Three International Students Receive Mestenhauser Award for Excellence in Campus Internationalization

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The Josef Mestenhauser Student Award for Excellence in Campus Internationalization has been awarded to three University of Minnesota students for outstanding contributions to international education.

Dongting Cai, Vishal Jamkar, and Washington Galvão have each held leadership roles in programs and activities that contribute to the University of Minnesota’s mission of fostering global competence and developing global citizens.

Dongting Cai

Dongting Cai

Dongting Cai (蔡东廷) is an international student from China at the University of Minnesota Morris who has demonstrated a strong commitment to intercultural understanding and student leadership.

“Growing up with an international perspective, I discovered that exploring this diversity is not just an opportunity, but also a responsibility we all share,” Dongting said.
Dongting is president of the International Student Association at the University of Minnesota Morris, where he works to promote cultural sensitivity, connect domestic and international students, and create a supportive community for students away from their home countries. He has also served as a community advisor for the Office of Residential Life, an international orientation leader, and a mentor for first-year international students. In addition, he applies his communication skills as a social media assistant for International Student Programs and the Student Success Center, creating informational content to help new international students navigate their transition to the University.

Dongting is passionate about navigating intercultural aspects in academic projects. His work, "The Impact of Misunderstandings in the Communication Process as Emojis in Different Groups," will be presented at UM Morris's Undergraduate Research Symposium. His Sustainable Development Learning Experience Diary will also be displayed, showcasing his experience in Germany as part of a College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences study abroad program.

“He embodies the ideals of a Morris student and a Morris education in seeking to pursue intercultural competence, global citizenship, and environmental stewardship,” said Chancellor Janet Schrunk Ericksen.

Watch Dongting’s digital story

Vishal Jamkar

Vishal Jamkar

Vishal Jamkar is a Ph.D. candidate in Public Affairs at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Hailing from a caste-oppressed community in India, Vishal has worked to raise awareness about caste, combat caste discrimination, and advocate for its recognition as a protected category at the University of Minnesota.

“When I came to graduate school in 2018 at the University of Minnesota, I hadn’t thought that I would encounter the question of caste in a foreign land,” Vishal said. “But I could share several experiences … to come to a disturbing conclusion that caste is very much active in the United States.”

Vishal took the initiative to establish a Critical Caste Study Group aimed at delving into scholarly works on caste and co-founded the Anti-caste Collective. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Anti-caste Collective and its allies, numerous schools and colleges within the University adopted caste as a criterion for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Eventually, the University of Minnesota emerged as the first University in the Midwest to officially register instances of caste-based discrimination.

Accepting the Mestenhauser award, he aims to implore the University administration to officially include caste among designated protected categories and institute affirmative measures to encourage caste-oppressed students to join the University of Minnesota.

Watch Vishal’s digital story

Washington Galvão

Washington Galvao

Washington Galvão is an international graduate student from Brazil in the Comparative and International Development Education program at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. He has shown his commitment to internationalizing education through multiple projects that envision equity and diversity. For three years, Washington was part of the Common Ground Consortium Conference - Advancing Black Intellectualism, connecting scholars throughout the diaspora to discuss Black intellectualism. Additionally, he was part of the program managing team for the Mandela Washington Fellowship at the University of Minnesota for two years, working with professionals from diverse fields across Africa.

Currently, Washington is a teaching assistant at a study abroad program in Brazil, where he also assisted with the syllabus organization. In the program, "Communities of Power and Resistance," students from the TRIO program at the University of Minnesota will join with Red Lake Nation students to engage in comparative discussions on resistance with Indigenous communities, racial and socioeconomic quota systems students, professors, community leaders, and high schools in Vitória, Brazil.

“I aspire to pursue a career in internationalizing, aiming to positively impact the field and uplift marginalized voices worldwide through education,” Washington said.

Watch Washington’s digital story