Amira Nash is a recipient of the 2023 Global Student Award, which recognizes one undergraduate and one graduate student who are leaders deeply engaged in international education on campus or abroad. Nash is a PhD student from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, focusing on teaching and learning: literacy, culture, and language education. She is also the associate director of partnerships and programs at the Baker Teacher Leader Center in the UI College of Education. Nash will be presented with the Global Student Award during a WorldCanvass program on November 2, 2023.
Learn more about Nash’s engagement with international education below.
In what ways are you involved with international education?
I visited the Study Abroad Fair for the first time as a first-year undergraduate student in 2013 and learned that J-term and winterim study abroad trips existed. That winter, I left the U.S. for the first time and traveled to Barcelona, Spain, to take a class on Spanish history. This first trip made me fall in love with studying abroad. I went on to participate in two winterim programs with Dr. Mitch Kelly in Pondicherry and Bangalore, I engaged in a volunteer experience in Cuba, and I completed half of my student teaching in Ecuador. In my time now working in the College of Education as a staff member and working on my PhD, I have participated as a leader on three service learning and study abroad trips to Costa Rica, a scouting trip to Senegal, and a trip to Japan to engage with our partner university, Joetsu. Finally, with my mentor and now colleague, Dr. Kelly, I co-created and taught a three-semester hour course where 17 University of Iowa students traveled to Ghana.
Each of these experiences, from my undergraduate years at Iowa through my graduate years, has furthered my international education and made me think of the world in a new way. Each study abroad experience I had as an undergraduate student has informed my involvement and leadership in global education in the College of Education now. Having studied abroad many times and then going into teaching high school students, I was able to bring a globally minded perspective to my classroom and I know how important it is that teacher education students have these opportunities for international education in order to further their own thinking and pedagogy.
What are some other campus or community involvement activities you’ve been a part of?
Obermann Center for Advanced Studies Working Group, Scholarship of Public Engagement (2023)
Campus chapter advisor for Aspiring Educators at Iowa (2021-present)
Solidarity Committee, UI College of Education (2022-2023)
Teacher Education Program Advisory Committee (2018-2021)
"Having studied abroad many times and then going into teaching high school students, I was able to bring a globally minded perspective to my classroom and I know how important it is that teacher education students have these opportunities for international education in order to further their own thinking and pedagogy. "
What is the most valuable thing you have learned through your international education experiences?
The most valuable thing I have learned through my international education experiences is that people all around the world are more similar than different. People all over the world have the same hopes and worries even as lifestyles and ways of being may differ, and those differences should be celebrated. I learn so much about myself when I'm abroad. I have the opportunity to reflect on what is "normal" to me and can reflect on my own assumptions, expectations, and work to expand my thinking.
Please share a message with your fellow classmates about the importance of international education.
Go. Find a way and go. There are so many resources and opportunities on campus that are in place to support international education and global work. It is imperative for us to get outside of our bubbles, to challenge ourselves, to learn about and celebrate different cultures and perspectives, and to ultimately learn about yourself and reflect on you.
What are your future academic or career goals?
My doctoral research focuses on Black immigrant youth who are also categorized as English language learners (ELLs). As a former ELL teacher, I had the privilege of working with many students from the month they arrived in the U.S. and seeing them develop over their high school years. One thing I noticed was that students who had just recently arrived would identify themselves in terms of their home country or the language they spoke, saying, "I'm Sudanese," or "I speak Arabic." Somewhere along the way through their high school years, they would begin to identify themselves as "Black" or "an ELL." My goal is to conduct youth participatory action research with Black immigrant youth who are labeled ELL by their schools and work with them to co-construct meaning around identity and their literacies in the context of crossing borders.
International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement. IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.