The University of Iowa

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.


In light of the unusual circumstances we’re currently adapting to, International Programs has extended the due date for nominations for the International Impact Award until May 11

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 2020 International Impact Award will be accepted between March 15 and May 1, 2020.  Nomination forms and submission guidelines are available here or by contacting


Past Recipients

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.


Photo of Jay Sehgal

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.

2017: Janine di Giovanni

A 1986 graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Janine di Giovanni is an award-winning investigator, journalist, and analyst in foreign affairs and human rights. She is the Middle East Editor for Newsweek, a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, and the Edward R. Murrow Fellow at the Council on Foreign Affairs in New York. Di Giovanni is one of Europe’s most respected and experienced reporters, with unrivaled experience covering war and conflict in the Middle East, the Balkans, and Africa. The author of seven books of nonfiction and reportage, she has won eight major awards for her writing and was recently named by Action on Armed Violence one of the 100 most influential people in reducing armed conflict. She is viewed internationally as a leading voice on these issues: she is a frequent moderator of high-level panels and an analyst on foreign policy at conferences for several institutions including the World Bank, the UN, Harvard, Princeton, and the World Economic Forum.

2016: Howard Kerr

Howard Kerr is a native Iowan, a 1960 graduate of the UI, and a former naval commander and advisor to U.S. presidents.  Having earned graduate degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Kerr combines a unique appreciation of academic education with fascinating experiences in the real world and government. Whether serving on the front lines of U.S. strategy during the Cold War, helping military leaders understand the military situation in Vietnam, advising presidents and vice presidents on military and naval matters, or consulting with thought leaders on international affairs, Kerr has provided a significant international impact. He has been a Military Fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, contributing to high-level discussions of international politics among individuals who create and implement American policy. Kerr has been a strong advocate and aide to the University of Iowa, specifically the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  He serves on the CLAS Dean’s Advisory Board and has provided a generous amount of time and effort to the political science department, regularly lecturing in presidency and foreign policy courses.

Rebecca Arnold

2015: Rebecca Arnold

Arnold’s focus has always been global.  She’s worked as a community health educator, has fought global poverty with the NGO CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere), and has developed grassroots advocacy guides used in Burundi, Uganda, and Rwanda to assist local activists in the prevention of gender-based violence in their communities.Currently the senior program officer at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs, Rebecca Arnold has effectively blended her deep knowledge of communication strategies with an understanding of critical public health issues facing populations in many parts of the world.   A self-described ‘social and behavioral change communications specialist,’ her work has directly affected the delivery of knowledge and skills around family planning as well as maternal, newborn, and child health and nutrition, and has led to improved health behaviors in communities from Madagascar to Bangladesh.

In recent years, Arnold has directed the Bangladesh Knowledge Management Initiative (BKMI) in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  BKMI is a USAID-funded project to strengthen the capacity of the Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family Welfare as it attempts to develop a national communication framework for health, population, and nutrition, which is currently absent in Bangladesh.  As part of this effort, she is developing digital resources (eHealth) for community-based, non-clinical field health workers to use in counseling at the household level.

These are only a few highlights of Rebecca Arnold’s impressive accomplishments at a global level.  Since her earliest days as a Peace Corps volunteer, Arnold has been acutely aware of the relationship between health and economic security.  By creating appropriately targeted behavior change communication campaigns around health, Arnold and her public health colleagues are positively affecting not only those in the immediate vicinity but serving as a model for use by public health workers in other developing countries.

Rock Island, IL, native and UI Masters of Public Health graduate Rebecca Arnold will receive the award at 5 p.m. on November 10 at the start of International Programs’ WorldCanvass television show and will participate in a wide-ranging discussion of global public health issues.  More information on WorldCanvass can be found here.

2014: Roger Thurow and Selma Jeronimo

For the first time since its inception, two winners were selected for the International Impact Award: journalist, author, and activist Roger Thurow, and tropical medicine specialist Dr. Selma Jeronimo. UI President Sally Mason and Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs Downing Thomas will present the awards to Thurow and Jeronimo at 5 p.m., November 18, at FilmScene in downtown Iowa City as part of the WorldCanvass program “The Tenacious Cycle of Poverty, Hunger, and Disease.”

