Maria del Mar Aponte Rodriguez, former director of the Center for International Programs at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, has been named the new director of international education at Wittenberg.
Rodriguez, who goes by MdM, began her new role at Wittenberg on Aug. 21. She replaces JoAnn Bennett, who retired on Aug. 2, 2023, following 35 years of dedicated service.
MdM was one of a small number of semifinalists for the position, and even though she was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, she has ties to the region, having earned her B.A. in international and comparative politics from the University of Dayton. She also holds an M.A. in English in teaching English as a second language, an M.A. in international and comparative politics, both from Wright State University, and she is currently working on a Ph.D. in philosophy and cultural foundations of education from Syracuse University. Additionally, she studied for a summer at American University in Cairo, Egypt, in 2007 in the college’s Arabic department.
“What excites me the most about beginning this new role is the potential to shape and enhance the international education experience for our campus community,” said MdM, who has been in the international field for more than 10 years. “The opportunity to connect with students, faculty, and staff in a new campus is exciting.”
“MdM brings a wealth of knowledge of all aspects of international education and is poised to build upon a great legacy of one of Wittenberg’s core value, global citizenship,” added Provost Brian Yontz, professor of education. “I’m excited to see where international education, both welcoming students to our campus, but also sending Tigers out all over the world to study abroad, will go under MdM’s leadership. I want to thank the search committee for its great work this summer and for helping us bring Maria del Mar to our community. The future is extremely bright as we bring Wittenberg to the world.”
In her prior position at St. Mary’s, MdM coordinated all internationalization activities and initiatives, and provided vision and direction in the development of programs for the St. Mary's University community designed to promote cultural and international awareness and understanding. While overseeing the distribution of student scholarship funds for international study abroad, MdM also identified existing internal resources for internationalization among individual programs, departments, and schools, and brought together the appropriate people to develop and implement international initiatives across the campus. In addition, she implemented policies and procedures to keep in compliance with federal regulations and ensured proper maintenance of immigration records.
“What enticed me about this position at Wittenberg was the fact that I would get the opportunity to bring impactful change to the campus community through international programming, study abroad, and internationalization opportunities,” she said. “I want to expand study abroad campuswide, provide a strong international student service, and help internationalize the campus.”
Before St. Mary’s, MdM served as the campus outreach manager at Syracuse Abroad at Syracuse University and led a First-Year Seminar class. From 2016 to 2018, she was the director of the study abroad and international exchanges at the Center for Global Engagement at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (RHIT) in Terre Haute, Indiana. She also served the University of Dayton as the Europe Chaminade Pilgrimage Trip coordinator, helping to interpret and translate French and Spanish to English. While at Wright State, she worked as the international visitor leadership program coordinator and the study abroad scholarship coordinator, as well as a language learning supervisor and an English and culture instructor for the KAKE Japan program.
As a graduate assistant in the English department at Wright State, MdM taught English composition to both international and American first-year students with a focus on developing research, writing, reading, and analytical skills. She speaks English and Spanish fluently and has advanced to intermediate knowledge in reading, writing, and speaking in Arabic, French, and Italian.
Having previously lived in the Dayton/Columbus area for about 13 years, she is excited to be back here again, noting that it’s like a second home.
In taking over the reins from Bennett who was given the title of director emerita following her retirement, MdM inherits a program that has sent hundreds of students abroad and one that has regularly hosted international students on campus. Additionally, Bennett was instrumental in designing and implementing Wittenberg’s three current semester-long study abroad programs, including the popular Witt in Wittenberg, Germany, option, and she continuously supported students in other consortia-type study-away programs, as well as in special summer study abroad opportunities.
For more on Wittenberg’s international education program, click here.