UMSL Global’s Jessica Lynn Hylton named chair-elect for 2023 NAFSA Region IV leadership team

by | Feb 6, 2023

She'll serve a three-year chair stream for NAFSA, the world's largest association dedicated to international education and exchange.
Jessica Lynn Hylton

UMSL Global’s Jessica Lynn Hylton snaps a selfie during a past New International Student Orientation. Hylton was recently named chair-elect for the 2023 NAFSA Region IV leadership team. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Jessica Lynn Hylton feels lucky to have had people early in her professional career who took an interest in her future, encouraged her, and helped her cultivate her skillset.

In her new role as chair-elect for the 2023 NAFSA Region IV leadership team, she hopes to offer that same level of support for fellow international educators across the region. NAFSA is the world’s largest association dedicated to international education and exchange, serving more than 10,000 members in over 160 countries. The organization is broken into several regions, and Missouri is part of Region IV, along with Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Hylton, who serves as Director of Internationalization Strategies and International Student & Scholar Services for UMSL Global at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, officially started in the chair-elect position on Jan. 1. The chair stream is a three-year position, so Hylton will serve as chair-elect for one full year before assuming the position of chair on Jan. 1, 2024, and past chair the following year.

The chair stream plays a crucial role in planning and executing each year’s regional conference, communicating with NAFSA’s executive leadership team, and disseminating information to the members of the region.

“It does not sound like a lot when you boil it down, but it is a lot of work,” Hylton said with a laugh. “There are a lot of moving parts. We represent not just our universities, but our states and our regions because we will also meet with other chairs throughout the United States and form that kind of network of leadership. Something I take very seriously is bringing up young professionals into leadership and in the profession.”

Hylton formerly served as Region IV’s communications coordinator before being nominated and elected to the chair stream. In the new role, she hopes to be able to provide mentorship and support for international educators at other campuses that may have less resources for internationalization.

“UMSL Global has immense support from the university for internationalization, our international students, and our study abroad programs,” she said. “It is great to be part of the NASFA network of people to reach out to and say, ‘Can you help me with this?’ or ‘Do you have any ideas about this?’ NAFSANs really like to share with each other and it is wonderful to be at a university that supports internationalization so I can pass on that awesome spirit of cooperation to others. I aim to bring people together, use the network to support fellow international educators, and do for others what was done for me. I was very lucky in my early professional career that I had people who believed in me, wanted me to achieve, and gave me the tools I needed to get where I am. I feel like that is what I need to be doing for others.”

Hylton has worked in higher education since 2005 and in international education since 2012. She first came to UMSL Global in July 2021 as an internationalization strategist, which involved supporting the university’s international recruiting operations through marketing efforts and data analysis. In January 2022, she was promoted to her current role as Director of Internationalization Strategies and International Student & Scholar Services. Her position involves much of the same responsibilities from her first position, but she also now leads International Student & Scholar Services and serves as UMSL’s Primary Designated School Official (PDSO).

“My most important responsibility is to make sure UMSL has the legal immigration compliance piece in line and can continue to welcome international students to our campus,” she said. “I am still doing the internationalization strategies part to help enroll international students at UMSL and then the ISSS team helps retain and support those awesome international students we worked hard to bring and welcome to campus.”

As she wraps up her first month in the chair-elect position, Hylton is grateful for the support of her colleagues at UMSL Global, especially Liane Constantine, executive director of UMSL Global and senior international officer, as well as the regional leadership team at NAFSA.

“I am very honored to be in the position with NAFSA and also to be here at UMSL,” she said. “If you look at my social media, you will see I am always very positive about UMSL and NAFSA because I believe strongly in both institutions.  I am very happy to have the privilege of being in the role I am in at the university, working with all the amazing people at UMSL Global, serving UMSL’s international students, and to be allotted this opportunity to serve NAFSA as well.  This position is not just for me, it is for the people who are with me now and who have supported me through my journey. It is not just for me; it is for everybody.”

Heather Riske

Heather Riske