The University of Florida International Center has awarded Sarah McKune, Ph.D., M.P.H., the 2020 Junior Faculty International Educator of the Year. She is being recognized during UF’s International Education Week activities, November 16-20, including a virtual ceremony honoring international educators.
“I love what I do,” McKune said. “I feel extremely privileged to have found a space at UF that allows me to share that passion with colleagues and to nurture it in students.”
As a research assistant professor in PHHP’s department of environmental and global health, McKune’s research focuses on global health nutrition and food security. She currently has four international research projects based in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Uganda and Nepal. She is a member of UF’s Center for African Studies and a core faculty member of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems, led by UF IFAS.
“Dr. McKune is an outstanding international educator, offering a diverse array of educational experiences in the classroom and the field,” said Tara Sabo-Attwood, Ph.D., chair of the department of environmental and global health and PHHP’s associate dean for faculty development, cultural affairs and wellness programs. “Many countries are benefitting from her important, and in many cases, critical work, which provides an outstanding setting for students to learn about global health, international partnerships and community engagement.”
Over the past seven years, McKune has mentored 65 undergraduate and graduate students in various areas of global health. She has an open door policy for her research lab. Interested students are welcome to attend weekly lab meetings for several weeks. After that time, if they would like to work with McKune and her team, she meets with them one-on-one to formalize a plan for collaboration.
“I have met several of her mentees within her lab and it is truly remarkable how she is able to find the strengths in almost every student so that they feel empowered and motivated within her research,” said Elizabeth Wood, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., a clinical assistant professor in the department of environmental and global health and director of the Bachelor of Public Health program. “Within her courses, she creates cohorts of strong global health and development leaders and learners.”
Students in McKune’s Global Public Health and Development and Theory and Practice of Development courses contribute to one of McKune’s research projects as their final assignment. The courses attract students from disciplines all over campus, including law, veterinary medicine, journalism, anthropology and psychology, to name a few, which leads to meaningful opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration and knowledge sharing.
In addition, McKune has trained several students for international fieldwork. In many cases, they have worked alongside her in countries such as Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Nepal, Uganda and Honduras.
McKune not only helps her students build a customized toolbox of skills, she empowers them to reach their goals, said Emi Moore, Ph.D., M.H.S., a recent graduate of the Ph.D. program in One Health who is now on the faculty at the University of North Florida.
“Through our work together, I have gained insight into her professional and personal lives, as well as all of the ways she tirelessly works to dismantle barriers which exclude minorities and to include underrepresented populations within her work and at any table she sits,” Moore said.