Mishma Nixon is a recipient of the 2020 Global Student Award, which recognizes current University of Iowa students who are emerging leaders deeply engaged in international education on campus or abroad. The award is given to two students annually—one to a student who has made significant efforts toward campus internationalization, and another to a student who is furthering globalization through their international research or study abroad program. Mishma is an undergraduate student from Colombo, Sri Lanka, in the Honors Program majoring in English and creative writing. Learn more about Mishma's engagement with international education below.
What experiences, organizations, or programs have you participated in that furthered your international education?
I have always been rather involved with various event planning and community building organizations on campus. I have been a part of Campus Activities Board, and served as the cultural director from January through December, 2019. As cultural director, I organized large scale events like Taste of Asia and facilitated collaborative events like Basant (with the Pakistani Student Association) and Multicultural Showcase (with OASIS). I have also been a part of the South Asian Student Alliance since freshman year, serving multiple positions along the years, and I am currently the vice president of the organization. I have been a part of the International Student Advisory Board (ISAB) for two years, and currently serve as the undergraduate chair. Through ISAB, I have been able to engage in advocacy for international students on campus and provide support for international student organizations, events, and involvement. I have worked with various campus partners such as USG, Dr. Bruno who is the Executive Director for Belonging & Inclusion, orientation services, ISSS, ESL programs, and UCS, to provide feedback and offer an international student perspective for issues regarding student life, academics, and diversity on campus. On a more academic level, I have strived to create an interdisciplinary education for myself that finds an intersection in the creation and facilitation of global and socially aware literature and entertainment. I received an International Distinction Award upon admission and in consequent years received the Rhodes Dunlap Awards for a First Year and Second Year student (both for 2019 and 2020) from the Honors Program, the Scott A. Anderson Memorial Scholarship from the English department, and the Miriam Gilbert Prize for Shakespeare Studies in Spring 2020.
What is the most valuable thing that you have learned through your international education experiences?
I have truly learned the value of collaboration and community engagement through both my educational experience and campus involvement. Iowa's population of international students and students of color is relatively small, however there is a beautiful thread of unity and connectivity that exists among students that enables large scale collaborations and activism possible. As a first generation international student who came to the U.S. and Iowa without knowing anyone and anything about college, this sense of community meant everything to me, and as I grew into this campus and found my place, I am also driven by the urge to give back, and offer the same sense of community for fellow students. In this process, I have also pushed myself, and done things in a scale I would have never thought of as possible before college, so I would definitely say that my international education experience has enabled me to attempt, do, and execute things that always seemed too big for me a couple years ago.
If you had one message to pass on your fellow classmates about international education, what would it be?
Unlearning is scarier than learning, and that's why we often hesitate to push ourselves out of our comfort zone. But once you cross that hurdle, there's an explosion of culture, language, experiences and personalities waiting for you, and that diversity is not too far - our campus is a great place to start! Don't be scared to broaden your horizons, and attempt to understand how you are different from and similar to your peers from around the world and across the country.
What are your future academic or career goals?
A major reason why I chose English and creative writing as my major (and Iowa as my campus) is not just my love for literature, but also my frustrations as an avid reader growing up in Sri Lanka, struggling to resonate with the experiences that were deemed as default. My future goal is fueled by that drive, and I hope to focus on researching, writing, and facilitating diversity and inclusion in children's literature, and create a global perspective in the mainstream narratives that are consumed. I hope to go to grad school to pursue my research further, and write and publish the stories I've always wanted to read growing up.