Marlins welcome new Global Engagement director

Brooke Novkovic plans to grow the study abroad program 

and “take a little fear out of the process.”

Brooke Novkovic traveling in Stolac, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Brooke Novkovic|Courtesy

Brooke Novkovic succeeded Mandy Reinig as the director of Global Engagement at the beginning of the spring semester. Novkovic is returning to campus, as she previously held a position in Enrollment before taking a break to work elsewhere.

In her new position, Novkovic is excited to encourage students to study abroad.

“I don’t think there’s anything quite like experiencing someone else’s culture,” Novkovic said. “I think it’s really important for students to take the opportunity to do that.”

Novkovic described studying abroad as exciting, if terrifying, but important.

“It’s really important to understand how the rest of the world works,” Novkovic said.

When asked what she was looking forward to in her new role, Novkovic said, “It’s finding out how this experience changed someone’s life.”

She returned to take this position after a stint at a patient advocacy group. Unfortunately, she described difficulties with the position and they parted ways.

“I don’t have a single regret about trying it out,” Novkovic said. When the position of director of Global Engagement came up, Novkovic said she “kind of jumped at it.”

“I was so happy there was even a chance to come back,” Novkovic said.

 Students who knew Novkovic in her previous position as director of Enrollment for the Batten Honors College were happy to welcome her back on campus. 

Tyler Noll, a sophomore studying Environmental Studies in the Batten Honors College, was glad for Novkovic’s return. “She kind of welcomed us all to the community,” Noll said, referring to her role in Enrollment.

Noll studied abroad during the fall semester in Morocco. He described the transition back to campus as “pretty easy, thanks to Brooke.”

“She’s perfect for the position she’s in now. I couldn’t have been luckier,” Noll said.

 Kaza Dayton, a junior and Hispanic Studies major, studied at Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain during the Fall 2023 semester and plans to study abroad again in Puerto Rico. 

“Just from the start, I can tell how compassionate Brooke is, and I feel how well suited she is for the job,” Dayton said. “She really has that passion.”

Dayton said that on her study abroad trip, she felt there were issues that the previous director, Mandy Reinig, didn’t adequately prepare her for. One of those was the language, which was a regional language in Spain that she couldn’t speak.  

LEFT: Brooke Novkovic traveling in Windsor, England. RIGHT: Lyngdal, Norway. 

Brooke Novkovic|Courtesy

Dayton said she felt she and her companion didn’t receive enough support in another country where they didn’t speak the language. “It was really hard to have to figure everything out,” Dayton said.

Novkovic said that one of her goals was to “take a little fear out of the process of studying abroad,” both for students from VWU studying abroad and students studying abroad at VWU. When asked to describe the program in five years, she used one word: “growth.”

Novkovic is focusing on “having it be something that students look forward to while they’re at VWU,” she said. 

Novkovic said she wished more students would talk about their time abroad. 

“I don’t know that I’ve met anybody that went on their study abroad that didn’t have some really remarkable things to say about it,” Novkovic said.

Dayton’s experience is one such example.

“It was just this incredible experience that completely shaped how I view the world,” Dayton said. “Being forced into real adulthood was probably the scariest thing and the most incredible thing.” 

For Dayton, the connections made with others was a highlight of her time abroad.

“The best part is getting to know so many people from all over the world,” Dayton said. “I had friends from all over the continent.”

Noll expressed that the education he received from being abroad was impactful, particularly in terms of language.

“This country [Morocco] speaks a bunch of different languages from Arabic to French, none of which I spoke,” Noll said. “So I had to learn.” He took a class in Arabic and said it was fun, and picked up some basic French vocabulary.

Noll plans to travel abroad three more times in his time here, taking advantage of the Batten Honors College subsidizing some of the study abroad costs.

“Mandy got me where I needed to be and everything, but I’m really excited to be working with Brooke in the future,” Noll said. He described some transcript issues he said were neglected, but that Novkovic “swiftly resolved them.”

For Noll, Novkovic’s commitment is apparent.

“Brooke has a built-in feature where she goes the extra mile,” Noll said. 

Novkovic herself is well-traveled, and her advice to prospective travelers is to get out of their “bubbles.”

Novkovic gets out of her “bubble” by trying new foods.

“I love food,” Novkovic said. “I will try anything once.”

“I want them to have that most incredible time here,” Novkovic said. “They bring so much here.”

While students are excited to have Novkovic in the office, she is similarly excited to make it her own.

“I’m excited to really put my stamp on this,” Novkovic said.

By Victoria Haneline