Wendy Schaerer

Greetings from Ithaca, New York!   I retired from Cornell University in 2009 after 28 years in international student services including advising, admission, recruitment and many professional activities with colleagues at other universities and schools around the world.   I must have feared not being busy enough, and so often found myself working long hours with the Unitarian Society board and in the refugee community in Ithaca.  I’m getting better, slowing down to enjoy extended family, friends and all this vibrant community has to offer and – oh yea – the health club.


After graduating I returned to my home state, (New Jersey), and got a job at Rutgers University in admissions, with a chance to focus on international students.  I joined what was then the National Association for Foreign Student Affairs, became the New Jersey rep. to the regional NAFSA, and met colleagues who’d play an important role in my career and remain long-time friends.    I also had the chance to return with a team to Brazil, my country of Peace Corps service, where we researched and wrote a volume used by U.S. colleges and universities for admission and placement of students from Brazil.  Beyond my “day job”, I taught a political science course, sang, and with a group of local women, set up a shelter for victims of domestic violence. Happily, I also found other NY/NJ based CIE grads, (John Bing, Michael Haviland, Roshan Billimoria & other occasional drop-ins), & we enjoyed regular networking, good food and drink!


 In 1981, I began a 28- year stint at Cornell University, first based in the International Student and Scholars office, where I did admissions, advising and orientation of international students and with the Director of the ISSO, administered a small financial aid program.  I relished being in the student service role for the first time & getting to know some truly remarkable students.  It was a very collegial workplace, and I engaged in discussions with Cornell’s undergraduate colleges as they set international enrollment goals and helped set criteria for a variety of exchange programs in which undergraduates were involved. It was also sometimes a workaholic environment, and my response to that and attempt at a work/life balance, was to adopt a baby in 1985.  She was born in Brazil in a maternity hospital that I had passed many times in my trips to the capital as a PC volunteer.   Adoption by single parents was still somewhat unusual in New York then, so for a while I also became an informal international adoption counselor!  My daughter, Gema, now 32, is an event coordinator for a company selling medical cannabis in Los Angeles.  


I retired in 2009 and became very active in various aspects of the local Unitarian Society, including serving on the board and more recently in stewardship/fundraising.  But my biggest undertaking   was helping a local Burmese refugee family.  In addition to the usual challenges, they have a now 6 year- old with cerebral palsy.  It’s heartening to see the kids benefit from a SIFE (Students with Interrupted Formal Education) program offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Urban Outreach.  Through after school and summer programs, it helps kids who lived a number of years in refugee camps with no schooling adapt and thrive in school here.  After 5 years working with the family, I’m cutting back somewhat & am spending more time with friends and family and doing some of the prep necessary to have my aging knees replaced. [8-18]


Email: wendyschaerer@msn.com


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CIE Graduate