Student Achievement Award
2015 to 2016
Inter American University of Puerto Rico, San German to University of Maine at Presque Isle
Major: Secondary Education
From the very moment I first stepped in Presque Isle, UMPI made me feel like home. The Coordinator, Leslie, her assistant Morgan, and their beloved Mary Kate were so attentive to me so I could have the smoothest transition from my tropical home into the harsh and white winter of Maine. There are no words that could summarize or describe how grateful I am of having this marvelous experience. I wish I have more space to mention all the names of the people that made my stay there incredibly pleasant, and my goodbyes terribly hard. I will always carry my professors, my roommate, my classmates, my peers and my students in the pocket right next to my heart. While at UMPI I became a radio co-host of the local radio station with other students and professors. I also joined the SEAM Chapter, and I was able to accompany them to a conference titled "Maslow Before Bloom" in Augusta. I also volunteered as a Reading Tutor in the After School Program at David J. Lyon Washburn District Elementary School, which was one of the greatest experiences I've ever had. Being able to work with students and becoming an active part of their education while seeing them getting better and better every day is something that I wouldn't change for anything. I will certainly miss high-fiving them as they say "Mr. Raymond!" in the hallway. In April, I also had the pleasure of being a presenter at UMPI's University Day where I spoke about Education in Puerto Rico. It was so gratifying to see people interested in knowing more about where I come from. Also, at UMPI, I joined "The Page Turners", which is a Book Club founded by students.
While I'm mostly shy, I found myself becoming more involved within the campus once I decided to join several student organizations (and to interact more with the beautiful community that UMPI is). I even participated as a "speaker" for the Education Program during Student Acceptance Day. I went shopping to Portland where I finally tried some chowder (what a killer meal). I also visited Machias, Fort Kent, and Ashland; I even visited the Canadian border, where I had a close encounter with a skunk. All in all, this program helped me to know and understand myself better. I feel more confident now, and I cannot wait to see more of what this diverse world has to offer. There is so much to see, so many people to meet, and so much to learn in this small world of ours! I highly recommend the National Student Exchange Program to those looking for a wild ride filled with "passion, adventure, and maybe a little danger.
Bette Worley Student Achievement
Award Winners for the NSE
Exchange Year 2015-2016
University of New Mexico to University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas
Major: Criminiology and Communications
In the spring of 2015, I discovered the University of the Virgin Islands, a university I could attend through the National Student Exchange program. The university, located in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., was in a beautiful location, with only a 5-minute walk to the beach. I had heard from my NSE advisor at the University of New Mexico that students loved their time at UVI and that it was a well-regarded program. After attending and having a great experience at UVI in the spring of 2015, I was thrilled when I found out I was able to go back in the spring of 2016. Thanks to UVI's NSE director, Dahlia Stridiron, as exchange students we were able to immerse ourselves in the Virgin Islands community. We performed multiple community service activities, attended cultural food fairs and the St. Thomas Carnival, and even went on trips to Virgin Gorda, B.V.I., as part of the program. Alongside the NSE activities, I volunteered as an assistant with the Family Resource Center in St. Thomas, and interned at the university's public relations office in the spring of 2016. During my second semester at UVI I also obtained an internship at the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands. As a now 1L in law school, I can't thank the faculty at UVI enough for arranging that internship with the Superior Court.
My time at UVI broadened my horizons, and put me in touch with people from diverse backgrounds and different upbringings. Between the fellow exchange students and the full-time students at UVI, I made friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. I would highly recommend that students go outside their comfort zone and experience the NSE program. Not only did I get to pay my home university's tuition, but I formed friendships with students from different parts of the country!
Wendel Wickland Student Achievement
Award Winners for the NSE
Exchange Year 2015-2016
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities to Western State Colorado University
Major: Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology
In reflecting on my year at Western, my National Student Exchange (NSE) symbolizes more to me than just what my accomplishments reflect at face value. The following achievements and experiences were immensely impactful in my life for my personal ¬growth and development and I will never forget them. My largest, most time consuming achievement was a full academic year of experience in my field of wildlife biology through independent study with a wildlife biology professor, Pat Magee. This independent study was made up of a couple different projects on red fox in the Gunnison Basin. In the fall, as part of an ecology group, I tracked movements of red fox in the Gunnison Basin in order to estimate autumn home range size and habitat composition using radio telemetry collars that we fit on the foxes. In the spring, a partner and I created an independent research project (crossed internship with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) thanks to Nate Seward) in which we analyzed red fox movement across their winter home ranges by snowtracking. This spring semester project took on a much larger scope with the involvement of the CPW in an internship along with Thornton Undergraduate Research Opportunity in providing research funding. At the end of the year, we presented our research at the Celebration of Scholarship poster session and oral presentations.
In addition to the red fox research, I also took advantage of as many opportunities as possible to get outside and explore the seemingly limitless public lands that the Central Colorado region has to offer. I adventured around numerous landscapes such as deserts, high alpine regions, canyonlands, transitional zones and more. Almost every weekend, I was given the chance to reach outside my comfort zone and try something I've never done before. Before going on the exchange I had never been backpacking, whitewater rafting, long-distance hiking, snowboarding on a mountain (my favorite new activity!), snowshoeing into a mountain hut, or kayaking on overnight trips. I even took advantage of wildlife biology club's spring break trip where I got the opportunity to help restore natural desert springs with the Grand Canyon Trust. Now, as a result of my exchange, I feel comfortable doing all these things. Through my NSE participation, I've completely altered my attitude on my physical abilities and personal connection with the natural world. In order to reflect on my personal development over the past year I created a digital story, that I published on YouTube (click here to watch!) describing my journey of personal growth and awareness. In reminiscing on my past year, I realize my life has been impacted substantially as a result of my exchange. I discovered the best version of myself on my exchange. Last year, I found a perfect balance between pushing myself academically and scholastically (by maintaining a 4.0 for the entire school year while conducting important research) all while having self-care time to get outside and do the things that make me feel human.
Michael Kaufman Ortiz
University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez to University of Colorado Colorado Springs
Major: Accounting and Operations Management
I was on exchange at Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA this past academic year. There, I immediately acquired a job doing marketing for the National Student Exchange program. Shortly thereafter, I became president of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) student chapter, where I not only reinstated the chapter at a national level, but also doubled student membership and flew in a guest speaker from Puerto Rico to give a conference on cultural intelligence. One of the most important aspects of an exchange, for me, is to make Puerto Rico shine in a positive light wherever I go, and these opportunities allowed me to showcase my beautiful island. I was able to convince the first ever UCCS student to come to the University of Puerto Rico- Mayagüez (UPRM) on her exchange; she is absolutely loving it. In my second semester of my exchange, I became a Spanish tutor in the campus' language department, where I discovered my love for languages and passion for education. I began learning American Sign Language on my free time. I was able to use my connections with the language department to create a language testing process for prospective candidates to Puerto Rico on NSE.
Spanish students were exposed to a Puerto Rican accent for the first time in their lives, and my host coordinators got to learn a bit more about my home and my culture whenever we would converse. The biggest beneficiaries of my exchange were my classmates, who worked alongside an islander and struggled with him through thick and thin. They taught me about their daily lives. What was normal to them fascinated me, like hailstorms, digging their cars out of snow and altitude sickness. In contrast, I could see jealous faces while I spoke about Caribbean beaches and Puerto Rican food, but we laughed all the same. To say my life has changed is an understatement. My life will forever be divided into pre-NSE and post-NSE. I am a more courageous, stronger, better version of myself thanks to National Student Exchange and its unique opportunity.