Award for Global Engagement

2013 Recipient

Nathan Whittaker
Academic Adviser, College of Education & Human Development, Twin Cities

Nathan Whittaker is an assistant academic adviser in the TRiO Student Support Services, where he has opened doors to study abroad for underrepresented students in the College of Education and Human Development and across the University. TRiO strives to ensure access and equal opportunity education for University of Minnesota students who are first-generation in college, low-income, have disabilities, or for whom English is not their first language.

In the early 2000s, Whittaker lived in Cape Town, South Africa, where he worked with youth in a post-Apartheid context and was a member of the South African National Association of Childcare Workers. He grew to regard South Africa as his second home and as a result deepened his passion for social justice.  Recognizing a desire to connect his students to South Africa, Whittaker created and led a University-wide Global Seminar, “About South Africa: Tracking the Footsteps of Social Change,” sponsored by the Learning Abroad Center—the first TRiO academic adviser to do so. This program delves deep into the juxtaposition of wealth and poverty in Cape Town and surrounding areas. Students develop new ways of thinking on social change, community, and moving forward within the context of South African’s history on themes on justice, inequity, and hope—themes that also reflect the racial history of the U.S.

Whittaker is particularly commended for equalizing study abroad opportunities for students who typically can’t or won’t study abroad. For TRiO students, participating in learning abroad can be challenging—from the unfamiliar application procedure, to managing time away from home, to coming up with the required deposits. Whittaker’s Global Seminar attracts the most economically diverse students within the Learning Abroad Center and continues to be over-subscribed every time it is offered. In addition, he has successfully advocated for policy changes affecting barriers to study abroad for low-income students, engaged in intensive scholarship advancement for under-represented students studying abroad, and provided training to faculty from across the University on recruiting low-income and students of color for learning abroad programs.

Whittaker’s passionate and proactive advocacy and his belief that international educational experiences should be an opportunity for all has been an example of true social justice in action and has provided learning abroad opportunities for dozens of students who would otherwise not have participated.