A Woman with a Global Perspective
by Kari Sayers
“She’s amazing,” is a comment often heard when the conversation turns to Dr. Ariane Schauer, the new Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty at Marymount College. In addition, says Dr. Michael Brophy, Marymount’s president, “She is loyal, authentic, and perseverant [and] has been instrumental in implementing the college’s new four-year degree program.”
Truly, in a world of mediocrity, it’s refreshing to meet a woman with such a unique perspective and intelligence. Half Afghan and half Swedish, she was born in Hamburg, Germany, and lived in Afghanistan and England before coming to the United States in 1979 to finish her last year of high school at the French Lycee in Culver City.
Her mother and father met as students in Switzerland. He was studying engineering and she languages. “The first language the two of them had in common was French, so I grew up speaking French at home,” Schauer says.
“Wherever I was, in London, in Hamburg or in Afghanistan, I always went to small French schools that provided continuity throughout all this travel.” Her parents and a younger sister, who now all live in Southern California, also provided her with stability.
Away from school Schauer felt like an outsider. “I felt different,” she says. “I would go to Sweden at a time when kids in Sweden did not have dark hair, and people would point at me. And in Afghanistan people would point and talk, and I didn’t belong. In Germany, I went to the French school and again I was an outsider. My life has been a search for home.” She has found it in the classroom, in education, especially at Marymount.
After completing her French baccalaureate, she went on to UCLA as an honor student. “And suddenly everything was in English,” she says. “I had lived in London and had studied English in school, and I probably learned a lot of English through Elvis’ songs.”
Although she was interested in psychology, she decided to take a couple classes in economics to better understand interest and exchanges rates. Her grandfather founded the first bank in Afghanistan, and instead of pursuing a career in engineering, her father followed in the grandfather’s footsteps. “My father was in international banking, so I grew up hearing about interest rates and exchange rates,” she says.
However, the economics classes did not provide enough answers. “So I needed to take more classes until I got to the PhD program, where I figured out I’d better come up with my own answers,” she says. “That was probably the key lesson of the PhD program: to come up with theories, to have the confidence to create some answers.”
A 12-year resident of Rolling Hills Estates, Schauer started as an adjunct professor at Marymount, teaching one business class. “I didn’t want more than one class because I was a full-time mom,” Schauer says. That’s why she had earlier resigned from a tenure track position in the business department at California State University, Northridge. Now her two sons, one a sophomore and the other a senior at Peninsula High School, need her less.
“Because of the combination of the small school and the Catholic heritage, Marymount feels like home,” Schauer says. “I am very much here out of choice.” Marymount is, of course, similar to the schools she attended as a child.
And she has had opportunities for growth. Soon after being hired full time, she became department chair, then testing coordinator, faculty senate president, and now vice president. “We talk about the growth of our students, but we live it,” she says. And it’s not about ambition, she maintains. “It’s about responding to a need.”
As a vice president, she is responsible for the academic programs at the college, meaning the instruction, delivery and assessment. “And this year we are particularly working on the development of additional programs as we move to offer baccalaureate degrees,” she says.
There have been challenges, especially trying to be all things to all people. “I am coordinating and developing programs, and at the same time I want to be here individually and collectively for everybody.” It’s a difficult task, but there have been many rewards as well. “To be able to see the big picture, to see the college from a bigger perspective and to help shape the future with a good team is gratifying, she says. “I strongly feel that this is an exciting time for the college. This is a unique job at a unique time as we’re building on our strengths but growing in new directions and building the programs that we know our students need.”
Not surprisingly, she would like to see a greater international perspective in education at all levels, be it through geography, history or cultural exposure. “The United States can certainly continue to play a leadership role globally, but for that to be effective in the 21st century, students have to grow up seeing themselves as part of the global community” she says. “There are opportunities beyond our walls, [and] it is important for students to grow up with an understanding that other people’s views are valid too. The more we can understand and be aware of the global context, the better we can play our various parts.”
She met her husband Michael, who is originally from New York, on a job interview with Crocker Bank. “After my BA [she graduated summa cum laude], I got a job in the international banking division at Crocker Bank in San Francisco, and Michael was one of the interviewers. He is a financial guy, finance and administration,” she says.
For relaxation she reads. “I read sometimes for escape and sometimes to deepen my understanding of something I’m working on. I give myself reading agendas on topics in order to explore different ways of looking at something, and then I’ll go find three, five, or 10 books around that topic, read through them and form a view. I am pretty much always a student,” she says.
She reads equally well in English and French. “And when I really want an intellectual challenge, I read German,” she says. She also speaks Swedish but says that her Farsi is by now nonexistent. “I spoke it as a child,” she says.
Maybe she’ll write a book herself one day. “As a child, I felt that I would someday write a book because I would have something to say. Maybe I’m still waiting to have something to say.” PEN