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Gala celebrates OHIO’s global story, includes first-ever Lifetime Achievement Awards


Ohio University’s global story was on full display at this year’s Global Engagement Awards Gala where faculty, staff and alumni were honored for their commitment to international education and cross-cultural learning and the International Education Week Committee presented its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Awards to two individuals among OHIO’s most-notable global champions. 

Members of the OHIO community and distinguished guests packed the Baker University Center Ballroom on Nov. 15 for the Fifth Annual Global Engagement Awards Gala. One of the signature events of Ohio University’s International Education Week, the gala highlights OHIO’s past, present and future commitment to international education and global engagement by paying tribute to those who exemplify that commitment. 

“Tonight is about telling the stories of those who are living the life of globalization at Ohio University and demonstrating our excellence,” Lorna Jean Edmonds, vice provost for global affairs and international studies, said in welcoming everyone to this year’s gala.

Ballroom

Interim Executive Vice President and Provost David Descutner provided a snapshot of OHIO’s present global profile, noting that the University’s offers more than 90 study away programs in more than 40 countries and that the Athens Campus is home to 1,353 international students this semester. 

“Here in Athens, our campus setting is recognized as one of the top campus atmospheres in the nation, and that is due in a large part to our international students, faculty and staff, who help to make Ohio University a vibrant place for studying, working and living,” Dr. Descutner said, calling on everyone to find ways to reach out to members of OHIO’s international community. “We need to make sure they know that they are all part of the Ohio University family and that we are there to support them.” 

Awards for Excellence in Global Engagement

David Koonce, associate dean of OHIO’s Graduate College, leads the IEW Committee in facilitating the selection of the Awards for Excellence in Global Engagement recipients. The awards are presented to faculty, staff and alumni for their outstanding contributions to international education, global competency, cultural understanding and/or international programs at Ohio University, or in their fields or disciplines.

“Having reviewed the nominations and credentials of these nominees, I must say that the selection committee was truly inspired by the dedication and efforts each of these individuals puts forth daily in support of globalization of Ohio University,” Dr. Koonce said. “Each of these individuals makes both Ohio University and the world a better place.” 

Faculty Award for Excellence in Global Engagement

The 2017 Faculty Award for Excellence in Global engagement was presented to Nancy Stevens, a professor of biomedical sciences in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. 

In introducing Dr. Stevens, Geoff Dabelko, professor and director of environmental studies at OHIO’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, noted just a few of the reasons he nominated her for the award. He noted the research Dr. Stevens has conducted in places like Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, bringing not only the knowledge gained there back to Athens but also facilitating international learning connections for OHIO students. 

Nancy Stevens accepts her award


In accepting the award, Dr. Stevens gave credit to everyone in the room.

“This award really belongs to all of you,” she said. “We are an engaged community committed to expanding knowledge and cultural intelligence, creativity, problem solving and understanding. We are living in a moment, in a place, and each of us has a unique life path.” 

Dr. Stevens encouraged everyone to embrace their unique life path and to make every day count toward creating a better future, noting that starting small and recognizing common connections are the first steps toward changing the world. 

Staff Award for Excellence in Global Engagement

Marlene De La Cruz-Guzmán, director of OHIO’s Office of Multicultural Student Access and Retention (OMSAR), was given the Staff Award for Excellence in Global Engagement.

Ellie Koewler, campus coordinator of International Education Programs (IEP) and a study abroad advisor, nominated Dr. De La Cruz-Guzmán for the award, describing her as a visionary and a problem-solver. She applauded Dr. De La Cruz-Guzmán’s commitment to ensuring access to study away opportunities for OMSAR students in particular.

“Marlene is a spectacular partner, and under her leadership OMSAR has been a huge ally to (the Office of) Global Opportunities,” Koewler said. 

Marlene de la Cruz Guzman accepts her award

Dr. De La Cruz-Guzmán shared her story of growing up in two worlds – “here” in the city of Los Angeles and “there” in Guatemala where she lived from ages 9-13. It was “there,” Dr. De La Cruz-Guzmán said, where she first began to learn of other cultures. 

“The more I read and learned, the more ‘there’s’ I discovered,” she said, noting that it was graduate school that allowed her to travel and immerse herself in other cultures – experiences that transformed her life and paved the way for her career. 

“It is now our Bobcats’ turn to pursue global engagement through service and experiential learning and to become global citizens who understand that while the ‘here’ always matters, ‘there’ also beckons them to grow and to seek their own vocations,” Dr. De La Cruz-Guzmán said. 

Alumni Award for Excellence in Global Engagement 

Debra Budiani-Saberi, who earned a master’s degree in international development studies in 1996 and in international community health in 1997, was awarded the Alumni Award for Excellence in Global Engagement.  

Dr. Tom Smucker, associate professor of geography, introduced Dr. Budiani-Saberi, highlighting her efforts to fight human organ trafficking by creating awareness of this human rights abuse and supporting the victims of it. 

“She embodies the highest ideals that we seek to instill in our students and is a testament to the potential for social science methodologies to not merely understand the world but also to change it,” Dr. Smucker said.

Debra Budiani-Saberi accepts her award

In accepting the award, Dr. Budiani-Saberi noted her studies at Ohio University where, she said, she learned about human rights and further developed her desire to help others, focusing on health and equalities, human rights abuses and responses. 

“The interdisciplinary approach to my graduate study here at OU prepared me to begin in 1999 to investigate and discover poor and vulnerable populations of alien asylum seekers who avoided care and clinical settings for fear of being more valued for their parts than cared for as patients,” Dr. Budiani-Saberi said.

Dr. Budiani-Saberi founded the Coalition for Organ-Failure Solutions, serves as its chief executive director, and is a consultant to the United Nations. The Coalition for Organ-Failure Solutions is a non-profit, international health and human rights organization with a mission to end the organ trade, especially trafficking in persons for the removal of organs.

Tanaka-OHIO Award for Excellence in Global Engagement 

Dr. Yuji Iwahori, a professor in Chubu University’s Department of Computer Science, was awarded the third-ever Tanaka-OHIO Award for Excellence in Global Engagement. The award celebrates Ohio University’s more than 40-year strategic partnership with Japan’s Chubu University by recognizing a Chubu faculty or staff member who is committed to international education, global competency and cultural understanding.

David Juedes, a professor and chair of OHIO’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, introduced Dr. Iwahori, calling him “a well-respected scholar in computer science and particularly in the area of computer vision.” 

Dr. Juedes said Dr. Iwahori was being recognized for his globalization work at Chubu University, noting his collaborations with institutions in India, Thailand and the United States.

Dr. Yuji Iwahori gives his remarks

In thanking the committee for receiving the Tanaka-OHIO Award and the invitation to participate in International Education Week, Dr. Iwahori shared some of his global engagement since joining Chubu University in 2004, noting outreach efforts to students in China and chaperoning Chubu students participate in an English course. 

“Again, I am very happy to take this excellent Tanaka-OHIO Award for my activities at Chubu University, and I thank you very much for inviting me to Ohio University,” Dr. Iwahori said. “I will remember this award as my great honor, and I would like to continue to extend my international activities further and continue to have good relations with Ohio University.” 

Global Health Case Competition Winners

One of the highlights on the Global Engagement Awards Gala is the announcement of the winners of this year’s Global Health Case Competition, which challenges OHIO students to work in interdisciplinary teams to develop solutions to a real-world health problem. 

Sponsored by OHIO’s Global Health Initiative, this year’s competition challenged students to develop a solution to the opioid epidemic occurring in Hungary. Ohio University students from 11 colleges and 29 academic majors took part in the competition, with the winning team awarded a trip to Hungary to share their solutions with individuals there. 

In preparing to announce this year’s winning team, Randy Leite, dean of the College of Health Sciences and Professions, asked all students in the room to stand. 

“Everyone who’s sitting I think would agree that the people who are standing are the reason we’re here doing what we’re doing what we do,” Dean Leite said, toasting the students with a Hungarian phrase that meant “cheers.” “And all of you who are standing, my sense of you is that you are the next generation of global citizens. You are our best hope for a world that embraces peace and understanding and all the things we hope for in our world.” 

The team that won this year’s Global Health Case Competition was composed of Dahlia Gordon, Emma Harvey, Brooke Mauro and Gabriella Mayer. 

Winners of Global Health Case Competition

Special Recognition Awards

This year’s Global Engagement Awards Gala included two special recognition awards honoring a long-standing partnership and program at Ohio University.

Among the distinguished guests at the gala was a delegation from German’s Leipzig University, one of OHIO’s three prominent strategic international partners. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the OHIO-Leipzig relationship whose roots date back to the 1880s when two future OHIO faculty members, John Pancoast Gordy – the namesake of OHIO’s Gordy Hall – and James E. Le Rossignol, earned their doctorates at Leipzig.

In celebrating the 25th anniversary, Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis presented Leipzig University President Prof. Dr. med. Beate A. Schücking with an original painting by John Sabraw, professor of art and chair of painting and drawing in OHIO’s College of Fine Arts. Combining his passion for art and sustainability, Sabraw is well-known for using acid mine drainage from abandoned coal mines to create beautiful and distinct works of art. Other members of the Leipzig delegation were presented copies of Sabraw’s painting.

“It feels like Christmas,” President Schücking said while unwrapping the packaging. 

Leipzig University group

“As you have mentioned before, this is an evening of storytelling,” President Schücking said. “This is really a story about friendship.” 

Also receiving special recognition at the event was the Ohio Program of Intensive English (OPIE), an English language program at Ohio University that works with students from throughout the world to improve their English, prepare them for academic study and learn about U.S. culture. This year marks the 50th anniversary of OPIE at Ohio University.

“The longevity and quality of the program are a testimony to the talent and hard work of the faculty and the staff,” Bob Frank, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said of OPIE and those who teach and administer the program. “They should be quite proud of their accomplishments.”

Gerard Krzic, director of OPIE, expressed his sincere thanks for the honor, noting how far the program has come since 1967 when it enrolled its first 21 students. Today, he said, more than 1,000 students have participated in the program, many of them ascending to prominent roles in their home countries or returning to Ohio University to continue their education. 

OPIE special award

Dr. Krzic noted OPIE’s work with Fulbright Scholars, its role in ground-breaking teacher training programs in South Africa, and how it created the first language and culture program for employees from Japan after the establishment of Honda of America in Ohio. 

“In short,” Dr. Krzic said, “as the oldest university-governed intensive English program in the state of Ohio, we have had many accomplishments, both on and off campus, and we look forward to building on this legacy as we go forward to contribute to the well-being and diversity of our campus, community and state.”

Lifetime Achievement Awards

The gala ended with a first for the program and IEW – the presentation of Lifetime Achievement Awards to Ohio University President Emeritus Charles J. Ping and Mary Anne Flournoy, former associate director of the Center for International Studies, both of whom were thanked for their efforts with standing ovations. 

In introducing OHIO’s 18th president, Samuel Crowl, Ohio University Trustee Professor of English, noted the undeniable and monumental legacy of Dr. Ping, advising the audience to look around to best understand that legacy. That legacy, Dr. Crowl said, can be seen everywhere from the University’s programs and international studies to the flags that adorn the College Green each International Week. 

Dr. Crowl shared two examples of Dr. Ping’s contributions to both OHIO and the world. He noted the time Dr. Ping and former first lady Claire Ping sent 1,000 balloons and educational materials to Dr. Crowl’s daughter who was serving in Botswana in the Peace Corps – a gift that fed the students’ minds and playfulness. 

Dr. Crowl also shared a memory from one of the International Street Fairs he attended years ago when he came across Dr. Ping with an international student’s son perched on his shoulders. Dr. Crowl said he asked the boy what he was doing, to which the boy replied, “I’m getting a better view.” 

“It seems to me that that’s a part of our international exposure, Dr. Crowl said. “We get a better view of ourselves and of others, and what it means to be a part of the common destiny of mankind and the plan. That boy was getting his first experience doing that, and he was getting it on Charlie’s shoulders.” 

Presidents Crowl and Ping accept their awards

In accepting the award, Dr. Ping paid tribute to OHIO’s international community. 

“In so many ways, the international community of students and others who come here to study really are here to teach,” Dr. Ping said. “They teach very well by their presence, by the things they bring to conversation and to the class, and as I look around this room, I am deeply touched by this award.”  

Dr. Flournoy was welcomed to the stage by Catherine Cutcher, assistant director of the Global Studies Program in OHIO’s Center for International Studies. Dr. Cutcher shared with the audience Dr. Flournoy’s many years of service to both the Athens and Ohio University communities.

Dr. Cutcher noted Dr. Flournoy and her husband, Don’s, Sugar Bush Farm, where they welcomed many members of the local community, including OHIO’s international students, some of whom would have their first-ever farm experience there. She also noted Dr. Flournoy’s efforts to help integrate international educational outreach in the curriculum of local schools, promoting cultural sensitivity through the Ohio Valley International Council, an initiative of the Center for International Studies. After retiring, Dr. Flournoy continued her community service, participating in many environmental and philanthropic organizations. She and her husband established the Sugar Bush Foundation, a supporting organization of The Ohio University Foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life in Appalachian Ohio by encouraging civic engagement and by fostering sustainable environmental, socio-economic and human development.

Dr. Mary Anne Flournoy

“I love this place,” Dr. Flournoy said upon accepting her award. “I love Ohio University. The best thing that I’ve ever done was to come here, and so I just am so happy to be here tonight. So thank you.”  

Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis ended the evening by calling on everyone to continue enhancing and expanding global education efforts throughout the University and the world. 

“As I said in my inauguration speech just a few weeks ago, ‘The first key strategic pathway for Ohio University is to be a national leader for diversity and inclusion,’” Dr. Nellis said in reference to his strategic pathways. “We must establish an environment at Ohio University where difference in all forms is welcomed and celebrated. We must be proud of the progress we have made thus far, while still not losing sight of the work that is yet to be done.”