Mylrea Named Director of International Student Affairs

Tennessee Tech University's new director of International Student Affairs, Brian Mylrea, has spent much of the last 10 years in the rural South -- of Japan, that is. So living in Tennessee and experiencing southern hospitality in the past few weeks has been a new and pleasant experience for him and his family.

Mylrea, who officially began his duties on Jan. 4, says he hopes to continue the success of the office he's inheriting from former interim director, Carolyn Dudney.

"My family and I feel so welcome here; there really is something special about the hospitality of this university and this community," he said.

After earning his bachelor's degree in international relations and French from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Mylrea traveled in Europe for a couple of years and became familiar with the additional languages of Italian and Spanish. He then decided to move to Japan to broaden his experiences with international education.

On a remote island in southern Japan near Taiwan, Mylrea taught English to Japanese elementary and junior high students, first at a private school, then in a rural, public school system for the last six years.

He and his wife, Sachie, whom he met in Japan, then decided to move to the United States to educate their daughters, 6-year-old Emily, and 3-year-old Sara. After a brief time working at the University of Wisconsin at Madison admissions office, he was named director of TTU's International Student Affairs office.

"I know what it's like to live in a country where you are unfamiliar with the culture and the language," he said. "My first couple of years in Japan, it was very much a sink or swim situation.

"The little things add up to your contentment or frustration with a new culture -- going to the bank, ordering in a restaurant -- there are all kinds of cultural adjustments students have to make, and we want to be the best resource possible for them."

Mylrea says the office now serves more than 200 students, about three-fourths of whom are graduate students. Although there's currently no direct recruiting of international students -- most enroll on the recommendation of family or friends -- one of his goals is to see those numbers go up.

He also says he sees evidence of a very strong host family organization helping students become a part of the community.

"Host families are important to international students," he said. "In my experience, it's common for students from the same countries and cultures to initially stay close to each other, and host families give them a safe, comfortable way to explore their new culture and meet new people.

"I think this is a great opportunity to work with a well-organized and successful program," he said. "I'm excited to be here."