Cultural exchange coordinator
Tasha Dev turns students into citizens of the world
If America is a melting pot, then Tasha Dev is one of the people stirring the brew.
Dev is the study abroad coordinator at Chico State and operates her mini-Ellis Island from a cramped office on the second floor of Tehama Hall.
“I wear about a thousand hats around here,” Dev said, letting out a soft chuckle.
Well, maybe not a thousand, but close. Her duties include overseeing all study abroad recruitment, working with the incoming and departing students, conducting workshops and monitoring the program’s budget.
Indeed, Dev is one of those rare people who are as busy as they think they are. Trying to waltz into her office for a chat is like walking into New York’s poshest restaurant and demanding a corner booth.
Dev is a supremely radiant woman. Her smile naturally stretches wide across her face, where it seems to be etched permanently. Her raven hair—full of waves and curls—remains pulled back tightly in a neat bun.
Dev is an alumna of both Chico State and its overseas-studies program. She spent a semester in Mexico, and her reaction seems funny considering how much she travels now.
“The entire experience was terrifying,” Dev said. “I’m kind of shocked I got on the airplane.”
Dev ended up enjoying the experience enough to sign up to study abroad again, this time for a full year in Spain.
“It opened up my eyes to the world,” Dev said, “taught me so much about American culture, the American way of life.” The experiences also helped mold her idea of global politics, career plans and perceptions of America. Now Dev, who is married to fellow Chico State professor Sanjay Dev, from Nepal, travels every chance she gets—often to study-abroad conferences.
Chico State had a study abroad coordinator when Dev was a student, but she said guidance was slim. When the job fell in her lap, Dev felt the need to change that.
Chico State senior Danielle Salvato—a member of the mentorship program Dev directs, which partners former Study Abroad students with incoming students from foreign countries—spent the spring 2005 semester in Italy.
“I was really having second thoughts about if I had made the right decision or not by going to Italy,” Salvato said. “The first thing Tasha did at orientation was make the students give ourselves a big round of applause, and then she told us she was proud of us. By the end of orientation, she made me feel like I was being a better person because of what I was about to do.”
Salvato mentors Christina Selvner, a native of Mexico spending this semester at Chico State. When speaking about Dev’s contributions since her arrival, Selvner’s face lights up.
“She is amazing, “ Selvner said. “She will do anything to make you feel comfortable. She goes out of her way to make sure you have a good time here. “
The mentorship program is a key example of Dev’s attempt to help integrate the exchange students as cleanly as possible. By eliminating the “us and them” barrier, Dev said, students become citizens of the world rather than just their native land. As an example she points to the fact that 85 percent of Danish students study abroad compared with the United States’ 5 percent.
“Denmark hasn’t declared war on a country for God knows how long,” Dev said. “It’s so hard for me not to believe there’s some sort of correlation.”