Student Achievement Award
2009 to 2010
University of Georgia to San Jose State University 2008-2009
Major: Childhood and Family Development/Theatre
Katie was excited to be going to San Jose on exchange but the excitement shown in her application for exchange was only a precursor to what she would experience. She wrote, "I have one of the worst cases of wanderlust of anyone I've ever met. I love to travel and explore. New people, new places, and new experiences excite me. I would love to explore the world, but want to start with our own country first. There is so much to discover!" She had no idea of all the experiences and discoveries she would have at San Jose and how they would change her life.
Here are some of her experiences:
Shamrock Showcase - Katie was one of three students in charge of organizing and coordinating a lip sync and dance competition at San Jose State University called Shamrock Showcase to raise money for the prevention of child abuse. Over 1,000 students attended and $11,600 was raised. All the money earned was donated to Prevent Child Abuse America, and the three students were recognized by the San Jose City Council for their outstanding contribution to the community.
Angels on Stage - Two of Katie's passions are theatre and working with children. She got to experience the best of both worlds when she volunteered weekly with Angels on Stage, a theatre group for kids with disabilities, working with them through their performance of The Wizard of Oz.
Vagina Monologues - Katie was excited to receive a role in San Jose State's production of the Vagina Monologues, a play associated with the global movement to end violence against women and girls by raising funds and awareness through its productions. The performances raised $3,173.77 for a local battered woman's shelters and anti-violence groups.
Student Touring Ensemble Program - Katie performed with The Student Touring Ensemble Program (STEP), a group of San Jose State University theatre students that travel to local high schools to perform plays focused on raising social awareness of teen issues. Talk-back sessions following the play allowed students going through similar situations to those in the play to ask questions, and get information about resources for help.
Diabetic Youth Foundation Family Camp - Katie worked at two Diabetic Youth Foundation Family Camp weekends and one Super Buddy Weekend to help teach families and children that are living with diabetes tools to cope with the disease in healthy ways and to live healthy lives.
Diabetic Youth Foundation Gala - Katie volunteered at the Diabetic Youth Foundation Gala which raised $100,000 to help pay for children to attend the Diabetic Youth Foundation's summer camp that could not otherwise afford to go. After her return to Georgia, she continues to fundraise for this organization in California that touched her so much during her exchange.
Girl Scouts of America - Katie was able to volunteer with the Girl Scouts of America in San Jose. Her aptitude for working with kids shined as she led seminars on topics like bullying and friendship to more than fifty girls ages 8-12 from local Girl Scout troops.
One of Katie's instructors wrote, "She is self-motivated and driven to tap the most from her own outstanding talents and intelligence. She also possesses a strong sense of discipline and responsibility, not just toward her own efforts but also-and most importantly-to the efforts and needs of others. Katie exhibits knowledge that personal goals of success, based in what one values and enjoys, are most achievable when they involve a focus on others. It is this kind of connection and communication within the larger community that she understands so well. Her open, accessible presence is a true asset.
Katie wrote about her exchange, "I learned a new level of independence and became proactive in ways that have carried over to life beyond my exchange. I truly believe that learning so much about myself and abilities gave me the strength to come back to UGA, refreshed and empowered to do good and make changes in myself and the world. I realize as I type this how cliché that sounds, but this is my reality. I knew I wanted to be a Child Life Specialist before I left for SJSU, but now I know exactly what kind of Child Life Specialist I want to be and where I want to be one. Now my goals are focused, and that clarity is invaluable."
About returning to the University of Georgia, Katie wrote, "I started a new campus group called "Dawgs for Diabetes," whose mission is to provide information and support for those living with and affected by type 1 diabetes." Faculty, staff and students have come together and now she has more than 120 members receiving updates on all the different activities, events and fundraisers that are going on in and around the campus.
But, as she said, she wanted to do more. She wanted to help the children of Athens, GA and partnered with a diabetes educator at St. Mary's Hospital to start a program for teens with diabetes called Diabuddies, a mentorship program using Dawgs for Diabetes to work with diabetic teens, aged 12-18.
Wichita State University to Stony Brook University 2009-2010
Matthew had made his mark on the Wichita campus before heading to Stony Brook. His home coordinator identified him as a special young man who was recognized as a distinguished scholar, actively involved in campus organizations and an engaging and caring friend.
His first experience at Stony Brook came in the summer preceding his NSE exchange through participation in Stony Brook's Research Experiences for Undergraduates, a National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored research program in Physics and Astronomy. He continued his research during his exchange and by December 2009, Matt and a student-colleague were named Co-Researchers-of-the-Month.
