U recognizes international alumni’s accomplishments

Elizabeth Giorgi

T.article {border:2px solid #ccc;} 1housands of international students and scholars go back to their home countries after graduation.

Through the Distinguished Leadership Award for Internationals, international alumni and scholars are recognized for the work they have done in their fields after leaving the University.

Six former students, nominated by University faculty and staff members, were announced as the winners Monday.

The award was developed in 2003 by the Office of International Programs, said Gene Allen, associate vice president for international programs.

“Our international alumni that have been on our campus are disproportionately underrepresented,” he said.

Hundreds of thousands of students graduate from the University and are awarded for various things, he said. But previously there was not an award to recognize the international professionals who studied at the University and have done something significant.

One important aspect of the award is not to recognize people who studied in the United States and then stayed here, but to award those that went home or elsewhere in the world, Allen said.

Sheila Collins, program director in the Learning Abroad Center, said she had never nominated someone for the award before this year, but she understood the important purpose the awards serve.

“International students have gone home, but they have maintained these wonderful ties that allow people years later to learn from their experiences in their host countries,” she said.

Collins, along with Chip Peterson, program director in the Learning Abroad Center, nominated epidemiology doctoral alumnus Jose SuarezñTorres.

Peterson said he nominated Suarez-Torres because of his deep commitment to social justice work.

Suarez-Torres directs Minnesota Studies in International Development in Ecuador, which is utilized in the Learning Abroad Center.

“He is a combo of Mother Teresa and Alan Greenspan,” Peterson said.

He said Suarez-Torres is a genuine person who has done a lot of great work with different communities in Ecuador.

Associate Director of international programs Kathleen Sellew worked with the awards committee during their selection process.

The goal was to select people who show leadership and accomplishment potential, and whose time at the University made a significant influence on their careers, she said.

Professor and department of applied economics head Robert King said he nominated alumnus Shenggen Fan because he was recognized in 2005 by the National Science Foundation as an outstanding young scholar.

Fan works for the International Food Policy Research Institute, which is stationed in Washington, D.C., and does research and outreach work on development and food policy issues, King said.

“One of the things that is indicative of how outstanding he is, is that in 1999 he was designated as an outstanding Chinese scholar,” he said.

China selects only 100 Chinese scholars who are working outside of China to be recognized each year, King said.

Fan said he thought he was young to be receiving such an award and was surprised to learn that he was nominated and chosen.

He plans to come to the University in May to give a presentation on his work and to receive the award, he said.

“I am looking forward to an opportunity to come back,” he said.