The new International Student Services director at Kansas University has experience as an educator and language consultant in Asia.
When Joe Potts was a junior at Kansas State University, he became friends with several people from the Middle East and Asia.
That was the beginning of Potts' career in international studies, which took him to Asia to teach and landed him a job at Fort Hays State University, about 230 miles west of Lawrence.
Today, Potts is the new director of International Student Services at Kansas University.
"I think international scholars and faculty are a critical part of higher education," he said.
"I believe from personal experience that international education is a very good part of higher education. The interaction of different cultures is a tremendous benefit and very important for the future of the world, so we have to take it seriously."
Potts, 39, officially began his duties as director of International Student Services on June 29.
But he and his wife, Sheryl, and their two daughters, Lauren, 6, and Kelsey, 9, moved to Lawrence in mid-July from Hays.
Potts was director of international student services for nine years at Fort Hays. He went from overseeing an office that helped about 170 students from 30 countries to one at KU that helps more than 1,500 from 100 countries.
"Some of the issues are different," he said. "The University of Kansas has more research scholars and more international faculty.
"Our office provides support for individuals in both of those categories."
But, he added, "The basic nature of the job will be somewhat similar, and that's advising, counseling and support to international students.
"There's a lot of crossover there, whether you're at a small school or a large school."
Before working at Fort Hays, he was a regional administrator for the Educational Services Exchange with China Inc. for three years in China, and served for two years as technical editor and language consultant for Katayama Kogyo Co. Ltd. in Okayama, Japan.
Potts is fluent in conversational Mandarin Chinese and in conversational Japanese.
He said helping international students with immigration laws and culture shock are two of the main purposes of the office.
"I suppose a key word that has to be stressed in what we do is service," he said.
"The main thing we do is serve international faculty and students. Our challenge is to figure out how to do that in a way that keeps students informed about immigration law and culture shock.
"We need to be able to help them in adjusting to a very different environment from what they're used to back home."
Potts said that many students from overseas have trouble trusting government officials.
"Our challenge is to convince the students that we're an advocate for them," he said.
Potts received a doctorate in history and philosophy of education from KSU in 1998. He also earned a master's degree in teaching English as a second language from KU, and a bachelor's degree from KSU.
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