2023 International Engagement Award recipients announced

Nov. 14, 2023

The MU International Engagement Awards recognize the outstanding work of faculty, staff and students to internationalize the University of Missouri. The following recipients were selected for 2023 by the Council on International Initiatives based on meaningful and sustained commitments to international work, whether directly on campus or brought back to the campus from an engagement abroad.

Outstanding student contribution

Headshot of John Bonilla-Aranzales

John K. Bonilla-Aranzales

John K. Bonilla-Aranzales is a doctoral candidate in political science in the Truman School of Government and Public Affairs. He is committed to expanding research and outreach focused on international and immigrant issues, as well as fostering a sense of belonging for international students, staff, faculty and Latines at Mizzou. Bonilla-Aranzales’ research excellence in comparative politics at the intersection of cyberspace and peace studies has been recognized through the 2023 David M. Wood Excellence in Political Science Research Award, 2022 Henry Mitchell Scholarship from the University of Missouri South African Education Program to support field research in Cape Town, South Africa, and Fulbright Scholarship in 2018.

Bonilla-Aranzales has played a pivotal role in fostering a culturally diverse and inclusive community at MU. He has served as the vice president of the MU Fulbright Student Organization and has twice been elected faculty liaison in the Truman School of Government and Public Affairs. As a Cambio Center student fellow since 2020, Bonilla-Aranzales has actively supported the local Latine community in Missouri through the development of official translations and transcriptions that have supported the Spanish-speaking community, especially international students seeking language support. In addition, he has been instrumental in the execution of the Cambio Center’s Cambio de Colores annual conference, and he conceived and organized a Latine film series to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month. Bonilla-Aranzales’ commitment to academic excellence and public engagement serve as an inspirational model for students and faculty alike.

Outstanding faculty contribution

Headshot of Antje Heese

Antje Heese

Dr. Antje Heese is an associate professor of biochemistry in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and National Resources. Her research, supervision and service contributions have expanded MU’s international work, and she is an outstanding advocate for promotion international engagement work at MU. Dr. Heese is a “brand ambassador” for MU who advertises our excellence in research around the world as a regular invited speaker at international conferences, member of the organizing committees for international meetings including the International Plant Cell Dynamics Meeting, associate editor of the journal Molecular Plant-Microbe Interaction, and reviewer for international grant funding agencies in South Africa, Switzerland, Hungary and the European Union.

Dr. Heese’s stellar research has many international collaborations that have brought students and faculty to the MU campus for training and have taken her abroad to share her research expertise in other countries. Especially notable are Dr. Heese’s sustained relationships with longtime UM System partners the University of the Western Cape (South Africa) and Ghent University (Belgium), which have contributed to and strengthened these important institutional partnerships. She has worked with colleagues at UWC since 205 and has hosted multiple graduate students in her lab, showing a deep commitment to student supervision and leading to novel research discoveries that have raised the international reputation of all involved. Dr. Heese’s research with U.S. National Academic of Sciences member and Ghent University faculty member Jenny Russinova on plant immunity was published in Nature and has been highly influential in the field. Russinova credits Dr. Heese for making an impact on her own research trajectory and for “fostering international collaborations to enrich our academic environment.” David Braun, director of the MU Interdisciplinary Plant Group, said, “Dr. Heese is the role model for international collaborations, connecting with researchers from around the world to benefit MU. Her efforts in international research and service benefit the entire plant research and MU communities.”

Outstanding staff contribution

Headshot of Lindsey Saunders

Lindsey Saunders

Lindsey Saunders is associate director of international programs in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Her primary job responsibilities include championing global citizenship and engagement for CAFNR faculty, staff and students. As Kerry Clark, director of international agriculture programs, said, “[Saunders] is a deep-thinking, solve-the-issue type of person who never glosses over the surface or puts in only the minimum required amount of effort. She integrates international work and people into her personal life and is very dedicated to making all communities better for visitors, immigrants and locals alike.”

Saunders is the key person on nearly all of CAFNR’s 18 active grants totally $6.9 million. She received an award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a program that places U.S. educators in Pueblo, Mexico, for a school year. She also administers the Deaton Scholar Program, which supports students in multi-disciplinary groups working on projects to address the UN Sustainable Development Goals of zero poverty and food insecurity. Saunders has run multiple Scientific Exchange Programs for the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service and routinely goes above and beyond her usual job duties in facilitating and ensuring positive exchanges and ongoing collaborations between visiting fellows and MU mentors. Her work has improved lives across Africa, Asia and Latin America.