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OHIO faculty, staff, alumni, students honored at global engagement awards ceremony (PHOTOS)


Ohio University ushered in the end of its third annual International Education Week (IEW) with a ceremony celebrating members of the Bobcat Family who embody the spirit of the week and who have contributed to OHIO’s rich history of providing students a global education and establishing global partnerships.

OHIO administrators, faculty, staff and students, as well as distinguished alumni and friends of the University, packed Nelson Commons the evening of Nov. 19 for the annual Awards for Excellence in Global Engagement Gala. Sponsored by OHIO’s Senior International Management Team and administered by the University’s IEW Committee and its Center for International Studies, the awards recognize faculty, staff and alumni for their outstanding contributions to international education, global competency, cultural understand and/or international programs at OHIO or in their fields.

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The 2015 Awards for Excellence in Global Engagement Gala was held Nov. 19 at Nelson Commons.

“This is truly an occasion for celebration,” Vice Provost for Global Affair and International Studies Lorna Jean Edmonds told the crowd in kicking off the evening’s festivities. “Tonight is about celebrating, recognizing and honoring individuals because of the contributions they make to the globalization of OHIO and the globalization of our world – and, in the spirit of this past week, to promoting peace, stability and security worldwide.”

Among the distinguished guests at this year’s ceremony were Ambassador of the Republic of Botswana to the United States David Newman and Barongwa Master Baipidi, training attaché for the Embassy of the Republic of Botswana – illustrating the global partnerships OHIO has engaged in since welcoming its first international student in 1895. 

“Botswana is part of the world where OHIO has had a longer than 50-year relationship,” Edmonds said in introducing the Botswana delegation. “Our relationship with Botswana could not be stronger than it is today.”

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Beatrice Selotlegeng, an academic advisor in OHIO’s College of Business and director of the college’s Junior Executive Business Program, who previously lived in Botswana and served as the acting CEO of the country’s national airline, applauds the Botswana delegation that visited Ohio University during International Education Week.

Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit kicked off the awards portion of the evening by highlighting the importance of OHIO’s commitment to international education and global engagement.

“OHIO students need a global education to compete in the global workplace. OHIO faculty need global competency to contribute to the marketplace of ideas. And, Ohio University needs global partners to remain competitive as a 21st-century university,” Benoit said. “In the new paradigm, global is local, local is global. … If we’re to resolve the big challenges that face us, we will do so by placing ideas above ideologies and discovery before discord. And, for many students, the paradigm shift toward a more global perspective begins right here – in Athens and at Ohio University.”

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Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit welcomes the audience to the third annual Awards for Excellence in Global Engagement Gala, which she called “a stellar conclusion to a vibrant International Education Week.”

Benoit noted that OHIO has established partnerships throughout the world, that more than 7,000 of its alumni are living abroad, and that its campuses are now home to more than 1,800 international students, representing 117 countries.

“Our work toward ever-greater global engagement is well underway. … This is a University-wide effort,” Benoit said, adding that the evening’s ceremony is about thanking and celebrating the important work faculty, staff and alumni do in terms of globalization and in preparing OHIO students to become global leaders. 

David Koonce, associate dean of OHIO’s Graduate College and a member of the IEW Planning Committee, explained the purpose of the Awards for Excellence in Global Engagement, which are presented to one faculty member, one staff member and one alumnus each year. 

More than 40 members of the Ohio University community were nominated for this year’s awards.

“Each of these individuals makes Ohio University and the world a better place,” Koonce said.

Faculty Award for Excellence in Global Engagement

The 2015 Faculty Award for Excellence in Global Engagement was presented to an OHIO educator who has served the University’s international program since 1991.

Steve Howard is a professor in the Scripps College of Communication’s School of Media Arts and Studies, served as director of OHIO’s African Studies Program for nearly 25 years, and earlier this year was named director of the University’s Center for International Studies. 

Howard was nominated for the Award for Excellence in Global Engagement by several individuals, including Nancy Stevens, a professor of biomedical sciences who was also nominated for the faculty award.

In introducing Howard, Stevens noted his many contributions to OHIO’s international programs, which have benefited his students, the University as a whole, the state of Ohio and the world.

