PUBLISHED:April 23, 2010

Suzanne Brown awarded Duke's highest staff honor

Suzanne Brown sometimes describes herself as a “den mother,” but the international studies administrative director did more than bake brownies to win the University’s Presidential Award, an honor given to only five Duke employees every year to recognize unique and extraordinary contributions.

Brown was presented with the award at a luncheon held at the Washington Duke Hotel Thursday.

From sorting through the 700 international studies applications that eventually become a class of 85 foreign lawyers, to shepherding those students through the VISA-application process, to getting them settled in Durham, Brown wants to ensure an outstanding Duke experience for her charges.

“Basically I feel responsible for them, from the moment they’re admitted until they graduate,” she says. “As a department, we let them know that they’re not just a number, and we really do care about how they get here. When they get here, we try to be here to help them throughout the year.”

Associate Dean for International Studies Judith Horowitz nominated Brown for the award because of her ability to handle a wide range of issues and interact with students from all over the world. “The admissions process for new international students requires excellent communication skills, attention to details, and sensitivity to applicants from a wide range of cultures and levels of English facility,” Horowitz says. “Suzanne has many more attributes, and they all add up to making her just the right person to nominate for the Presidential Award."

Brown, who is pursuing a master’s degree in counseling, says that she enjoys doing a challenging job and finds her motivation in the students themselves.

“I think the best part, other than working with and for people who are congenial colleagues, is working with the students,” she says. “I treat them the way I would want to be treated if I was brave enough to travel to another country where I am not necessarily familiar with the language or the culture. I’m in awe of them, and I treat them likewise.”