Cultivating Global Connections

Marlene Hartzman and her husband, Robert, remember the impact of an award for Robert’s work as a medical student.

“We were especially grateful for the Senior Research Award he received when he graduated medical school,” Marlene recalls. “We knew first hand what this type of award could mean. It was extremely important — it gave us a financial cushion so Bob could begin his career working with researchers from around the world.”

When the couple began talking about giving back, it was a no-brainer to support graduate students by enriching their campus work. To do so, they support the Medical Scientists Training Program at the School of Medicine and Public Health, and they established the Hartzman International Travel Award at the School of Education.

“For me, presenting one’s research to an international group of peers is a transformative learning opportunity,” Marlene says.

For the students honored in 2018, that has proven true. Kevin Crombie, a doctoral candidate in kinesiology, presented at the 28th Annual International Cannabinoid Research Society Symposium in Leiden, Netherlands.

“This award made a significant impact on my scholarly and professional career trajectory and is something I will always be thankful for,” he says.

Crombie met researchers in his field, observed how different a research career would be in the U.S. versus other countries, and landed a postdoctoral fellowship after meeting one of the other attendees. He also met a researcher with whom he plans to collaborate on future projects.

Brittany St. John attended the International Occupational Therapy (OT) Congress in Cape Town, South Africa.

“This event only happens every three years, and it was definitely the most impactful conference I have attended so far,” she says. “I met multiple international scholars who will remain as contacts and friends. It drastically expanded my awareness of international OT and expanded my perspective on OT as a health care profession to include our role in community-based work, justice promotion, and disparity reduction.”

Marlene is delighted with the student experiences. “The hope was that if this type of experience was supported financially, more students would be able to avail themselves of the opportunity to present internationally,” Marlene says.
“That is exactly what’s happened.”

Marlene recently met several of the first-year award recipients and was inspired. “I was in awe hearing how their experiences impacted their research and career aspirations, and their experiences reinforced my belief in the importance of global connections. Being able to support this type of transformative experience is humbling. Giving back in this way is an honor.”

Marlene is chair emeritus of the School of Education’s Board of Visitors, and she also performs volunteer work with the 4W Initiative and the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association.