Global Programs and Strategy Alliance has announced the recipients of the 2021 Mestenhauser Student Award for Excellence in Campus Internalization, including College of Education and Human Development Student Sumitra Madhuri Ramachandran. Sumitra was nominated by Director of Academic and Professional Development at the Graduate School, Dr. Noro Andriamanalina, and Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School, Dr. Scott Lanyon.
In addition to Sumitra’s work within ISSS, including Cross Cultural Discussion Groups and Intercultural Workshop Series, her contributions to the broader University of Minnesota community specifically with graduate education and faculty development initiatives played a large role in her nomination and win. In 2013, Sumitra served as the Executive Vice President of the Council of Graduate Students (COGS) and requested a meeting with Graduate School leaders to seek their support in forming an organization specifically for international graduate students. Because of Sumitra’s clearly articulation of the needs of international graduate students, her persuasive communication and leadership skills, she received the support of COGS and the Graduate School to establish the Council of International Graduate Students (CIGS). CIGS became an official University student organization with Sumitra as the Founding President.
Since its inception, CIGS has collaborated with multiple University units to provide support for international graduate students. These include research sharing opportunities, professional development workshops, and social events to build community and to expand networks. None of these resources would have been possible without Sumitra’s vision and persistence in create an inclusive and supportive environment for international graduate students to thrive. Another example of her leadership was collaborating with the Graduate School to create CIGS PEP-TALK, a program for underrepresented first-year international graduate students to be mentored by peers in their graduate programs. Sumitra’s breadth and depth of experiences werecritical to effectively shape the PEP-TALK objectives and structure which helped first year students transition more smoothly into their programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sumitra’s contributions go beyond the international graduate student community. In 2014, through a University international student fee grant received by the Department of Secondary Teaching and Learning (PSTL), Sumitra helped to develop workshops for faculty to support inclusive teaching practices in their classrooms. She researched and compiled resources for faculty to effectively engage with non-native speakers of English. She also assisted in forming a Learning Community for all University faculty to be aware of challenges facing international students and to share ideas to improve their pedagogy. At the closure of PSTL, faculty transitioned to other departments bringing with them aspects of the program that Sumitra helped to develop. Such departments include Family Social Science, Youth Studies and Organizational Leadership Policy and Development.
Sumitra has made a significant and long lasting impact on enhancing the experiences of international graduate students and has contributed to faculty development in the area of internationalization. The Graduate School is delighted that Sumitra is being recognized for her diligence in establishing CIGS and for her extraordinary leadership and commitment to the broader University of Minnesota community.
The Mestenhauser Student Award for Excellence in Campus Internationalization Virtual Ceremony will be held March 26, 2021 at 4:00 PM.