The Hugh M. Jenkins Award for Excellence in Community Programming is bestowed annually by NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the world’s largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange. It recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to promoting global understanding and international exchange in the local community. The award identifies individuals whose leadership encompasses outstanding skills in recruiting, training, and recognizing community volunteers.
The nominee must have:
- A commitment to promoting glob- al understanding and providing for international exchange in the local community;
- A spirit of volunteerism and a long-term commitment to international education and exchange;
- Excellence in leadership for recruiting, training, and recognizing community volunteers; and,
- Active participation with internationals in the local community.
Robert and Leah Rubenstein became involved with the Reves Center for International Studies shortly after their retirement to Williamsburg. They joined the Global Friends program, which matches international students with members of the community to foster cross-cultural friendships. Since their first connection, they have gone above and beyond the requirements of the program.
Global Friends are matched for an academic year, and the expectation is that community members will meet with their student once per month. However, Rob and Leah are among the few members who have chosen to remain paired with all their students throughout the duration of their studies and beyond. They have helped their students practice conversational English, review their school papers or resumes, and conduct mock jobs interviews. They even arranged a summer internship for one of their students in the Beijing office of the firm from which Rob retired.
Students matched with Rob and Leah not only benefit from establishing a connection with a local American family, but they get the added benefit of an in-depth connection. Rob and Leah have truly embraced their international students as part of their family, connecting them with their extended family, taking them to concerts, athletic events and museums, and hosting them students in their home for holidays. One of their students was preparing to spend last summer studying in Florence, Italy. Since Rob and Leah had a niece who lives there, they arranged for them to meet so that their international student would have a local contact in Italy for the summer.
Rob and Leah have also helped publicize Reves Center programs and recruit friends and family for the Global Friends program. They attend Reves Center events, even when their international stu- dents are unable to attend. They are always welcoming to new participants, and take the time to meet and have engaging conversations with international students, scholars and their families.
Unfortunately, Leah passed away on May 22, but she was very much present in the hearts and reminiscences of everyone at the award presentation in the Reves Room: members of the Rubenstein family; as well as members of their grateful “W&M family” – President Emeritus Taylor Reveley, Reves staff and many devoted friends throughout the university.