The University of Iowa

Study Abroad Outreach Assistant to receive 2016 Dean's Achievement Award

May 3rd, 2016
Caitlyn Kavan

Caitlyn Kavan

UI senior Caitlyn Kavan is a go-getter.

Since the beginning of her time at the University of Iowa, she’s been an advocate for refugees, a student athlete, a member of seven multicultural student organizations, and an on-campus facilitator for discussions about breaking racial stereotypes. She can be found here at the International Programs office where she works as an outreach assistant, helping students find the study abroad destination of their dreams.

And most recently, she’s been awarded the Dean’s Achievement Award for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, presented by the Center for Diversity and Enrichment.

“I was really excited – I didn’t know the magnitude of the award until more and more people started congratulating me and I started receiving letters from the Dean and found out about the awards ceremony. I’m very, very honored,” Kavan said.

The award is presented to graduating seniors who have demonstrated an impressive record of academic achievement and service to the University community.

Kavan said that some of the most meaningful experiences she’s had on campus involve her work facilitating conversations about racism and xenophobia here on campus – and how to combat those issues.

Last week, she led the ‘Breaking Asian Stereotypes’ campaign, which aimed to bring awareness to the Asian community on campus. In response to recent incidents regarding stereotyping and discrimination at the University, the campaign gave the Asian community and allies a platform to speak up against those statements, and information about how to respond to them.

“One thing I believe is that to start change, you have to begin at an individual level. Being able to build relationships with people also builds opportunities to educate people and for them to grow,” Kavan said.

“Sometimes it’s so taboo to talk about why something is racist, but if we’re afraid to talk about it, we can’t address it. And if we don’t address it, it’s always going to be an issue. I’ve been able to talk to student leaders who now feel empowered to take a stand.”

Caitlyn poses by the ocean

Caitlyn poses by the ocean during her study abroad in South Korea.

Kavan is also highly invested in the international student community here, a passion that she believes may have never come about if she didn’t have the chance to study abroad.

Kavan spent an academic year at Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea (2013-2014) and also completed a health policy and management internship at the Cluj School of Public Health at Babes-Bolyai University in Romania last summer.

“During those experiences I was an international student myself, and I had a lot of struggles, and it really put into perspective for me how much those students struggle here as well – whether it’s socializing with other students, learning the language, or studying the material,” she said.

“Having an outlook on different cultures and people’s mindsets has encouraged me to be more open-minded.”

An honors student majoring in international studies and global health, Kavan also recently completed her thesis examining stress management and disordered eating patterns among Asian American women.

The idea of the project started from her own personal battle with an eating disorder, as well as her knowledge of the lack of literature around mental health for Asian American women.

“It was an opportunity for me to recover, and provide an opportunity for other women to learn about their stress in a non-judgmental way,” she said.

“The project helped me turn my struggles into my successes.”

Upon graduating, Kavan will begin a graduate program in public health at Emory University in Atlanta, with a focus on infectious disease. In the future, she hopes to work at an international health institute like the Center for Disease Control or the World Health Organization as an epidemiologist.

She encourages other students to pursue their passions as well.

“Don’t wait for opportunities – go find them or make your own. Don’t depend on other people too much – you have more potential than you think.”

Kavan will accept the Dean’s Achievement Award on Thursday, May 12, 2016, at the Graduation Reception sponsored by the University’s Diversity Office, in the IMU Main Lounge at 3 p.m.