SAGE Staff Named 2020-21 KU Team of the Year

12 members of the SAGE staff pose together

KU Study Abroad & Global Engagement was named the 2020-21 KU Team of the Year in recognition of the staff’s herculean efforts to safely bring home students studying abroad and pivot programming for students who could no longer travel abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, KU had 205 students abroad in 25 different countries and an additional 50 students prepared to depart on spring break programs. SAGE also had 58 summer faculty-led study abroad programs in development with more than 800 students in the process of applying for study, internship and research programs abroad. 

SAGE was one of the first KU units touched by COVID-19 as the virus began affecting students studying abroad in China, South Korea and other East Asia countries in early February 2020.  Over the next two months, the SAGE team worked around the clock to safely reaptriate students from abroad, while also ensuring these students could continue their academics upon return and assisting with their health, well-being, financial and personal needs.

At the same time, the SAGE team supported 50 international exchange students who were studying at KU in returning to their home countries as KU courses moved online and borders closed in March 2020. These students faced unique challenges in academic continuity, financial recovery, and travel logistics as they would not be returning to KU for future terms. SAGE and partners across the KU campus were able to identify creative solutions in support of these students. 

As the trajectory of the pandemic became clear, KU suspended all summer and fall 2020 study abroad programs. However, SAGE staff ensured KU students had opportunities for international education despite travel restrictions. The team transitioned a portfolio of Global Awareness Program activities to a virtual format and identified a slate of virtual study, intern and research abroad opportunities for KU students. Since summer 2020, 106 students have participated in virtual study or intern abroad programs, with feedback so positive that SAGE decided to make the options a permanent part of its programming portfolio. 

Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer presented the Team of the Year Award to SAGE on June 4, 2021 at an outdoor breakfast. The award is given annually by KU to recognize the collective efforts of an outstanding group of individuals who worked to complete a project that is important to the university’s mission, goals and directives.

The SAGE team is led by director Angela Perryman and has 12 full-time staff members on the Lawrence campus: Charlie Ambrose, project manager; Michele Arellano, associate director; Taylor Cole, student services specialist and passport center manager;  Tiphani Dixon, program coordinator; Renee Frias, program coordinator; Kate Gerken, program coordinator; Jennifer Hanson, business manager; Jenna Hunter-Skidmore; program coordinator; Mari Keyser, program coordinator; Jackie Langdon, outreach and communications coordinator; Michelle Ward, Global Awareness Program and Global Scholars coordinator; and David Wiley, program coordinator. Two team members, Zaida Ugalde, program specialist, and Isabel Alcazar, program specialist, are based in San José, Costa Rica.

 “I am incredibly proud of the SAGE team and their tremendous work over the past year. At all times, the team worked tirelessly in support of KU students, our campus partners, and the mission of the institution. Even under exceptional circumstances, the team remained committed to the important role of international education in developing thoughtful, inclusive and innovative leaders. Through their creativity and determination, international education remained possible, even when international travel was not.” said Perryman.