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Winter 2017

Azumi Ann Takata

Born in Japan and raised in sunny California, Azumi Ann Takata (or Ann to those of us on campus) came to Michigan in 1994 fresh out of graduate school. She was hired as the Japan specialist for the Department of Sociology, but in her 20-plus years at the university she has worn many hats. In addition to faculty positions within Sociology and the International Institute’s Center for Japanese Studies (CJS), Ann also worked with Michigan Medicine as a medical interpreter for Japanese patients, and with student services for CJS.

When the International Institute (II) combined its centers’ student services into II Academic Student Services, Ann made the transition to Graduate Academic Services Coordinator—seamlessly. And the depth of her institutional knowledge, willingness to share resources, and strong work ethic are traits highly revered, and exemplified throughout her nomination letters. “When situations are at their most complex,” notes a colleague, “Ann manages to juggle multiple options until everything is in place to benefit our students.”

It’s the rewards that come from helping students that Ann finds most gratifying, and being on the front lines is what keeps her here. She enjoys the direct connections developed within student services while still being involved with the Center for Japanese Studies via the Japanese Studies Masters of Arts degree—one of six masters of arts degrees currently offered through the II.

“The Center for Japanese Studies will always be a place near and dear to me,” she says. “It represents where I’m from, my academic training, and what I’m most passionate about.”

When not helping grad students at the II, Ann can probably be found in one of two places: singing in her church choir, something she’s enjoyed since middle school; or having adventures with her dog Penny.

Looking back on the career paths she’s had at LSA, Ann can’t help but notice, “I really ended up in an ideal job.” We think so, too, Ann.


Azumi Ann Takata and Dean Andrew Martin

International Institute Undergraduate Academic Services Team


Pictured (left to right) Kelsey Szpara, Bryna Worner, Sofia Carlsson, Nataša Gruden-Alajbegović, Folaké Graves
Article by: Debbie Walls and Bethany Christoff
Photographs by: International Institute Undergraduate Academic Services Team Members

In recognition of their initiative, tireless efforts, and passion for providing top quality student support, the International Institute Undergraduate Academic Services team has been chosen as the recipient of the Winter 2017 LSA Staff Spotlight Team Award. This innovative team provides support and guidance for over 575 students through interdisciplinary programs that allow students the opportunity and freedom to create a personalized path with a global theme or regional focus.

Team members include Sofia Carlsson, Folaké Graves, Kelsey Szpara, and Bryna Worner.

Folaké Graves has been with the International Institute for nine years and currently serves as an undergraduate academic advisor, as well as coordinates the International Studies student fellowships and International Studies Honors Plan. Folaké loves to travel and often serves as personal travel agent for her family and friends! Sofia Carlsson is a native of Sweden, has traveled extensively, and has worked in three different countries before settling in Michigan. As an undergraduate academic advisor, her key areas of responsibility include student advising, curriculum, and program coordination. Kelsey Szpara comes to the International Institute with a wealth of work experience including teaching at the high school level and working for an international law firm network and the LSA Academic Auditor's Office. Kelsey is an undergraduate academic advisor and serves as a liaison in collaboration with program coordinators in the International Institute. Bryna Worner provides a valuable perspective as a recent graduate of University of Michigan where she triple majored in International Studies, Political Science, and Spanish. As the administrative assistant for the Program in International and Comparative Studies and the Donia Human Rights Center, Bryna is responsible for a number of new student service initiatives that have greatly increased student and alumni engagement.

The LSA International Institute (II) is home to 12 undergraduate programs that pull faculty and resources from across the University. The II website states: “We Bring the World to Michigan and Send Michigan Around The World.” As you can imagine, managing and coordinating such diverse programs requires organization, communication, and teamwork. This collaborative and efficient team hits the mark every time. Their enthusiasm and commitment to their students is infectious. The team recently presented at the 2017 Advising Conference on Advising in an Ever-Evolving Institute to highlight the myriad of opportunities available to students with an interest in a global educational experience and spoke about overcoming challenges associated with centralizing academic services across the International Institute.

Study abroad is strongly encouraged for International Institute students, even though it is not required. However, if the International Institute’s Undergraduate Academic Services Team were granted one wish from President Schlissel, it would be to open U-M satellite campuses all over the world to allow every U-M student the opportunity to have a study, research, or internship abroad experience. Wouldn’t it be nice if all students who wanted to go abroad were able to achieve that goal? Many students are limited by financial constraints, and these advisors work one-on-one with their students to find funding opportunities that fit their individual needs.

When the team was asked about what makes them work so well together, their faces lit up with smiles and pride. They noted their complementary balance of personalities, their collective interest in working to identify new ways to serve students, and their sincere interest in including stellar student employees in programmatic goals. The team was also quick to compliment Nataša Gruden-Alajbegović, manager of the Global Projects Cluster, who provides outstanding leadership by encouraging the team to celebrate each other’s successes and supporting a genuine work-life balance. When not in the office, you can find the team enjoying events such as the Ann Arbor Color Vibe 5K Run or Shakespeare in the Arb! 


Pictured (left to right) Sofia Carlsson, Bryna Worner, Kelsey Szpara, Folaké Graves
Pictured (left to right) Kelsey Szpara, Bryna Worner, Folaké Graves

Fall 2017