 100 years old, it is also notable that this is a historic moment for UCIS, as all six area and global studies centers have received funding from the US Department of Education. Having witnessed such dedication of Nationality and Heritage Room Committee members to providing scholarships that support Pitt students’ summer global experiences, and working in UCIS at a time when both the NRIEP scholarship program itself reached its 75th anniversary and the world is experiencing such momentous disruption, I’ve come to believe that reflecting on ways in which we can, individually and collectively, leave our mark and make a positive impact is extremely important.

When I think of the type of impact that I’d like to make, and the type of accomplishments I am most proud of, cultivating spaces of engagement, belonging, and inclusion is at the top of my list and the Global Hub is a remarkable venue through which I – in partnership with others – am able to do that.

What would you say is the most exciting project you’re working on now?

In collaboration with colleagues in UCIS and across Pitt, the Global Hub just recently learned that we are recipients of the Year of Discourse and Dialogue funding. I’ll leave this as a teaser for exciting details to come, but this grant will offer opportunities for UCIS and Pitt to explore ways that we can approach the notions of international experiences and global events in more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and constructive ways that are grounded in cultural humility and mutual respect.

What’s one fun fact that people might not know about you?

While I was recruiting international students, I had the chance to visit Mongolia. It was the most far out experience I’ve ever had, and I still can’t believe I got to go there. The people were so kind, and it was an adventure for the books – and well, I’ve had a few.

Favorite thing about UCIS and working here?

An easy answer would be the people, but I will add that there are so many incredible gems in the matrix that is UCIS. The NRIEP is one, although the gems don’t stop there. The academic centers each have their own plethora of goldmines (from certificates to events, and more). The vastness of incredible things happening in the Pitt Global Experiences Office and the Office of International Services is something that I am always trying to keep tabs on, too. The Global Partnerships team continuously cultivates impressive connections with institutions and individuals around the world, some of whom stop by the Global Hub for photo ops. And then there are affiliated centers…and well, more that can end up keeping one stimulated for eternity. It’s quite a place to work, and I feel lucky to have landed here!