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Political science major named Newman Civic Fellow

March 16, 2020

Kat Torres has already inspired other students at the University of North Georgia (UNG) to apply for Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships, a scholarship which paid for her current study abroad. Now her latest honor gives Torres a chance to gain further training in how to impact her community.

Torres, a junior from Hoschton, Georgia, pursuing a degree in political science with the goal to one day be a U.S. Foreign Service officer, is one of 290 students named to the 2020-21 cohort of Newman Civic Fellows. Campus Compact member institutions select students who are leaders on their campuses and demonstrate a commitment to finding solutions for challenges facing communities locally, nationally and internationally.

As part of the yearlong fellowship, Torres will connect with a mentor in her desired field, as well as attend the Newman Civic Fellows national conference in Boston this November. Campus Compact is a Boston-based nonprofit that works to advance the public purposes of higher education.

"I primarily applied for the Newman Civic Fellowship to join a larger network of individuals who are also passionate about being public problem-solvers," Torres said. "I am excited to meet the other fellows. I've read over some of their statements, and they have incredible backgrounds."

The same can be said about Torres. After she went on a study abroad trip to Ireland as a freshman, the first-generation college student wanted to encourage other first-generation and minority students to gain similar experiences. As a study abroad peer adviser for UNG's Center for Global Engagement, she was part of the effort that helped UNG have a record 30 Gilman applicants this school year, 11 of whom were awarded early Gilmans with the possibility of other winners on the horizon.

"At UNG, Kat has assisted other students in envisioning and achieving success through her work as a previous student government representative, Global Nighthawk, and a de facto member of our Nationally Competitive Scholarships office, where she often serves as a peer mentor," said Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant vice president of research and engagement at UNG.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented by the Institute of International Education, the Gilman program offers scholarships of up to $5,000 to outstanding U.S. undergraduate Pell grant recipients for study abroad programs.

"My grassroots volunteer service inspired students to confront their emotional and economic barriers that were once daunting," Torres said in her personal statement for the fellowship. "This helped lead to an increase in student interest in study abroad programs as well as three times the number of applicants for the Gilman scholarship."

In 2019, Lin chose Torres to be on an external hiring committee for the Gainesville Campus's new fellowships advisor. The fellowships advisor assists in advisement and recruitment of students to apply for nationally competitive scholarships and undergraduate research programs at UNG.

"I chose Kat to serve on the committee because I esteem her clear thought processes," Lin said. "I know that she's in touch with what many of our students need in terms of support in the scholarship process."

Torres, who served as a Student Government Association representative as a sophomore, earned an early Gilman scholarship for her spring 2020 study abroad in Australia and Argentina. Previously, she was part of the 5% of applicants selected to participate in the three-day Cox-State Diplomacy Seminar in Washington, D.C.

"The biggest career game-changer I've experienced at UNG has been participating in the Cox-State Diplomacy Seminar," Torres said. "The scholarship allowed me to explore career opportunities within the Department of State through informational panels, shadow an active Foreign Service officer, and participate in simulations that were critical in shaping my interest in foreign service."

Torres also took part in the Public Policy and International Affairs Conference at the University of Albany-SUNY Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, where participants focused on positive change through public service, integrity and accountability.

For more information, visit the Newman Civic Fellowship website.

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