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JumpstartTU wins IIE Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation

The University of Tulsa’s JumpstartTU program has been recognized by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with the annual Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education. TU was honored Jan. 27 at the January meeting of the IIE Board of Trustees. JumpstartTU and the other programs that received the prestigious award are at the forefront of developing new models to build international partnerships, internationalize campuses and promote study abroad. The awards recognize the most outstanding initiatives among the member campuses of the IIE Network, IIE’s membership association of more than 1,300 higher education institutions.

andrew heiskell award
TU Vice Provost for Global Education Jane Kucko accepts the award in New York.

TU and the other winning universities will receive a cash award of $1,000 and a certificate from IIE’s president. Representatives from those institutions will make presentations to the board that highlight their programs and promote best practices, and participate in a conversation about the future of international education.

The four winners and three honorable mentions represent the broad diversity of higher education institutions in the IIE Network. They include a community college and major research universities and institutions from Pennsylvania to the South Island of New Zealand. The programs these institutions run take their students all over the world and bring international issues to campus. They demonstrate the important work being done to prepare students for a competitive labor market that prizes the ability to work across cultures and encourage them to develop a better sense of their own roles as global citizens. IIE’s core mission is to advance scholarship, build economies, and promote access to opportunities; we are aided in this by our close partnerships with like-minded institutions like this year’s Andrew Heiskell Award honorees.

Andrew Heiskell AwardTU is the winner of the study abroad category. JumpstartTU is a one-week experiential trip the summer before a student’s freshmen year that blends learning about another country and culture with field experience alongside local partners in Panama to discover global issues in an international context. Students who have attended JumpstartTU report having a cohort of friends before beginning TU, stronger confidence that they will succeed and an enhanced view of the world in which we live. Faculty and staff team leaders are inspired by the program, interact with the students at a deeper level and return to campus with energy to look at their work differently with enhanced global perspectives.

IIE Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education Winners

Internationalizing the Campus
Winner: Rice University, Brasil@Rice
Honorable Mention: Texas A&M International University, Reading the Globe

Internationalizing the Community College Campus
Winner: Harper College, The Global Region of Focus Initiative

Winner: Lehigh University, Lehigh University / United Nations Partnership
Honorable Mention: Kansas State University, The Australian Initiative and Oz-to-Oz Program

andrew heiskell awardStudy Abroad
Winner: TU, JumpstartTU
Honorable Mention: University of Otago, Tūrangawaewae, Pōkai Whenua

About the Institute of International Education
The Institute of International Education (IIE) is the leader in providing international education strategies and program services. We work with policymakers, educators and employers across the globe to prepare students and professionals for the global workforce and equip them to solve the increasingly complex challenges facing our interconnected world. With support from donors, we also create initiatives that protect students and scholars in danger, expand teaching and learning across cultures, and provide opportunities to underserved populations. A not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has a network of 18 offices and affiliates worldwide and over 1,300 member institutions.

Biology abroad: ISL student realizes her full potential with TU dual degree

Biological sciences and German senior Alyssa Williams is on track to become the first student to officially complete The University of Tulsa’s new International Science and Language program. Few students take on the challenge of earning two complex degrees in just five years, but Williams is expected to graduate next spring after studying both majors.

Biology + German

The Broken Arrow native took German language courses in high school, and when the program eventually was eliminated, she focused on her other interests in science. “I had a lot of cool biology teachers in high school, so I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” she said.

international scienceShe enrolled at TU to pursue biology, but during her freshman year, she met a friend who was studying German. Williams often did homework with her and by the second year of college, she was adding German classes to her schedule. A year later, David Tingey and Victor Udwin, associate professors of German and comparative literature, told Williams about a new program launching at TU. The International Engineering and Language or International Science and Language program enables students to study an engineering or science discipline while learning a foreign language. After completing the required coursework and studying and interning abroad for one year, participants graduate with bachelor’s of science and bachelor’s of art degrees. IEL and ISL participants are empowered with the tools, knowledge and experience to establish a career in engineering or science while communicating and working effectively in a second language and culture.

“I had never considered going abroad,” Williams said. “It always sounded really cool, but I didn’t think it was something I would do.”

A year in Freiburg, Germany

The application process was simple, requiring only a language competency exam to determine her level of German-speaking skills. Williams explained Tingey and Professor of Biological Sciences Estelle Levetin were instrumental in arranging classes and an internship abroad. With additional help from the global exchange organization Cultural Vistas, she received an internship offer within a month of applying and was matched with a lab ideal for her interests and location. In just a few weeks, she joined the program and prepared to embark on the adventure of a lifetime in the city of Freiburg, Germany. Her first semester, she took five classes at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg. The second half of the year, she worked in a plant lab at the same institution.

international science“I had a lot of biology credits, so I spent more time studying German,” Williams said. “The second semester was more focused on science and working with a species of plant called Arabidopsis thaliana. I learned new lab techniques and basics I can use in the future, and I helped my mentor with a project that involved growing and tracking 70 plant varieties in Petri dishes.”

