International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) Staff

Michael Elliott
Director, International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS)

As Director of ISSS, Michael Elliott brings almost 25 years of experience in the field of international education. His areas of interest and research include international student and scholar success, leadership development, and strengths-based education.

Michael earned his PhD in leadership studies and his master’s degrees in both international studies and education. He is also a lecturer in the departments of Educational Policy and Leadership, Globalization Studies, and Undergraduate Studies. Michael presents at NAFSA conferences, co-authored "From Departing to Achieving: Keys to Success for International Students in U.S. Colleges and Universities," was a Fulbright Scholar-Administrator Japan award recipient, and taught high school science in Peace Corps Kenya.

Tara Evans
Associate Director, ISSS

Tara has been in the field of international education for 14 years. She earned her B.A. in Business from Life University in Marietta, Georgia. Tara earned her M.A. in Human Resource Management from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Tara’s area of interest is campus internationalization.

Tara oversees new international student orientation and is responsible for our J-1 scholar community. She is a member of NAFSA and a graduate of the NAFSA Academy (Class 10). Tara is also a member of the Residency Appeals Committee. She serves as the Liaison for Community Standards and Academic Advising.

Patricia Tierney
Senior International Student Coordinator, ISSS

Tricia Tierney began at the University at Albany in 2014 an Administrative Coordinator and has been promoted to Senior International Student Coordinator. Her special responsibilities include the Freshman Success program and SEVIS coordination. Tricia earned her B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Le Moyne College (Syracuse, NY), including a study abroad experience at the University of Warwick (England). Her M.Ed. in Counseling and Educational Psychology is from SUNY Buffalo.

Tricia was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. She has spent twenty years in international education and student affairs.

Kayla O’Donnell
International Student Coordinator, ISSS

Kayla O’Donnell joined the University at Albany as an International Student Coordinator in August 2016. Kayla earned a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in Global Studies from Binghamton University, SUNY (2013) and a master’s degree in the Humanities from the University of Chicago (2014). Prior to joining UAlbany, she worked in the Dean of Students Office and International Services office at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY.

Kayla advises F-1 and J-1 students and coordinates the Academic Success Program for students seeking additional academic support. She is also a member of NAFSA.

Jing Zhang-Benavot
International Student Coordinator, ISSS

Jing Zhang-Benavot, originally from China, joined UAlbany as an International Student Coordinator in August 2017. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 2007 in Xi’an, China, and a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from the UAlbany School of Education in 2014. Before joining ISSS, Jing worked as a research assistant in UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning in Paris, contributing to an international study of higher education quality assurance. She also worked 6 years for a major international semiconductor corporation in China.

Jing currently advises undergraduate and graduate international students, and advises the intercultural organization, Cultural Connections.

Mary Dinh
Graduate Assistant, ISSS

Mary Dinh started her academic journey at the University at Albany, SUNY as a doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction (Department of Educational Theory and Practice) in Fall Semester 2017. She earned a bachelor's degree and a master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and has worked on English instruction and language test preparation in Vietnam and in the States. She is a member of TESOL International Organization and also serves as the Secretary for Graduate Students Association (GSA) at SUNY.

Mary helps with ISSS's document processing, assists with Orientation, and assists ISSS in planning trips and marketing events organized by ISSS.