Spring Breakaway

Year of India
Study abroad in India

Some students forgo traditional rite for service and learning experiences

KENNESAW, Ga. (Apr 2, 2018) — Lounging on beaches and soaking up the sun didn’t hold a candle to opportunities for immersive learning and meaningful service projects for a group of Kennesaw State students.

Teams of students are fanning out over this week’s spring break to paint houses for Habitat for Humanity in Rome, Ga.; represent their colleges as Distinguished Global Ambassadors to the United Nations in Geneva; learn about global poverty and environmental sustainability at Heifer International in Arkansas; and study issues and culture in India.

Nearly 50 students will be participating in these experiences, but it’s likely that many more Kennesaw State students may see spring break as a chance for another gratifying and resume-enhancing opportunity. Share with us at #owlsaway if you are one of them.

Taking “Year of India” to the next level

As if the more than 30 lectures, exhibits, cultural events and excursions into the local Indian community during Kennesaw State’s “Year of India” annual country study were not enough, a group of 15 Kennesaw State students wanted to experience India first-hand. They are participants in the first spring break study abroad to the country.

The 10-day KSU India Seminar will take them to Delhi, Mumbai and Amritsar to meet with faculty and students of the H.R. College of Commerce & Economics, explore famous temples and shrines, visit an Indian Village in the Palghar District of Maharashtra, and hear presentations by KSU partners at the Center for Social Entrepreneurship and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Study Abroad - India

A 10-day KSU India Seminar is giving students the opportunity of studying in India.

“The big advantage of going abroad to India during the Year of India is that students have had numerous on-campus and local community-based opportunities to learn about the country throughout the academic year prior to traveling,” said Dan Paracka, director of academic initiatives for the Division of Global Affairs. “This strong basis of knowledge allows them to get the most out of a shorter, less expensive spring break experience to India.”

Participating students are enrolled in a full-semester course in which they had the option of going abroad during spring break. All but two of the students enrolled in the course chose to go to India. All the students are paired with faculty members on collaborative research projects on topics ranging from arranged marriages, language and culture, mental health, substance abuse and parenting practices in India.

Celessia Cannon, a senior psychology major, had been looking around for another study abroad opportunity since her first one to Korea.

During the “Year of India” country study, Cannon jumped at the chance to learn more about the culture of another developing country, participating in campus and community events and enrolling in the seminar.

“I was looking forward to learning about the culture, the society and the religions of India,” said Cannon, who took advantage of a Year of India tour of a local Hindu temple and Asian marketplace. “When I learned about the study abroad seminar in India, I said, ‘You’re telling me that I could go to the birthplace of Buddhism.’ That was a selling point for me. Doing this is really not like giving up my spring break. I felt I was allowing myself to have an opportunity that most people don’t get to have.”

Joining Cannon on the India study abroad are Bailey Bagwell, Shena Batemon, Lisa Buckalew, Shawn Bunyard, Alexandria Carver, Reagen Garbett, Mclain Henr, Jasminne Herrera, Sophie Lane, Amanda Losito, Heather Rego, Lorena Rodriguez, Brooke Satterfield, and Amy VanDekerkhove. The professors working on research and accompanying them include Binbin Jiang, Ravi Ghadge, Toni James, Douglas Moodie, Dan Paracka, Kathering White, and Qin Zhan.

A Brush with Kindness

Students from Kennesaw State University’s Honors College are helping low-income families feel a little more at home.

A group of 15 Honors students are spending spring break week in Rome, Ga., painting the exteriors of Habitat for Humanity homes through a program called “A Brush with Kindness.”

“This project aligns with my foundation core values,” said Sarah Beauvais. “I have always had a heart for community outreach, and this is just one way to fulfill that. I am really excited to see what we can accomplish and the impact it will have on families.”

Habitat for Humanity

Students from the Honors College paint a house for Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that builds affordable housing for low- to very low-income families. Volunteers and future homeowners work together to build houses, which are sold at no profit with no interest charged to the owners.

Students joining Beavais in this alternative spring break project are: Carrie Lyn Barron, Julianna DeCocco, William Dyess, Dianna Gonzalez, Emily Harris, Monique Olocha, Marty Owens, Autumn Pope, Ashley Anne Schisler, Alex Schwarzenbach, Jessie Smith, Ayaa Woday, Joshua Wolfe and Zeljka Zec.

“To progress as a society, a country or as a world, we need to take care of one another,” said Barron. “This is how we start – reaching out, lending a hand and lifting those that need it the most. A little kindness and a little compassion go a long way toward healing, overcoming and progression.”

Honors College students

Students from the Honors College are traveling to Rome, Ga. to help with Habitat for Humanity homes.

Along with working with Habitat, the students are staying at the WinShape Retreat Center on the campus of Berry College. There, they are receiving leadership training that incorporates the eight Foundations of Honors Learning – leadership, critical thinking, professionalism, interdisciplinary learning, appreciation of diverse viewpoints, information fluency, effective communication, and creativity and innovation.