Every few weeks, she was responsible for tracking the root systems and applying varying concentrations of salt and drying agents to record lateral root growth. The year abroad also offered Williams the chance to experience different living environments. The first six months, she shared a flat with other college students from China, Mexico and Germany. She met other Americans too and traveled frequently with student groups to other countries such as Prague, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and France.

“In Europe, everything is so much closer together,” Williams explained. “You can take these really cheap buses and just go see everything.”

Stepping out of her comfort zone

Exploring new countries and cities, experiencing the different cultures and practicing her German gave Williams the confidence to become more independent during the second semester abroad; she went to the government office in Freiburg and registered to apply for a Student Visa. She set up her living arrangements and lived by herself. English was not commonly used in many of the European cities she visited, so by the time she returned to America in July 2019, her proficiency in German had drastically improved. Williams said she also learned a lot about how other countries function differently in society.

“There’s definitely a cultural aspect to it. Germans are much more straight-forward. In the lab, they would use sticky notes to give instructions. To us, it would be considered passive-aggressive, but to them, they think, ‘there’s an issue, so we’re going to address it.’ Also in Freiburg, everyone dresses up, no one leaves the house just wearing sweatpants,” she said with a smile.

With graduation on the horizon, Williams plans to take the GRE and maybe apply to grad school but beginning her career in the research world also is an option. Either way, she said the ISL experience helped her grow as a person and realize her potential. “Before, I was a biology major and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Now, I’m a biology and German major who is more independent. I don’t necessarily know exactly what I want to do, but I can see the roads ahead of me.”

Athletic Training professor honored with International Service Award

On June 25, 2019, Greg Gardner will be honored with the International Service Award from the International Committee (IC) of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA). Gardner is a clinical professor of athletic training in The University of Tulsa’s Department of Kinesiology and Rehabilitative Sciences.

Certified as an athletic trainer since 1985, Gardner has wide-ranging experience in the field. Among his many accomplishments, Gardner served as the U.S. vice president of the World Federation of Athletic Training & Therapy. Thanks to his efforts, the WFATT Global Program Recognition Standards were developed and approved.

Advancing athletic training globally

In its announcement, NATA’s International Committee thanked Gardner for his “dedicated service and outstanding commitment to advancing the education and development of athletic training globally. The NATA IC Service Award recognizes your contribution to moving our profession forward.”

“I congratulate Dr. Gardner and I am grateful for his work with this and other international committees,” said Robin Ploeger, the dean of TU’s Oxley College of Health Sciences. “Through his connections with athletic trainers across the globe, our students have benefitted from having opportunities to travel abroad via study abroad trips, interact with professionals from other countries who visit Tulsa and connect with international students through electronic means.”

Upon hearing the news of this award, Gardner, in typically humble fashion, said, “I find it difficult to believe that I get recognition for following a passion. Working to help establish athletic training in other countries has been such a privilege. I have met some of the most absolutely fabulous and dedicated professionals that have also grown to become some of my closest personal and professional friends. The old adage really is true: A labor of love is not a labor at all!”

This has certainly been a memorable year for Gardner. Just a few months ago he was also honored with an Outstanding Teacher Award from TU in recognition of his immense dedication and contributions to students’ success.

IES Abroad Ambassador of the Year

Congratulations to Cheyenne Freelove on being selected as an IES Abroad Ambassador of the Year, an honor given to only two returnee students every year. Cheyenne is a senior finance major at TU and a Peer Advisor for the Center for Global Education.

“As soon as I came back from studying abroad, I knew that I wanted to stay connected to a community of people who have gone abroad and who encourage traveling and seeing the world. Actively being involved in that community and making a difference to other people has been one of the most rewarding endeavors to me during my time at the University of Tulsa and as an IES Abroad Ambassador.”

Before studying abroad in New Zealand, Cheyenne set three study abroad goals for himself:

  1. Get to know local students
  2. Do something unique to New Zealand
  3. Learn about the history and culture of the indigenous population of New Zealand, the Maori people


Mission accomplished: In Auckland, he joined the basketball, tramping, and climbing clubs, enrolled in a Maori world class, and spent time travelling Auckland with Vedic monks. He explained, “I became a better person from going abroad and these goals that I set for myself, which expanded my thinking of the world and forced me out of my comfort zone, had a large part in that.”

