The International Impact Award recognizes distinguished alumni and other individuals with significant ties to the UI who have made important contributions internationally or, in the case of international alumni, abroad in their home countries.

The International Impact Award was established by UI International Programs in 2010 in order to honor exceptional individuals in any field who have made sustained and deep contributions internationally or in the U.S. to promote global understanding. The award is presented in November, during International Education Week, in a public ceremony.


Nominees may come from any field; current UI faculty and staff are not eligible for the award. Examples of successful nominees can be found below. Success in international business and industry alone is not considered a sufficient qualification. Individuals whose backgrounds include public service, social entrepreneurship / non-profit activities, and engagement in civil society non-profit activities are particularly encouraged to apply.

Nominations for the International Impact Award are accepted between March 15 and May 1 prior to the academic year in which the award would be given. Nomination forms and submission guidelines are available here or by contacting

Past Winners

Nina Jovanovic International Impact Award

2021: Nina Jovanovic 

Dr. Nina Jovanovic received her MD at the University of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014 and was then accepted as a fellow in the NIH-funded University of Iowa International Trauma and Injury Prevention Training program. While a fellow at the UI, she completed her Master of Public Health degree. Jovanovic has an exemplary record of international achievement. She is currently the head of pediatric ophthalmology and oculoplastic surgery in the Department of Ophthalmology, Canton Hospital, in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Canton Hospital of Zenica is one of the largest trauma hospitals in the country. Jovanovic is responsible for many firsts in Bosnia and Herzegovina: she was the first certified oculoplastic surgeon, introducing the techniques of oculoplastic surgery to Bosnia and Herzegovina largely by herself; she introduced the first eye injury registries to advance knowledge about eye injuries, their prevention and treatment; and she is the first physician to advocate for eye protection for workers. She is the leading eye researcher in Bosnia and Herzegovina and is well poised to substantively reduce the burden and disability associated with eye trauma and eye disease. Jovanovic witnessed the trauma of war in her home country, the former Yugoslavia, often, walking to school during shelling and seeing firsthand the psychological and physical impact that war has on communities. These experiences impacted her decision to become a physician and to focus on the prevention of trauma. As a young physician, she continued to see the impact of war through injuries suffered in land mine explosions, often ruining lives by taking away the victim’s vision, independence, and ability to work. Public health is not a common field in Bosna and Herzegovina, and when Jovanovic learned of opportunities to integrate public health and population-level prevention with her medical practice, she found her passion and focus: to advance eye treatment with research, prevention, and advocacy. Jovanovic shares her experience and expertise with UI students and faculty during nearly annual visits to campus and welcomes UI students for global clinical experiences in Bosnia and Herzegovina. An accomplished scientist, she promotes a public health perspective geared toward prevention and unites colleagues from Iowa and across the globe.

Martin Lopez-Vega International Impact Award

2021: Martín López-Vega

When Dr. Martín López-Vega received his PhD in Spanish from the University of Iowa in 2017, he was already one of the most notable authors of his generation in not one, but two languages: Spanish and Asturian. Asturian, a minority language spoken in the north of Spain, is not as well recognized as other languages in Spain such as Catalan, Basque, and Galician, but López-Vega is one of a handful of artists and activists who have fought successfully to increase legal recognition for Asturian and to create awareness about the rich heritage associated with it. López-Vega has written several books in that language, as well as an impressive number in Spanish, totaling more than twenty volumes of poetry, fiction, and essays to critical acclaim. López-Vega was appointed director of cultural policy for the Cervantes Institute, the government agency charged with promoting the varied languages and cultures of Spain around the world and to encourage cultural, intellectual, and artistic exchanges between Spain and the rest of the world. López-Vega has also served as general director for culture and heritage of the Principado de Asturias—a high office in charge of conserving and promoting the history and cultural production of the region—and director de gabinete (executive director) of the Cervantes Institute. López-Vega’s love of and commitment to cultural and linguistic diversity is reflected in his work as a literary translator and editor of authors in a variety of languages, from Italian to Portuguese. He has devoted great attention to less commonly taught languages as a literary critic in the three most important newspapers in Spain and as director of several collections for two publishers. He has worked throughout his career to foster a greater understanding between nations and to raise awareness about the value of linguistic and cultural diversity, both in his home country of Spain and around the globe.