Roger Thurow is a UI journalism grad who grew up in a small town in Illinois and went on to a high-profile career writing for the Wall Street Journal and covering a host of momentous international events, including the emergence of Nelson Mandela from prison, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the war in former Yugoslavia.  But the tragic and seemingly intractable issues of inadequate nutrition and food inequalities in Africa haunted him and eventually became his driving cause. After three decades as a journalist and foreign correspondent, Thurow turned his energies toward personal activism, joining the Chicago Council on Global Affairs as a senior fellow for agriculture and food policy, speaking out and writing on nutrition and hunger issues, and being named the 2009 Action Against Hunger Humanitarian Award in the process.

Selma Jeronimo is a professor of biochemistry and medicine at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte in Natal, Brazil. Her research involves work in the neighborhoods and homes of low-income populations, and she provides free medical consultation and care as a part of her studies. Although not an alumna of the University of Iowa, Jeronimo has a long history of working closely with UI medical and global health faculty and students. A partner in numerous high-level, grant-funded research projects investigating endemic but curable tropical diseases that affect thousands of her fellow Brazilians, particularly those living in impoverished conditions, Jeronimo also provides hands-on learning opportunities that are invaluable to her UI colleagues.


2013: Marcelo Mena-Carrasco

Mena-Carrasco, the fourth recipient of this honor, is deeply involved in air quality research, striving to unfold the layers of complexity surrounding our understanding of global warming and climate change.  Recognizing the social impact of the technological choices we make, Mena-Carrasco is not content to simply conduct research in his lab and leave policy questions to politicians.  He takes his research into the world in hopes of finding solutions to the environmental problems that are daily causing harm to individuals and society, creating great demands in the political and public policy spheres of countries all over the world.  Through continued collaboration with colleagues at the UI and elsewhere, Mena-Carrasco believes the path can be found to a more sustainable and healthier future.Dr. Marcelo Mena-Carrasco, a Chilean alumnus of the UI College of Engineering and powerful advocate of socially responsible and sustainable environmental practices, has been named the recipient of the 2013 International Impact Award.  Mena-Carrasco directs the Center for Sustainability Research at the Universidad Andres Bello Santiago, and serves as Energy and Climate Specialist for Fundación Chile, a private nonprofit corporation whose mission is to introduce high-impact innovation and empower human capital.

UI President Sally Mason and Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs Downing Thomas presented the award to Mena-Carrasco at the WorldCanvass program The Social Impact of Sustainability on November 8, 2013. In 2017, he received the Climate & Clean Air Honorary Award from the Climate & Clean Air Coalition for his work to reduce short-lived climate pollutants and air pollution in Chile.

2012: Hualing Nieh Engle

As only the third recipient of this award, Engle is being honored for her vision in creating and nurturing the International Writing Program; for her commitment to freedom of expression and international/intercultural dialogue regardless of political barriers; for her personal investment in internationalizing the UI campus as well as the larger American literary landscape; and for proudly carrying the name and reputation of the University of Iowa to the most cosmopolitan of cities and most humble of communities in her own voice and in the voices of IWP writers.Co-founder and tireless supporter of the International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa, Hualing Nieh Engle received the 2012 International Impact Award.

Listen to Hualing speak about her work with the International Writing Program on the Nov. 2, 2012, WorldCanvass program “IWP: Writing the Stories of the World,” available as an iTunes podcast.


2011: Trudy Huskamp Peterson

"I'm extremely grateful for this award because it gives a little more visibility to the question of the importance of archives in defending, protecting and asserting human rights around the world." Dr. Trudy Huskamp Peterson, former acting archivist of the United States, founding executive director of the Open Society Archives, and director of archives and records management for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, was named the 2011 recipient of the International Impact Award for her unflagging commitment, even in the face of opposition and intimidation, to the protection and safe-keeping of at-risk documents in order that history may be preserved."

- Trudy Huskamp Peterson

Hear more about Trudy and her work in the free iTunes podcast from the Nov. 11, 2011, WorldCanvass program "Being the Other."

Learn about Trudy's 2018 Emmett Leahy Award here.


2010: Richard and Mary Jo Stanley

“We are most pleased and honored to receive the International Impact Award,” said Richard Stanley. “This award recognizes our family’s interest in global education over the years. We believe that the survival issues of today and the future require the understanding, engagement and collaboration of all peoples and nations. We are thankful to have a small part in this.” The inaugural award was presented in 2010 to Richard and Mary Jo Stanley of Muscatine who, along with the Stanley family, have been long-time donors to UI International Programs.

Hear more about the Stanleys and their work in the free iTunes podcast from the Nov. 12, 2010, WorldCanvass program "The Value of an International Education."Stanley commended UI International Programs’ work in preparing students and others to be globally competent and comfortable in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world.