Campus News

UK Global Wildcat Students Learn and Serve Online

Camila Urcuyo, a UK Global Scholar from Nicaragua
Camila Urcuyo is a UK Global Scholar from Nicaragua.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March. 3, 2021) — Among the ongoing uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, seven of the international students who joined the Wildcat community in Fall 2021 did so through a special program.

The students, from China, India, Peru, Nicaragua, Brazil and Egypt, had one thing in common — beginning their university studies from home.

This was made possible by the Global Wildcats program, UK’s special online program designed to give international students the opportunity to begin their studies despite travel restrictions.

“When the world changed in Spring 2020, we realized that it was going to be hard for some students to get to the U.S.,” said Karen Slaymaker, the assistant director for international student and scholar services. In response, she and Sue Roberts, the associate provost for internationalization, organized the Global Wildcats program.

“For these students, this program meant not waiting,” Slaymaker said. “They didn’t have to put their studies on hold and could enroll in courses that will count toward their degree.”

As first-year students, Global Wildcats were enrolled in UK Core classes, the university’s required general education program. Additionally, students were placed in an A&S 100 course dedicated to the Global Wildcats program, where they connected with peer mentors and learned more about UK’s campus resources.

One of these core courses, CIS 112, immersed students in the UK community through service-learning. International students completed their 10 hours of service virtually.

“Some face-to-face students opted for virtual service too, so our Global Wildcat students had the same experience as some of our students in Lexington,” said Allyson DeVito, senior lecturer and CIS 112 coordinator in the College of Communication and Information’s School of Information Science.

Among these students is Camila Urcuyo from Nicaragua. She partnered with the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, where she tutored middle school students in Lexington virtually each week.

“Shifting everything online was a real challenge,” Carol Jordan, the tutoring director of the Carnegie Center said. “We did the best we could, and I was really heartened by the great work of the tutors. We would not have a program without these volunteers.”

Another student from Brazil worked virtually with the Smithsonian Institute to transcribe historic handwritten documents from the American Civil War.

Since its inception in Fall 2020, the Global Wildcats program has seen a lot of success. Of the 20 students in the first cohort, 17 have now moved to Lexington for in-person instruction. With the spring semester underway, students like Urcuyo are now living their dream as Global Wildcats.

“UK was the university I was dreaming of all my life,” Urcuyo said. “When they offered me this opportunity, I didn’t think twice.”

Read more about the Global Wildcats Program here:

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.