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: https://international.uky.edu/GW.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.