Matt's research advisor said that Matt excelled at his research. That research involved developing laboratory experiments for students using a retired accelerator, the 9 million volt tandem Van de Graaf in the physics department basement. This kind of work is nearly always based at a large accelerator facility and labs for undergrads and grad students don't include such experiences. Matt developed two experiments that change this dynamic using that machine.
The first experiment demonstrated nuclear fusion reactions and Einstein's famous formula E=mc2. The second experiment manufactured the isotope 11C which is commonly used in PET (positron emission tomography) for medical imaging (cancer) and for basic research in neuroscience (brain chemistry of recreational drugs).
The quality of Matt's work has been recognized in multiple forums. After being selected as "Researcher of the Month" he was one of a very select few who were asked to present a poster session on his work at the inauguration of the university's new president. Matt's 11C experiment was used in the class "Introduction to Research" taught as part of the Women in Science and Engineering Program. Furthermore, the 11C experiment became the basis for a one week workshop for high school teachers and their students. Finally, both experiments have been accepted as part of the standard curriculum for physics undergraduate majors at SBU as well as physics graduate students.
His advisor said, "I believe that Matt has excelled and is a top example of why National Student Exchange is such a valuable educational experience. Including just one student like Matt in the program has positively affected many. I believe that he reflects that highest goals of National Student Exchange."
When asked what motivated him to participate in NSE, Matthew wrote, "Adventure and intrigue for another geographical and cultural sector formed an impetus. Finding a renowned program in my chosen major providing challenging coursework and networking opportunities was another. Also, a more traditional college experience was a key factor at play in my decision to study elsewhere. Fundamental in the decision-making process were concerns over resulting personal and professional growth. The NSE program, even viewed from that position of uncertainty and paperwork, contains so many attractive features that it would have been foolish to have acted otherwise.
This experience has affirmed my chosen career path unlike anything yet undertaken. The National Student Exchange program jolts one into a state of profound awareness. It serves to place one on a secure footing as an upstanding individual in the modern world. It challenges one to create meaning from limited resources. My time at Stony Brook is one filled with memories to cherish for a lifetime. Armed with a new view to the possibilities, I find the future limitless as the term of exchange that very first, fateful day.
NSE offers a wealth of positive personal feedback. It allows one to construct an experience in a fashion entirely dependent on one's actions and interests. My powers of independence, of reliability and of responsibility all have increased manifold. This program even proved that I'm not a half-bad cook. Thrust into a fresh scenario at the onset, by academic year's end lifelong friends count among the items carried back to life at home campus. In direct thanks to this program, I am now more secure in my occupational leanings and have a sense for expectations that need be met as the undergraduate degree nears completion. I have never felt more at home within myself and more capable of realizing the potential this world holds. Participating in the National Student Exchange program will forever represent a critical stepping stone on the path I have now come to see lucidly."
University of North Carolina Wilmington to University of Alabama 2009-2010
In describing his introduction to the University of Alabama, Spencer wrote, "Walking onto the University Alabama campus as a NSE student I had a feeling of apprehension and excitement. This place was bigger than any campus I had been on and the theatre department was equally intimidating. I walked into my advisor's office and showed him my résumé and schedule. He went over it with me and asked me what I wanted from this exchange. After hearing how excited I was to learn and work in the program, he immediately began filling my class schedule with the most challenging courses he could. This would set the tone for my time on exchange as I realized how many opportunities the UA campus offered."
His advisor wrote that he had the pleasure of working with Spencer as his instructor in three classes as well as in theatre productions. He was especially impressed with Spencer's ability to grasp concepts that others, even graduate students, were struggling with. He said that Spencer goes above and beyond the normal call of duty to see any production succeed and that he was one of the very few students who has the attitude of working for the betterment of the production and not what do I get out of it. Because of his hard work and great attitude, the Theater Department decided to reach out to Spencer and offer him a merit-based scholarship.
While on exchange Spencer maintained grades that placed him on the Dean's and President's list, participated in numerous extracurricular activities both on campus and off which included theatrical productions and a winning Ultimate Frisbee team. In the theatre program he had a major role in one play and in others did everything from being a sound designer to a part of the props crew to a light technician. He also volunteered his time to work with international students and traveled with them over Spring Break to Boston and New York. In addition he did fundraising for Morgan Live, an AIDs outreach benefit, pledged APO (an academic/service fraternity) and helped organize a concert.
Spencer said that NSE was a wonderful experience and left him ready to jump into his career and see the world. He was challenged beyond anything he could have expected and with the help of his professors was able to succeed and grow beyond what he ever anticipated. He wrote, "I will always remember the people, the places, and the program that made it possible."