Katherine (Kat) Torres’s significant positive impact on our campus community is seen through her leadership roles; in each, she identifies students’ needs and responds with the support and guidance necessary to help them achieve their goals. As a study abroad peer advisor, Kat’s own experiences as a first-generation Latina student inform the knowledge and encouragement she shares with students. Kat assists students to both envision and achieve success through study abroad and nationally competitive scholarship opportunities. Her efforts helped lead to a significant increase in applications for study abroad scholarships. In addition, Kat served as sophomore class representative in the Student Government Association where she collaborated with her classmates through service to the campus community. Kat herself has received the Gilman Scholarship for her current study abroad, and she recently participated in the Cox-State Diplomacy Seminar in Washington, DC and the Public Policy and International Affairs Public Service Weekend. Both of these honors recognized Kat’s impact through service and her long-term aspiration to become a Foreign Service Officer in the US State Department. Kat’s commitment to local, national, and international service is deeply held, and she is poised to continue her positive impact throughout her academic and professional career.
As a first generation Latina, I experienced many emotional and economic struggles through my college career. As I surpassed these hurdles, I realized I could use my triumphs as a source of inspiration for other first-generation students undergoing similar adversity. I noticed a lack of first generation students participating in education abroad programs when I studied abroad my freshman year in Ireland. Upon returning, I served as the student government sophomore class representative to investigate how I could support my campus community in fulfilling student needs. I also volunteer as a study abroad peer advisor to directly educate first generation and minority students on local and national competitive scholarship and academic opportunities involving study abroad through one-on-one discussions and electronic outreach. My grassroots volunteer service inspired students to confront their emotional and economic barriers that were once daunting and has led to a direct increase in student interest in study abroad programs as well as three times the number of applicants for the Gilman scholarship. I strive to continue collaborating with the education abroad office to implement outreach programs geared towards supporting first-generation and minority students and advocating for related programs and policies through the student government.