Ottenweller in Cape Town, South Africa,  left to right — relaxing on her balcony; exploring Camps Bay; enjoying an outing with her study-abroad family: Gabby Reichert, Muzi Zwane, and Senzo Mhlongo

Inside International Studies

Newly minted alumna Aileen Ottenweller shares her experiences as an International Studies Major and IU Little 500 rider

By Bruce Lilly

When Aileen Ottenweller left her hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the fall of 2008 to attend IU, she knew she wanted a degree with an international focus, but she didn’t immediately choose International Studies as her major. However, after hearing a friend praise the program for its outstanding faculty and engaging curriculum, she took a class in the program—and that sealed it. Ottenweller completed her BA in the spring of 2012 with a major in International Studies and a minor in history, while also earning a Liberal Arts Management Program certificate.

“One of my favorite things about the International Studies program was my ability to craft my education,” Ottenweller says. “My thematic concentration was global integration and development, which is more of the business and economics side of international affairs, and my regional concentration was sub-Saharan Africa. Being able to take business classes and other classes from all these different departments was a huge advantage for me. In my professional life, I can leverage a lot of different skills that I wouldn’t have gained from being tied down to one strict curriculum. This flexibility is a phenomenal plus in the program.”

On the ledge of Lion’s Head, overlooking the city of Cape Town

On the ledge of Lion’s Head, overlooking the city of Cape Town

The focus on sub-Saharan Africa influenced Ottenweller’s choices for language study. “I loved the fact that you could take up to three languages to pass your certification,” she says. “To someone who wants to have a career in international affairs, knowing multiple languages is really vital. I had taken Spanish in high school, so I continued with that and added French and Zulu. The African languages program at IU is excellent. I learned so much in a short amount of time.”

Ottenweller traveled to Ghana over spring break of her sophomore year and spent six months as an exchange student at the University of Cape Town in South Africa during her junior year. In Ghana she met small business leaders and learned about micro-financing for women. At the University of Cape Town, she studied development economics and social geography. “It was awesome to study social geography in the post-apartheid era,” Ottenweller says, “because it plays a huge role in how development problems manifest themselves not only in Cape Town, but in all of South Africa and in Africa in general today. It was a great experience.”

Little 500 track practice at dusk

Little 500 track practice at dusk

During her studies Ottenweller made time to take part in an IU tradition. An avid cyclist, Ottenweller rode in the Women’s Little 500 her sophomore, junior, and senior years, placing fifth in the time trials as a junior, and earning the designation “All-Star Rider.” Ottenweller’s team, Army, placed seventh in the race in 2010 and fourth in 2011. A crash during her senior Little 500 race led to disappointment, yet last fall she and her father, pedaling 103 miles through the mountains, completed Levi’s GranFondo, a challenging long-distance race in Santa Rosa, California.

“Cycling at IU was one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself,” she says. “The cycling community is made up of amazing individuals and teams. Their dedication to the sport should not go unnoticed. I love cycling and plan to continue racing after this year and pushing myself even farther by competing in a half Iron-Man next fall.”

Ottenweller is currently working in Indianapolis as a business analyst for Adayana,Inc., a management consulting firm that focuses on agriculture. She works with clients who conduct business all across the globe, which gives her the opportunity to utilize her knowledge of international markets and economics. Looking ahead, she sees a future that may include a return to Africa.

“At some point I want to get a graduate degree and do field research in a country in sub-Saharan Africa,” she says. “I would like to combine an MA and an MBA, and the new School of Global and International Studies and the Kelley School of Business provide a fabulous option for doing just that.”

Above, left to right: Ottenweller in Cape Town, South Africa relaxing on her balcony; exploring Camps Bay and enjoying an outing with her study-abroad family: Gabby Reichert, Muzi Zwane, and Senzo Mhlongo.
Photos: Zach Hetrick, Ted Orf, and Michael Rizzo