GTI Welcomes Two New Employees

The Global Training Initiative (GTI) has hired two new staff members. Adrienne Shank and Asya Ashour join the team as new programs assistants to help with the SKEMA and KAUST Gifted Student Foundation Year Program this year. Both programs will be in-person for the fall and spring semesters and will bring hundreds of international students to NC State from all across the world.


Meet Adrienne Shank

Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your educational background etc.

Hi. My name is Adrienne Shank. I am originally from Pennsylvania and moved to Raleigh in 2016. I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Millersville University in 2009 and taught Spanish for several years. I also taught ESL abroad in Costa Rica. I realized pretty quickly from these experiences that I wanted to help others reach across cultural boundaries and language barriers to communicate and understand one another better, so I decided to continue my education by earning a Master of International Studies degree in 2020.


What are you most excited about in your new role as International Programs Assistant for GTI?

When the International Programs Assistant position opened with GTI, I knew this would be a great opportunity to work with students from around the world. I am most excited about facilitating cultural competence education and cross-cultural conversations between international students and NC State students.


What will you be responsible for?

I am primarily responsible for assisting with our SKEMA Business School partnership. As a GTI staff member, I am excited to help orient, connect, and integrate the SKEMA students into the NC State and surrounding community.


What made you choose this field of work as a career? Have you worked in higher education before and/or with international students?

I worked for several years in K-12 school systems as a language educator, so education and breaking down language and cultural barriers have always been very important to me. I knew that I wanted to branch out from teaching language to working more closely with students on having cross-cultural conversations and developing cultural competence. I had two great internships while completing my master’s degree which solidified my desire to work in higher education and in particular within the field of international education.


Tell us one thing we might be surprised to learn about you.

I am a vegetarian. But wait, the interesting part is that I have been vegetarian for my entire life. Aside from the occasional first bite of a restaurant order gone awry, I have never eaten meat.


What do you like to do outside of work?

I love to travel both within the U.S. and abroad. Traveling and encountering new experiences and cultures is what makes me feel alive and as though anything is possible. I also really enjoy spending time outdoors while walking my dog, playing tennis, hiking, or kayaking. For rainy days, reading is my favorite pastime.


Are you an early bird or a night owl?

I am definitely an early bird! My brain shuts down in the evening, but I can get up early and jump into work or other activities right away if needed.


If you could only have three apps on your smartphone, which would you pick?

One of the apps that I use the most is Libby, which is an e-book borrowing app connected to libraries across the country. I also use various apps (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp) to stay in touch with family and friends across the country and across the world. Finally, I have several news apps on my phone so that I can keep up on current events. There are so many types of helpful apps that it’s difficult to narrow down!


Meet Asya Ashour

Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your educational background.

My educational background is the easier question of the two, so I’ll answer that first. I have a Bachelors degree in Accountancy from Long Island University (I was their 2013 Valedictorian) and a Masters degree in Accountancy from The City University of New York – Baruch College.

As for “where are you from,” it might seem like a simple question for most people, but for me, it’s much deeper than it is straightforward. I’d like to think of “where I’m from” as “where I belong,” since that wasn’t something I knew the feeling of most of my life. As a child, I lived in many different cities on the east coast of the US as well as in the Middle East. The longest I’ve stayed in a place was 7 years in Long Island, New York. Most other places we stayed for about a year.

My parents are two adventurous Palestinians with a passion for new places. That meant I had diverse experiences, but that I never really knew how to answer this question you pose. After going through my own journey of self-exploration, I can, however, say this: I’m a Muslim Arab American with Palestinian parents and the world as my home. I belong with humans everywhere and my heart is in Amman, Jordan.


What are you most excited about in your new role as International Programs Assistant for GTI?

First thing that comes to mind is coaching our cohort of Saudi Arabian students coming to the US (most for the first time) as part of their acceptance into the Gifted Student Program by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST/KGSP).

I’m also looking forward to expanding my knowledge and connections in the field of international education. Additionally to working at NC State, I run my own coaching business for young adults that I founded in Jordan, called World Canvas, and it’s exciting that the experience I’m gaining at NC State will provide growth opportunities in my own business as well.


What will you be responsible for?

As International Programs Assistant, I will mainly be working on programs relating to our partnerships in the MENA Region. This includes serving as the Program Coordinator for the KAUST Gifted Student Program (KGSP) and the Success Mentor for the Saudi Arabian students in this year’s cohort. I will also be developing and facilitating a Leadership Certification course for our students. And this is truly my favorite part of this position: how diverse (and fun!) the responsibilities are.


What made you choose this field of work as a career? Have you worked in higher education before and/or with international students?

In terms of working in higher education, I served as a guest lecturer in accounting at some universities and facilitated an English Conversation course for a university in Jordan. I also worked as a business and entrepreneurship teacher at a school in Amman, Jordan, which unexpectedly served as a most favorable plot twist in my life.

What really inspired me to not only pursue a career in education but also start a business in the field was my love and appreciation for teenagers. I saw myself – and every adult – in them: ambitious, inspired, blunt. They wanted answers, they sought guidance. But the education system doesn’t give them much. It was disappointing to realize that, in school, they learn about everything possible except themselves. And this is why we have people like me who major in one thing only to find out later in life that they don’t enjoy the career opportunities their degree provides. My passion for working in the field of education is so we can prevent this from happening to the next generation, and to improve upon it: by equipping young adults with the knowledge, skill sets, and awareness they need to make the right decisions for them in every area of life. Higher education is one facet of it, and being in the field of international education is a tremendous opportunity to make a difference on a global level, which I am grateful for.


Tell us one thing we might be surprised to learn about you.

I’m a lover of Muay Thai and was practicing in Amman at Meedan, a gym owned and run by a former Brave fighter and a (God-willing) upcoming UFC fighter: Hashem Arkhaga. I was planning on competing in international competitions until my shoulders got hurt badly and I had to stop for rehab. I will get back to it one day, though, God-willing.


What do you like to do outside of work?

I love yoga, travel, outdoor adventures, and hanging out with my students. I recently learned to enjoy staying at home to watch movies. I love solitude, praying to connect with God, and going on solo adventures (it’s how I meet new people). I also love to meditate and read Quran. Spirituality is something I enjoy tremendously.


How do you prefer to start your day?

I’m not a big fan of “starting my day.” I love sleep. I love lazy mornings, so I like spending the first half hour just lying in bed. I learned that grounded energy is the best type of energy, so I’m not a fan of “get up and get going!” – although I did do that for so long as a New Yorker. I’m surprisingly also not a coffee drinker. So really not a morning person.


If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

This is my favorite question anyone can ask me, and the answer is always the same: To Fly. To me, it represents travel, adventure, no restrictions. Simply: Freedom.