President Award Winners Strengthen UM’s Global Presence

Timothy RB Johnson (left) and Judith Pennywell

Curiosity. The will to serve. These desires define the paths taken by the 2022 recipients of the University of Michigan President’s Award for Distinguished Service in International Education.

For the first time, the University of Michigan recognizes both a faculty member and a staff member for their outstanding efforts to advance international education and create an ideal environment in which all students thrive : Timothy RB Johnson, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Feminist and Gender Studies; and Judith Pennywell, Director of the UM International Center.

“Timothy Johnson has provided our students with life-changing international experiences while elevating Michigan’s role as a welcoming partner in global collaborations, especially through his work in Ghana,” said the UM President. , Mary Sue Coleman. “For international students in Michigan, Judith Pennywell has been a tireless advocate, supporting them on their travels to the United States and promoting their well-being as they join our community.

“Both recipients have advanced the international education and outreach of our students while strengthening Michigan’s global presence.”

A love story in Ghana

Faculty Award recipient Timothy Johnson’s commitment and advocacy for international students was ignited in 1986 when he traveled to Ghana as part of an early group of Americans to re-establish relations in medicine, especially in obstetrics and gynecology.

“I had the opportunity to give a talk on safe motherhood and it was a transformative moment for me,” Johnson said. “The very first day I was (in Ghana) I went to the morning report. The report said they had a busy night and 10 maternal deaths. These were women who died of haemorrhage because “There was no blood bank. Women would have hemorrhages and high blood pressure that they couldn’t control; they had strokes and died. These are all diseases that we could control here.”

“They needed people who could train OBGYN health workers to save women’s lives. So I said, ‘I know how to do this; my expertise is training medical students.

Thus began a stable and fruitful partnership with colleagues in Ghana that continues after 36 years.

During his career at UM, Johnson has mentored hundreds of undergraduates, medical students, residents, and fellows in the United States and Ghana. Most of his mentees carry on his international legacy as teachers, effectively multiplying his impact on global health. More than 50 publications have documented the development of Johnson’s unique curriculum, its two-way educational approach, and its ethical underpinnings.

For Dee Fenner, chair of UM’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Johnson’s Sustained Academic Partnership Framework has made UM a model in Africa.

“Dr. Johnson’s service to global health and his commitment to the ideals of trust, sustainability, mutual respect, responsibility and leadership have laid the foundation for Michigan’s international education programs,” Fenner said.

The multiplier effect

Global REACH Associate Director Cheryl Moyer has worked closely with Johnson for nearly 20 years. His encouragement generated his first research project in Ghana in the late 2000s.

“I can safely say that I have never met anyone so ready and willing to go out of their way for interns they barely know, all to ensure they have a great educational experience. internationally,” Moyer said.

Johnson’s commitment to providing a quality exchange between Michigan and Ghana has never wavered. On average, UM sends 10 medical students a year to Ghana for a month, and twice as many Ghanaian medical students visit Michigan.

“It embodied a different approach to global engagement that remains to this day: prioritizing the needs of our partners alongside our own,” Moyer said.

Moyer said one of the most remarkable aspects of Johnson’s legacy is his inimitable talent for making connections and creating opportunities for learners at all levels.

“I can’t count the number of times a student has come forward and said, ‘I would like to do X in Ghana. Is that possible?” she said. “Invariably, Tim starts listing who the student needs to connect with, sending emails and making phone calls to make sure the student has a foot and can get there, putting his stamp of approval on projects to ensure their success.”

Johnson completed his residency at the UM Health System in Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1979 and said he couldn’t be more grateful to receive this award near the end of his career.

“I was the luckiest person in the world to be able to do what I do,” he said. “I was able to teach and I was able to train people to become teachers. It is therefore a story of the multiplier effect.

Student Services

Judith Pennywell, who has led the International Center for the past eight years, said her professional interests have always been driven by an intense curiosity about other cultures, traditions and languages.

“I remember wanting to learn more about Latin American people after taking my first Spanish lessons in elementary school,” she said. “I would speak to a child with a different sounding surname and would like to know the origin of his name. My parents encouraged this curiosity with a large set of encyclopedias and regular trips to the library. I believe an inquisitive mindset is a catalyst for learning and growth.

For more than 25 years, Pennywell has done everything from advising international students and building global program partnerships to managing international student services and developing cultural programs. Through her work, she has created and facilitated opportunities for students, scholars, and faculty to study in the United States or pursue research, teaching, and volunteerism abroad.

Her extensive experience in international education has been instrumental in creating a more inclusive campus climate for international students, said Simone Himbeault Taylor, former interim vice president and senior associate vice president for student life.

“Dr. Pennywell is an accomplished professional with deep expertise in international student issues and strong administrative skills,” said Himbeault Taylor. “She demonstrates a great ability to identify root issues and seek creative solutions. As a seasoned administrator, she brings her head and heart to her systems thinking approach, always thinking about business solutions with students at the center of her decision-making.”

UM International Center

Pennywell’s leadership of the International Center during the COVID-19 pandemic has been fundamental to supporting and advancing international education in Michigan. She advocated for more inclusive and compassionate institutional decision-making, and was able to provide uninterrupted support to students amid immigration issues and other crises, said Jennifer Meyer Schrage, former vice president. Acting Associate of UM.

“Judith worked closely with her team to ensure that the (International Centre) responded to many emerging and unexpected challenges,” she said.

Pennywell’s office supports some 8,200 international students from 126 countries enrolled at UM and occasionally engages with about 1,700 others in optional hands-on training. His team works with more than 1,500 scholars and employees on immigration issues and helps recruit Peace Corps Volunteers and manages the Peace Corps Readiness Program.

Outside of UM, Pennywell is active with NAFSA: Association of International Educators, having served as conference chair for the organization’s 2019 national conference.

“Judith has been an extraordinary volunteer leader for over 20 years,” said Dorothea Antonio, NAFSA Deputy Executive Director. “His dedicated service to the association has had a significant impact on the field of international education.”

For Pennywell, international education is a powerful mechanism for advancing an institution’s mission while helping students become global citizens.

“I am privileged to work in a field that promotes international engagement, international understanding and global learning,” she said. “I’m lucky to be on this career path and to be recognized for what I do. It’s also a celebration of our team. Together, we work to advance international education on campus in many ways.