We Are UNCW Telling our story, one Seahawk at a time.

Jeffrey Palis

July 19, 2016

As an undergraduate at UNCW, Jeffrey Palis ’01 was all over the map when it came to choosing a major.

“I was on track to combine geography with courses in psychology, history and German to create my own ‘international human relations’ degree,” he said.

UNCW faculty member Elizabeth Hines, his advisor at the time, encouraged him to pursue what he was most passionate about, which she sensed was geography.

After graduating with a bachelor’s in geography and a minor in psychology, Palis enrolled at East Carolina University as an international studies graduate student. While at ECU, he completed an intensive German program at the Goethe Institute in Bonn and an internship with the American Chamber of Commerce in Austria.

“Through my connections from Phi Sigma Pi at UNCW, I received a job offer in international trade in the Wilmington area. Again, I went back to the advice of my advisor: was I really passionate about selling things or did I want to work with people, not products?” Palis said.

He declined the job offer in Wilmington and instead took a job at Georgia Southern University as their first study abroad coordinator. While working full-time at GSU, he earned a doctorate in curriculum studies with a concentration in multicultural/international studies. He was eventually promoted to associate director of international studies. In 2014, he was tapped as the first director of global studies and study abroad for Lamar University, a positon he currently holds.

The challenge of building something new is what Palis loves most about his job. Under his leadership, the study abroad participation rate at Lamar has quadrupled and a number of new student exchange agreements have been signed.

“Students have been studying abroad at Lamar for decades, but only in very small numbers,” he noted. “We're also trying to create opportunities for interaction between returning study abroad students and our 1,200-plus international students. These two populations have so much to teach each other.”

While Palis acknowledges it's hard to leave college for a summer or a semester (especially when college is close to Wrightsville Beach), he’s a firm believer that the best education is the one gained from traveling abroad.

In 2009, Palis spent six months as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Latvia writing his dissertation on global citizenship and cultural identity in the Baltic countries. He has been back five times.

“I’ve traveled to more than 60 countries and Latvia is easily my favorite place in the world not named North Carolina,” he said.

This past spring, he took a student group to Panama over spring break. “The CEO of the Panama Canal Authority is a graduate of my current university. That connection gave us unparalleled access to the boardrooms of the Canal Authority as well as the construction site of the new expansion project. We were so close to the boats on the canal we were able to talk to the ship workers moving through the locks. They were going from Houston – where we had just flown from – to China. The world is so interconnected.”

-- Caroline Cropp