International Studies & Programs

Growing up Spartan

Staff Spotlight: Barbara Patterson

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Published: Monday, 10 Jun 2024 Author: Beth Brauer

Barbara Patterson in the Dean's office
Barbara Patterson, executive staff assistant

Barbara Patterson is one of two executive staff assistants to manage the Office of the Dean in International Studies and Programs at Michigan State University.

“I grew up in this building!” Patterson says with a laugh as she describes her career path in ISP.

“I remember being very nervous but grateful when I started my career at MSU. I’ve been a Spartan all my life by way of family and community. To work on this beautiful campus and to have access to the benefits and resources here, I consider myself blessed,” Patterson said.

Nearly 26 years ago, Patterson was hired for an entry level position in what is now the Office of Education Abroad formerly the Office of Study Abroad where hundreds upon hundreds of study abroad applications were received, reviewed and processed. It was the late 90s and early 2000s when applications were not digitized and everything had to be processed manually in the office.

“I was responsible for the entry and maintenance of the applications and making sure faculty program leaders reviewed, approved or denied each one,” Patterson said.

Within a few months, Patterson was promoted to program assistant and then later to executive secretary to Kathleen Fairfax, the study abroad director at the time.

“I’m not the same person I was when I started in 1998 at MSU and International Studies and Programs. When I say I’ve grown up in this building, I am more aware of the importance of international programming, engagement, awareness, diversity and the way we treat each other globally. That’s what I mean when I say I’ve grown up in ISP,” said Patterson.

I’ve learned the importance of intercultural relationships and diversity, and I have a broader view of the world.”

As Patterson applied for higher level positions and earned promotions, her feet were firmly grounded at the International Center on Shaw Lane. Woven into the fabric of ISP’s 20+ academic units, centers and programs, are the shared values of creating new knowledge and bridging communities.

“I’ve been comfortable in terms of belonging because of the diversity in this building,” Patterson said.

“Assisting Kathleen Fairfax was an important step forward in my career here. I may not have had certain work experiences prior, but Kathleen believed in me and what I had to offer.”

Barbara Patterson (center) with man and woman on either side
Barbara Patterson was honored at the University Service and Recognition Award Ceremony, recognizing her 25 years of service to the university. Standing beside her: L- Thomas Glasmacher, director of FRIB and interim executive vice president for administration, R-Christina Brogsdon, MSU vice president and chief human resources officer. 


Today, Patterson manages schedules for Dr. Robert Glew, associate dean for academic programs, and Dr. Isabella Tirtowalujo, assistant dean for administration and DEI. She is also the first point of contact for several programs and events housed in ISP, including the International Awards Ceremony and the Humphrey Fellowship Program, a Fulbright Exchange administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE), which brings professionals from developing countries to the U.S. She is also a member of the ISP social and events committee known as FuSe (Fun and Service).

“I love the relationships I have made here — it feels like family.