A Tribute to J. Scott Van Der Meid

J. Scott Van Der MeidDear Brandeis Community,

I am writing with the sad news of the passing of J. Scott Van Der Meid, the Associate Dean of Study Abroad. Scott has directed the study abroad program at Brandeis University since 1999. Prior to his time at Brandeis, he worked for several years in Boston University’s Office of International Programs.

When Scott arrived at Brandeis, only a very small number of undergraduates studied abroad, and these students were overwhelmingly from families with economic means. Having grown up in the small, rural town of Livonia, New York, nestled in the Western finger lakes region, he developed his deep appreciation for nature.  With the support of his parents and his maternal Grandfather Max, Scott had the opportunity to study abroad in West Germany as a junior in high school. He also studied in Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan as a junior in college. These experiences helped develop one of Scott’s core values that all students, regardless of their background, should have the opportunity to study abroad.

Working with faculty, staff, and the administration, Scott led Brandeis to a home school tuition model for Study Abroad, immediately resulting in an increase in undergraduates engaging in study outside the U.S. Under Scott’s leadership, Brandeis was recognized as being at the forefront in sending undergraduates to Asia, Latin America, and Africa rather than the more traditional European destinations. Scott also worked with faculty to build the Brandeis in the Hague Human Rights Program, the Brandeis in Copenhagen Economics and Business Program, and the Brandeis in Siena Fine Arts Program. Scott quietly and determinedly led his staff to ensure that the diversity of the Brandeis undergraduate population was reflected in those students who studied abroad. 

One of Scott's proudest moments was in 2016-2017 when Brandeis University was named a top producing institution of recipients of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, ranking among overall recipients, and underrepresented populations abroad, including students of color, first-generation college students, low-income students, and students with disabilities. He was also passionate about promoting visibility and support for LGBTQ+ students abroad and helped create the annual Year Abroad, Queer Abroad event. Scott most enjoyed working one-on-one with students to assist them throughout the study abroad advising process. He leaves Brandeis with a legacy of helping thousands of students have the opportunity to study and live in another country, creating lasting impacts for the Brandeis community.

Professionally, Scott was a nationally recognized leader in the field of international education, and he is being mourned not only by the Brandeis community but also by peers around the world.  He served on advisory boards for CET, Arcadia University, IFSA-Butler and SIT Study Abroad. He was the past Co-Chair of the NAFSA Rainbow Special Interest Group, served as a founding member of the Forum on Education Abroad’s Advisory Council, and the National Committee on Underrepresentation in Education Abroad. He conducted research on the factors that influence Asian-Americans to study abroad.

Scott is survived by his loving husband Shinji Sato, whom he met in Japan in his junior year of college. They were legally married in 2014. He is also survived by his parents Bonny and Cork Van Der Meid. Beyond his love for experiencing new places and cultures, Scott enjoyed trying new food from around the world, photography, and cherished time spent with his friends and family. Scott traveled to more 60 countries over his lifetime; he had planned to visit Antarctica, the only continent to which he had not yet traveled, when his plans were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A virtual memorial service will be held on Thursday, August 20th at 4 p.m.; registration is required. In honor of Scott’s legacy and his outstanding contributions to Brandeis and the field of international education, a study abroad scholarship for students has been established in his name; the community is invited to contribute. You may also share a few words about your own study abroad experience, your work with Scott as a colleague, or any personal memories in this form.  The comments will be shared with his family as a lasting testimony to the incredible role that Scott played in the Brandeis community.

We celebrate the incredible impact Scott has made on our campus community. Over 21 years, Scott deeply and positively affected the lives of generations of Brandeis students, parents, staff, faculty, alumni, and friends. His boundless energy, invaluable perspective, and passion for global education will be deeply missed.

Kim Godsoe
Senior Associate Provost for Academic Affairs