A view of global issues from Arkansas

During a weeklong spring break trip to Perryville, Ark., nine Kennesaw State students will entrench themselves in a 1,200-acre Heifer Ranch to better understand global poverty, worldwide hunger and environmental sustainability.

The ranch, part of Heifer International, a nonprofit charity that serves communities throughout the world, will engage students in service projects and hands-on activities that give them an authentic glimpse of everyday life in poverty-stricken regions of the world.

“This experience will help them connect what they do in a community with broader social issues and their impact on global communities,” said Lindsay Johnson, program coordinator for volunteerism in KSU’s Office of Volunteerism and Service Learning, who planned the alternative spring break trip to Heifer Ranch. “Service learning helps students work toward active citizenship by making community a priority in their lives.”

Heifer International trip

Students prepare for a trip to Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Ark. to better understand global poverty, worldwide hunger and environmental sustainability.

The ranch’s volunteer opportunities will focus primarily on environmental sustainability, food security and women’s empowerment. Students will work in the gardens, with livestock and on ranch maintenance.

“It will be so different from my everyday life, but I think this will help me to understand others’ situations,” said Shaharazad Stephens-Muhammad, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry. “This immersion will help me to see people as people, not as stories.”

According to Johnson, students won’t know exactly what they’ll be doing until they arrive. They will experience a lack of electricity, water access, and internet connectivity at times, which will model the same conditions that many in poverty-stricken communities endure.

“I want to leave this trip with a better understanding on how impoverished communities around the world lift themselves out of poverty, and how they can become sustainable through agriculture,” said Maria Sandoval, a graduate student who participated in alternative spring break trips as an undergraduate student at Dalton State College.

Students attending include Michelle McSwain, Kaitlynn Loyd, Maria Sandoval, Oliver Villacorta-Padilla, Haylee Hyatt, An Vu, Shaharazad Stephens-Muhammad, Kaitlyn Greenway, and Sydney Page.

Face time with U.N. officials in Geneva

As members of Kennesaw State’s Distinguished Global Ambassadors (DGA) Program, 10 undergraduate students representing each of the University’s degree-granting colleges are heading to Geneva, Switzerland for a weeklong series of youth leadership trainings with leaders of multiple agencies and departments within the United Nations.

DGA is a selective international leadership program administered under the auspices of the United Nations and offered through the Division of Global Affairs’ newly established CIFAL Atlanta Center.

The ambassadors will spend time both at the Palais des Nations and at the headquarters of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in training sessions led by U.N. ambassadors, high commissioners and UNITAR’s assistant secretary general and executive director. As part of their introduction to the U.N.’s Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the ambassadors will learn about issues related to road safety, environment, chemicals and waste management, peacekeeping, and health and well-being.

“This is a once in a lifetime educational opportunity for our students to train with some of the leading minds and figures at the United Nations and leverage that insight and experience to implement local educational projects on the KSU campus each year,” said Lance Askildson, vice provost and the University’s chief international officer.

Global ambassadors

Distinguished Global Ambassadors from Kennesaw State traveled to Geneva, Switzerland for a series of youth leadership trainings.

During their stay in Geneva, students will train at the United Nations Palace in Geneva and develop disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to sustainable development. They will present the sustainability projects they develop over the course of the program during the final session at the U.N. headquarters and receive certificates of completion.

For Maria Mata, an experienced international traveler who goes back and forth to her native Venezuela and has spent time in Italy and Spain, the trip to Geneva is the realization of a long-held dream to work for the United Nations.

“I am really excited to get to experience Geneva and all it has to offer for my development as a public health educator,” said Mata, who is representing the College of Health and Human Services as a global ambassador. “I would have never imagined myself to get the opportunity to network at the U.N. and be able to present a project addressing the Sustainable Development Goals of the World.”

Their time in Geneva is designed to position the ambassadors for leadership roles in global affairs, according to Serena Newhall, executive director of the CIFAL Atlanta Center at Kennesaw State.

“The United Nations understands that young people are at the forefront of implementing the sustainable development goals,” Newall said. “Those of us at UNITAR, KSU’s Division of Global Affairs and CIFAL Atlanta recognize that today’s emerging young leaders are the next generation of change agents who will create meaningful impact through civic leadership and other initiatives for social good. We expect this weeklong training at United Nations headquarters in Geneva to be a transformative experience for each of these students.”

Mata said she most looks forward to getting feedback from field professionals “in the global sphere,” connecting with her fellow global ambassadors and collaborating with them on their sustainable development projects.

“They are all truly amazing individuals who have innovative ideas and the potential to make a great change in the world,” she said.

In addition to Mata, these ambassadors are representing their colleges in Geneva: Tayler Buster (Education); Allision Chipman (University College); Josh Clounie (Engineering); Zach Hart (Architecture); Dolliesha Mathewis-Rosser (Business); Jose Rodriguez (Math and Science); Lisa Smith (Humanities & Social Sciences), Kara Smith (Humanities & Social Sciences) and Savanah Winn (Arts).


Contributors: Anna Barnes, Tiffany Capuano, Paul Floeckher, Sabbaye McGriff, Lauren Kress, and Rob Witzel


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu