UMCF Awards Destination U 2022 Maroon Award for Best Campaign or Series

Posted on: June 30, 2022
The Maroon Award for Best Campaign or Series

A digital initiative that was developed in early 2020 to help students stay healthy and connected during the COVID-19 pandemic was recently awarded a Maroon Award for Best Campaign or Series from the University of Minnesota’s Communicators Forum

Destination U comprises the stories of international students and the places on campus that feel like home. It was inspired by the larger UMN initiative, “Summer in the Cities”—a series of interesting resources and ways for students to enjoy the Minneapolis and St. Paul region. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and many international students were unable to return home, International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) wanted to make sure they didn’t feel alone.
“The pandemic forced us to question something that had always been unquestioned: Will the spaces and places around us continue to sustain and connect us?” said Alex Cleberg, intercultural trainer with ISSS. “Destination U helped students to recognize, verbalize, and emphasize the importance of the physical space around them.” 


Through the series, you can join Hana Abdelhamid for the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells at Wally’s Falafel that remind her of home. Or join Luenna Kang at Walter Library, where she realized she could make her college dreams come true. Check out how the Regis Center connected a community of art for Rawan Algahtani.

A map, with the title "Destination U" depicts the location of each of the students' favorite places on campus.

In any of the six digital stories of places across campus, Destination U offers opportunities for international students to engage with other students, and enrich regional and global connections, experiences, and understandings that make a significant impact in Minnesota and abroad. 

“Destination U was definitely a chance for me to stop and think back on what happened after I came here,” said Luenna Kang, a global studies and political science major. “I was in survival mode. Coming to a new country alone, trying to immerse myself in a new environment, language, people, and culture, I was in constant pressure to ‘survive,’ which is very common among international students, no doubt. I really did not have time to stop and reflect on how far I came and think about where I was heading. . . . That pause gave me a chance to think back, acknowledge my accomplishments, how far I came, and energy to move forward.” 

The initiative comprises the combined efforts of students Hana Abdelhamid, Luenna Kang, Michael Yang, Seoyeon Bae, Rawan Algahtani, and Adriano Martins, and staff members Mel Nigro, Thorunn Bjarnadottir, Barbara Kappler, Mike Bonnifer, and Alex Cleberg. 

Six students' profile headshots in a line.

“International students provide insight into the world around them due to their unique perspectives,” Cleberg said. “Through these videos, we can share that insight with all students. … This series is about a sense of belonging that comes from creating an intentional community, which is facilitated by the physical environment around us—something all of us took for granted.” 

The Maroon and Gold Awards are presented annually to UMCF members whose work exemplifies the University’s core values of excellence, innovation, effectiveness, integrity, diversity, collaboration, sharing of knowledge, accountability, stewardship, and service. 
Check out the full project