After returning from abroad, Cheyenne knew he wanted to stay connected with the study abroad community. He became an IES Abroad Ambassador at the University of Tulsa, and now works diligently to find and promote study abroad programs specifically for Nursing students, Engineering and Natural Science (ENS) students, and student athletes. “Whether it’s specific classes, a restrictive scholarship, or an all-around heavy workload, I knew these groups of people already thought that studying abroad was not possible for them,” Cheyenne said. “Although more difficult, it is still possible for a majority of these students to go abroad if they want to.”

Cheyenne collaborates with his study abroad office on campus to find study abroad programs that work with the class schedules of nursing students, ENS students, and student athletes. “I’m very happy that what I have been working on with my study abroad office has translated into real change for certain groups on campus, and it all started with me being an IES Abroad Ambassador,” he said. “Going forward, I will continue to encourage all students to go abroad, especially those who thought it never possible.”

Originally published at:

Studying Abroad as a Sophomore

I’ve always been predictable. From what I eat for dinner to where I sit in my university’s library, familiarity makes my world run smoothly. I could give you a million examples of how often I find my daily life entrenched in routine. And, most importantly, the one decision that completely changed that.

No one was more surprised than I was at the spur-of-the-moment decision I made to study abroad last fall. I was a sophomore. I’d never even mentioned a desire to go abroad. And I decided to go a mere week before my school’s application was due. Suffice it to say that I was a bit frazzled getting my ducks back into a familiar row.

While I can’t tell you what compelled this ‘by the books’ gal to pack up her life and move 4,000 miles away, I can tell you what compels me because of that decision.

Here’s what no one tells you about going abroad as a sophomore:

  • You get to have two full years back at your home university afterwards. I had no worries about missing out on what was going on back home; I knew I still had half of college to get back into the swing of things.
  • You can learn from your peers. My two closest friends in Scotland, Katie and Rachel, were both juniors while I was a sophomore. It was so refreshing to have influential women in my life who I could not only experience Edinburgh with, but also rely on for their experience and advice, both abroad and at home. Back in the States, most of my friends were my own age, and having the opportunity to talk through the college experience with others who had been going through school longer than I was completely amazing. We came together despite our age differences, united by our Scottish adventure. The most “delicious” benefit to my friends was in regard to meals. I had never cooked for myself before, so the thought of having to prepare my own meals at first was a little scary. Katie and Rachel had lived and cooked for themselves back home, so if the mess of grocery shopping and chopping ever got to be too much for me, I could pop over to Rachel’s flat for whatever delicious meal she’d concocted.
  • You have more flexibility when it comes to coursework. My university has certain ‘Block’ course requirements, the standard general electives. Because I went abroad as a sophomore, I was able to take three classes in British History, rather than in my major, Biology, all without getting behind. I got to fully immerse myself in the culture of Scotland, both past and present, all while fulfilling the courses I needed to graduate from my home university anyway. After all, if a STEM student needs to take history classes, why not take them where history was written?
  • You get to be a resource. Now, as a junior, several of my friends are deciding to take the leap and head abroad. I’ve had the unique opportunity to tell them what it was like, to advise them to bring waterproof shoes and to keep a journal so they forget nothing. I have two whole years to spread the word about the life you can find if you step outside your comfort zone.

Now that being said…

You can ask anyone what it’s ‘really like’ to study abroad, but at the end of the day, the experience is really what you choose to make it. I had a bit more growing up to do than some of my older peers, but to have had the opportunity to gain life experience in Scotland made it all the more meaningful to me.

Don’t study abroad if you don’t want it to change your life. Because it will. I’ll never be the same, now that I’ve lived in Scotland, hiked through the Highlands, traveled internationally alone, and seen what it truly means to take a leap of faith, and find out where you land.

Thanks to study abroad, I’ve gained a strength I didn’t know I had, and a confidence in my ability to chase my dreams, no matter how crazy they might seem. I’ve gained a new sense of independence and freedom, knowing I can and have survived on my own. I didn’t prepare emotionally go to abroad. I just went. And that made all the difference.

I truly believe that the decision to study abroad changed my life more than I could have imagined. And I’ve changed my mind about following the same path you’ve always been on.  If I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that impulsive decisions can bring you to some of your happiest days. Don’t be afraid to experience life, even if it means on a slightly different timeline than those around you. It’s your life, and your timeline, after all.

Abby Kucera
University of Tulsa ’18

Scotland, Spring 2016
Previously published by IFSA-Butler: 

First Days in the Land of Smiles

Tuesday, January 17, marked the beginning of an adventure unlike any previous embarkations. I watched the same sun rise in a foreign place and found myself navigating a flurry of emotions, wondering where the next several months, days, and hours would lead.