Sue and Pat Keefe

2020: Susan and Pat Keefe

Pat (BSPh ’69) and Susan Keefe have dedicated their lives to helping people in need internationally, regionally, and locally. Their compelling story started in 1971 when they volunteered with the Diocese of Davenport to be medical workers (Pat as a pharmacist; Susan as a nurse) in a remote Mexican mountain village. Upon returning to the U.S., the Keefe family continued to embrace a call to provide care to underserved or vulnerable communities. Since 1993, the couple has worked with underserved communities in Cincinnati, Ohio, to include immigrant populations, women, and children during and after pregnancy, and combatting hunger/undernutrition. Pat Keefe spent the majority of his impressive career as an executive for Omnicare, Inc., a Fortune 500 company that provides long-term care services. After his retirement as chief operating officer in 2010, Pat formed a consulting company, Bridge Healthcare Partners, to assist start-up companies and non-profits in the achievement of their goals. Additionally, he recently started a company with his son called Six.02 Bio with the mission to bring together specialists in optimizing the delivery of biopharmaceuticals and diagnostics. In a time where our world needs the development of new vaccines, this company is working to create unsurpassed quality, communications, and efficiency from concept through early-phase manufacturing of these products. The commitment to improvement and support of global health and international work remains a theme in the Keefe family's contributions to the University of Iowa community, specifically the College of Pharmacy. They have generously supported various initiatives in the college, including the Patrick E. Keefe Professorship and the Patrick and Susan Keefe Service-Learning Scholarship. Their focus relates to enhancing access to opportunities, providing mentorship, and the provision of education and exposure to global and international issues – including involvement with humanitarian campaigns.

Sarah Lande holding international impact award

2020: Sarah Lande

When asked to describe her life-long involvement in citizen diplomacy, Sarah Lande said, “I think of myself as a citizen of the world. My passion is waging peace through friendship by leaving a legacy of opportunities for people from my community of Muscatine, the state of Iowa, and the world.” A resident of Muscatine, Iowa, and University of Iowa alumna (BA and MBA), Lande served as a board member, president, and executive director of the Iowa Sister States and recently served as co-chair of the 30th Anniversary Committee celebrating the Sister State relationship between the state of Iowa and Hebei Province. Lande’s citizen diplomacy efforts tied to China began in 1985 when she arranged the Muscatine itinerary for Xi Jinping’s visit to the state of Iowa. Lande hosted a dinner for Xi Jinping and his delegation in her home. More than 25 years later, Lande and her husband, Roger, had a reunion with the then Vice President Xi Jinping in their Muscatine home. In 2013 Lande was named an “Honorary Friendship Ambassador” by the Chinese People’s Association of Friendship Foreign Countries. Lande is a recipient of the UI Distinguished Alumni Award for service and the Athena Award for Women’s Leadership. She has served on the advisory board of the UI Institute for International Business and serves the Muscatine, Iowa, community through leadership and volunteer roles in a variety of organizations, including: the Muscatine Community Improvement Action Team; Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine; Mississippi River Trail, Inc.; River Action; Muscatine China-Initiative Committee; and Rotary International Friendship Exchange Committee.

Simon Estes

2019: Simon Estes

Internationally renowned opera singer Simon Estes is a Centerville, Iowa, native and graduate of the University of Iowa. His exceptional musical talents were recognized when he joined the UI’s Old Gold Singers as an undergraduate and they led him to a full scholarship at the Juilliard School of Music. His operatic debut as Ramfis in Aida at the Deutsche Oper Berlin in 1965 launched an international career that placed him among the first generation of black opera singers to achieve mainstream success. Estes is viewed as part of a group of performers who were instrumental in helping to break down the barriers of racial prejudice in the world of opera. He was the first black man to sing a leading role at the prestigious Bayreuth Festival when he performed the title role in Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, has given performances in 84 of the world’s greatest opera houses, has sung for six U.S. presidents as well as Pope John Paul II, helped open the 1972 Olympics in Germany, and sang in South Africa in 2010 to open the World Cup, among many other notable performances. Estes, whose grandfather was a slave and father a coal miner, is ever mindful of the life-changing role philanthropy has played in his own life and has created numerous educational scholarships and foundations at the University of Iowa and around the world to benefit children and students, and raises funds for the United Nations Foundations‘ Nothing But Nets organization to fight malaria. For these efforts, Estes received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017 from the U.N. Here in Iowa, he has received, among many honors and distinctions, the Iowan Award, the state’s highest honor, and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Achievement Award.

2018: Rajat Jay Seghal

A 1986 graduate of the University of Iowa (BBA management sciences), Rajat Jay Sehgal is the executive vice president of the Sehgal Foundation (U.S.) and a trustee of the SM Sehgal Foundation (India), organizations whose mission is to strengthen community-led development initiatives to achieve positive social, economic, and environmental change across rural India. With support from donors and partners, the Sehgal Foundation designs and promotes rural development interventions that create opportunities, build resilience, and provide solutions to some of the most pressing challenges in India’s poorest communities. The foundation team works together with rural communities to create sustainable programs for managing water resources, increasing agricultural productivity, and strengthening rural governance, while promoting gender equality, women’s empowerment, and access to education. In his leadership roles, Sehgal represents the foundation to American donor organizations and development institutions, mobilizes resources from donors, creates linkages with key research organizations and foundations, and attracts volunteers and postdoc candidates from the U.S. to work with the foundation. Seghal has worked closely with International Programs and a number of UI colleges and departments for over a decade to provide hands-on learning opportunities for students who take advantage of the award-winning India Winterim study abroad program. Well over a thousand students and faculty have benefited since the program was initiated.