“He has kept our institution front and center on the global stage, promoting teaching and integrating scholarly work across disciplines,” Stevens said, also noting the influence Howard has had on her career. “It is a rare scholar who has touched the lives of so many, fundamentally shaping academia the way Dr. Howard has. It is, perhaps, no surprise that global engagement by Dr. Howard can be found in all corners of Ohio University.”

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Steve Howard, director of OHIO’s Center for International Studies and professor in the School of Media Arts and Studies, addresses the crowd after receiving the 2015 Faculty Award for Excellence in Global Engagement.

“I’m, of course, overwhelmed,” Howard said in accepting his award, sharing with the audience that a major reason for his 25-year commitment to OHIO has been the opportunity to attract amazing faculty and staff to the University.

“It has been a fantastic experience – and a chance to develop interdisciplinary collegiality across the campus,” he said.

Howard also took the opportunity to issue a challenge to those in the room, urging them to consider how the University can encourage monolingual Americans to explore the many languages taught at Ohio University.

Staff Award for Excellence in Global Engagement

This year’s Staff Award for Excellence in Global Engagement was awarded to Usha Matta, director of international student services in OHIO’s Graduate College. 

In introducing Matta, Katie Tadlock, assistant dean of the Graduate College, said she was moved to nominate Matta for the award after witnessing the support she has lent to OHIO’s international graduate students and the University’s international experiences over the past 13 years.

“She has worked one-on-one with hundreds and maybe thousands of international applicants and students, answering questions, coaching, providing clarification, searching for solutions when all the pieces don’t come together,” Tadlock said. “She does this with great patience and calmness.

“She is, in effect, a university concierge,” Tadlock added, noting Matta’s efforts in terms of helping OHIO’s international students transition from their lives in their home countries to Ohio University and the Athens community.

Tadlock shared with the audience an example of how Matta goes above and beyond to support OHIO’s international students and to get to know them on a personal level. She recounted one winter break when Matta provided food and other support and kindness to an international student in need.

“She makes it OK for students to be confused and to be vulnerable,” Tadlock said. “She does not seek recognition. In fact, she was hesitant to be nominated for this award.”

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Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis presents Usha Matta, director of international student services in OHIO’s Graduate College, the 2015 Staff Award for Excellence in Global Engagement.

In accepting her honor, Matta thanked the numerous individuals and the University for supporting her in role of supporting OHIO’s international student population. 

“This is not my award,” Matta said. “It is for everyone at the Graduate College. ... It is what they do that makes it possible for me to be out there working with these students one-on-one.”

Alumni Award for Excellence in Global Engagement

Aggrey Otieno, a 2011 graduate of OHIO’s master of arts in international affairs, community and development studies program, received the 2015 Alumni Award for Excellence in Global Engagement.

Catherine Cutcher, assistant director of the bachelor of arts in global studies program, introduced Otieno, whom she met in 2009 when she picked him up from the Columbus Airport. Otieno had traveled from his home country of Kenya and stayed at Cutcher’s home in nearby Meigs County.

“We forged a friendship based on mutual respect and a dedication to grassroots community organizing, safe motherhood, human rights and justice,” Cutcher said.

Cutcher commented on Otieno’s contributions to the University as a student, noting leadership positions he held with OHIO’s International Student Union and African Student Union. 

Upon graduating from OHIO, Otieno returned to Kenya where today, Cutcher said, he is well known “as an innovator and a leader in the field of maternal and child health” – work, she noted, that aligned with this year’s IEW theme of Global Health and Wellness.

Cutcher noted that, since returning to Kenya, Otieno has transformed his hometown and his home country, becoming deeply involved in community organizing and development. 

Determined to address the high rates of maternal and infant mortality due to inadequate access to health care or transportation during child birth, Otieno has: 

  • Implemented maternal and child health interventions in Nairobi that offer training and support to safe delivery advocates
  • Initiated innovative uses of mobile technology to connect midwives and traditional birth attendants to doctors and hospitals who assist with providing on-call advice or send ambulances to transport mothers to hospitals in the event of a crisis

Those efforts, Cutcher said, have improved health care delivery and birth outcomes in Kenya.

“Aggrey is a global leader,”Cutcher said, “and we are so proud to call him a Bobcat.”

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Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis presents the 2015 Alumni Award for Excellence in Global Engagement to 2011 graduate Aggrey Otieno.

In accepting his award, Otieno said, “It’s great to be back at Ohio University. I’m really extremely delighted to receive this award.