I have spent the last two weeks doing my best to answer that query.

During my first hours in my temporary home of Khon Kaen, Thailand, I was welcomed with an opening ceremony lead by a community spiritual leader. Before the ceremony, we were informed of a cultural belief, stating that each individual possesses an inherent spirit of happiness that is sometimes lost in the time and space of travel. In order to enjoy our travels in the most genuine of ways, we participated in a ceremony to call this spirit of happiness back.

870x579-img_7572While listening to the spiritual leader’s continuous chants, I found myself remembering leaving my dad behind at the Grand Hyatt in Singapore and wondering why following my dreams required leaving those I love behind.

As I watched his hands clasp together in reverence, my mind flashed to waking up that morning in an unfamiliar room with lime green walls next to a girl I had only known for several hours. I thought about my first impressions of Khon Kaen University, the immensity and structure so unlike The University of Tulsa’s campus back home.

As I responded to these chants in a language I did not know, I thought about returning to my new dorm room after the ceremony with a roommate who is not fluent in the language or culture that I hold so dear. I considered the many meals, moments, and musical experiences I will miss with my family and friends.

At the end of his ceremony, the spiritual leader tied a ribbon around my left arm, and I felt the touch of the others on this program, a reminder that I am not and will not be in this alone.

870x-img_7387I have since learned that Thailand is considered the land of smiles, due to the friendliness of its people, the beauty of its landscapes, and the charm of its culture. I have come a long way from the initial fear of this study abroad experience, and I find myself waking each morning with that stereotypical Thailand smile on my face.

Each day, I feel my spirit of happiness return and am grateful for the opportunity to study in Thailand and befriend individuals of different cultures and backgrounds, learning about myself each step of the way. In less than three weeks, I have learned enough Thai to hold basic conversations, watched millions of bats fly out of an enormous cave at sunset, experienced the sun rising over the jungle, befriended peers from more than four countries, explored three different night markets, attended a concert by a famous Thai band, and sampled enough Thai honey toast to send me into multiple sugar comas.

870x579-img_7588I will fill these next months with independent travel to places I’ve only ever dreamt of and in-depth community stays in order to observe, discuss, and learn from the quality of the universal health care system.

As an American student, I am privileged in many ways, one of which is the ability to spend a semester immersing myself in another culture. In doing so, I am humbled and inspired by the kindness I have been shown. If there is one thing I will take from this experience, it is that the world is both so big and so small. In each country, humans struggle with issues of faith, access to healthcare, economic adversity, and political upheaval. These institutional structures unite us, just as the basic human values of kindness, respect, thoughtfulness, and open-mindedness do.

We all have a place in this world, and I am grateful each day for the acceptance that has been shown to me by the students at this university and the leaders of this country. We can all learn from each other, and I plan to spend this semester embracing the beauty of diversity and experiencing amity in a land that is both foreign and familiar at the same time.

Abbey Marino
University of Tulsa ’17
Thailand, Spring 2018

Life (Abroad) After Graduation: Bea

cge-blog-8-11-16Graduation day: the single most highly anticipated day of a college student’s educational career. Many thoughts go through the excited soon-to-be-graduate’s head, such as:

“What’s next?”

Some paths are more defined than others. Some graduates have always known what they wanted to do, while others are still figuring it out. Regardless of having all the answers or not, some audacious TU graduates are pursuing one thing over all: adventure. More specifically, a post-graduate life abroad.

Bea Baker, Class of 2016, took off after graduation with a one way plane ticket to Thailand to teach English.

“I don’t know where to start. I absolutely love everything about Bangkok: getting lost and finding ornate temples, the food, the deep level of respect embedded in Thai culture, the food…”

cge-2blog-8-11-16But Bea admits that this type of lifestyle change, while an incredible experience, is not always a walk in the park.

“Bangkok is a beautiful city and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to teach here. It has been challenging though. I work 9 hours a day, 10 on Fridays, which makes meeting people hard. I have just moved as far as I can from not only the best four years of my life but everyone I love. It’s challenging, and I’m still in transition, but luckily I’ve lived abroad before when I studied in Cape Town, so I’m optimistic for what is yet to come.”

One of Bea’s fondest memories so far was Teacher Appreciation Day, or “Wai Khru.”

Bea-phuang-malai-cge-blog-8-11-16“Wai is the physical expression of the deep level of respect in Thai culture. We had a two hour ceremony in the morning where students presented teachers with flower garlands called phuang malai. Why isn’t every day Teacher Appreciation Day? Funny how this is something I never asked while I was a student…”

To keep up with Bea’s life in Thailand, you can follow her blog: