Honor Excellence in International Education – 2016 NAFSA National Awards for Leadership

December 16, 2015

By Ivor Emmanuel

Ivor EmmanuelAs the chair of the NAFSA Awards Subcommittee these last two years, I have had the privilege of reading nomination statements for a number of noteworthy colleagues. These statements are truly inspiring, and they give us the opportunity to get to know these distinguished individuals through a different lens. These award recommendations also serve as a reminder of the value of our work to the people we serve and the profession at large. There is no better way to write this blog than to share some of the comments included in these nomination statements.

Writing in support of Sara Thurston-González, the 2015 recipient of the Homer Higbee Award, a nominator notes that “Sara’s passion for the field of international education is expressed in her daily life and her commitment to excellence in all she does.” He continues his praise, writing “her commitment and dedication to NAFSA has brought to our campus skills, leadership development, and collaborative solutions gleaned from this professional organization.” The nominator adds, “Thurston-González served on the campuswide Vision 2025 committee, an 18-month planning process involving hundreds of K-Staters, where she campaigned tirelessly (and successfully) to advocate that the needs and desires of our over 2,200 international students and scholars, be incorporated into the strategic direction for Kansas State University.” These comments offer a glimpse into the kind of distinguished service that Thurston-González and other award recipients have dedicated to the field.

For the Rising Star Young Leader Award, which was established in 2015, a nominator divulges that recommending Seth Riker as the inaugural recipient of the award was an easy decision: “As the chair stream discussed nominations recently at the Washington Leadership Meeting, we came to the unanimous conclusion that Seth is truly a ‘rising star,’ not only for our region but in the field of international education as a whole.” The nominator lauds Riker’s ingenuity as “he essentially branded Region VI—redesigning the logo; creating a theme for our fall conference; creating a variety of promotional items to carry that theme throughout; and creating a social media presence that was unprecedented in our region.” The nominator shares that “above all, Seth has an amazing drive and a clear passion for promoting international education in an innovative, fun, and interesting way. I have been thoroughly impressed and awestruck with his accomplishments in just his first year on the regional leadership.” Riker demonstrates a resourcefulness and commitment to internationalization that has the potential for having lasting influence within the field.

Surely you know of colleagues on your campus, in your region, or through your national reach who inspire you in a similar way, through their efforts in their workplace and as leaders in our association's work. In this season of giving, I ask you that you give the gift of recognition. Visit the NAFSA website and nominate a colleague for one of NAFSA's many national awards.

Thank you and have a wonderful holiday season!


Ivor Emmanuel is chair of NAFSA's Awards Subcommittee and director of the International Office at the University of California-Berkeley.


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