“Ohio University is an intellectual community that attracts and inspires excellence,” he said, adding that his career path began at OHIO. “It has been a great journey, and I’m so happy that Ohio University has helped to make me the person that I am.”

Tanaka-OHIO Award for Excellence in Global Engagement

This year’s Awards for Excellence in Global Engagement Gala also marked the debut of a new award bestowed in recognition of one of OHIO’s long-standing international partnerships.

The inaugural Tanaka-OHIO Award for Excellence in Global Engagement was presented to Dr. Haruka Wazaki, a Chubu University professor whose expertise is in cultural anthropology with a focus on Africa.

In announcing the award, Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis noted OHIO’s more than 40-year partnership with Chubu University and a trip that he and other University administrators took to Japan last year to celebrate Chubu’s 50th anniversary.

“In honor of Chubu University’s 50th anniversary and their commitment to global education and partnerships, we have provided a gift of $5,000 per year for the next 10 years,” Dr. McDavis said. “This gift will support the Tanaka-OHIO Award for Excellence in Global Engagement, which will recognize Chubu faculty and staff who are committed to international education, global competency and cultural understanding.”

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Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis holds the first-ever Tanka-OHIO Award for Excellence in Global Engagement, which was presented to Dr. Haruka Wazaki, a professor at Chubu University.

President McDavis noted Wazaki’s more than 40-year involvement in fieldwork in numerous African countries. 

“Dr. Wazaki has devoted himself to organizing collaborative research projects on African societies and cultures and developing African studies in Japan while collaborating with multiple researchers in Japan and abroad,” Dr. McDavis said. “In addition, Dr. Wazaki contributed academically to mitigation of political tension between China and Japan and between Korea and Japan, through cooperative research of African studies.”

Dr. McDavis also noted Wazaki’s work in linking high schools and universities in Japan in an effort to bring international and global education to high school students. It’s an effort, the president said, that OHIO is in the process of replicating with Athens and Chubu high schools.

Christopher Thompson, associate professor of Japanese language and culture and director of the OHIO-Chubu University Study Abroad Program, accepted the award of Wazaki’s behalf, calling his peer “truly a global citizen.”

Wazaki is expected to visit Ohio University in the coming year.

Global Health Case Competition Winners

The evening ended with the announcement of the winners of this year’s Global Health Case Competition.

In its second year, the Global Health Case Competition challenges OHIO students from all academic backgrounds to come up with solutions to real-world health problems. Sponsored by OHIO’s Global Health Initiative, the goal of the competition is to promote awareness of 21st-century global health issues, introduce students to diverse factors that affect decision-making, and encourage students from different disciplines to collaborate on solutions.

About 50 OHIO students, representing all of the University’s colleges, participated in this year’s competition, which challenged teams of students to develop a multi-faceted response to the escalating rates of non-communicable diseases in Botswana. The case study was developed by officials from the Botswana Ministry of Health in conjunction with representatives from OHIO. 

College of Health Sciences and Professions Dean Randy Leite announced the winners of this year’s competition, who will travel to Botswana next summer to work with students from the University of Botswana, the Institutes of Health Science and the Botswana Ministry of Health to implement their suggested solutions to the case study.

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Vice Provost for Global Affairs and International Studies Lorna Jean Edmonds addresses the top two teams in the second annual Global Health Case Competition. 

First-place honors were awarded to Team Media for Health, which included: Kingsley Antwi-Boasiako from the Scripps College of Communication, Kumba Gborie from the Center for International Studies, Kingsley Lims Nyarko from the College of Fine Arts, and Keith Phetlhe from the Center for International Studies.

Coming in second place was Team Horizon, which included: Kyra Hall and Kira Remy, both from the Scripps College of Communication; Jared Roese from the College of Business; and Camille Smith from the College of Arts and Sciences.

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Vice Provost for Global Affairs and International Studies Lorna Jean Edmonds ends the Awards for Excellence in Global Engagement Gala by thanking the individuals who helped plan the event as well as OHIO’s International Education Week. Edmonds led the audience in special recognition of the two OHIO employees who have served as co-chairs for the University’s International Education Week for the past three years – Deborah Meyer, assistant professor of global health in the College of Health Sciences and Professions, and Krista McCallum Beatty, director of OHIO’s International Student and Faculty Services.