Bringing the Best and Brightest: Chancellor’s Awardee Acknowledged for Helping International Scholars Come to UC Davis

group of adults standing in front of artwork
Jennifer Aten (center) with a few of the international scholars she has helped bring to the UC Davis Department of Neurology.

By Sheri Chow and Mary Martin-Mabry 

The Chancellor’s Awards for International Engagement honor those on campus advancing the research, teaching, and service mission of UC Davis through their international engagement. For the third year, faculty and staff awardees were recognized by Chancellor Gary S. May at the International Connections Reception hosted by Global Affairs on March 7.

One of the honorees this year was Jennifer Aten, a human resources analyst in the Department of Neurology at UC Davis Health. She was nominated by the international scholar services team working within Services for International Students and Scholars (SISS) for her exemplary service and tremendous impact on our international scholar community, as well as the campus community.

Aten plays an integral role in bringing international talent and perspective to the important research and clinical care done by the Department of Neurology and UC Davis Health. International scholars (postdoctoral scholars, faculty, researchers and staff) are assets to scientific innovation, economic growth and public diplomacy and she goes above and beyond to welcome and support them. 

“I’m honored and humbled to receive this award,” Aten said. “In my job, I believe in providing concierge service. We have to make a good first impression from the minute someone contacts us.”

When asked about her nomination, Simone Kueltz, assistant director of international scholar services within SISS said, “We highly regard her teamwork and value her partnership in supporting international scholars and promoting diversity. It was clear that she cared greatly about the newly arriving scholars, even finding a way to communicate with me while camping with limited reception!”

Having successfully recruited over 20 faculty members in her five years at UC Davis, Aten often navigates high pressure and complex visa and work authorization cases with composure as the first point of contact with her department's prospective faculty, postdoctoral scholars and other academic staff. This is particularly critical work for her department, which competes for a very small number of world-class neurologists and neuroscientists. Almost 40 percent of all practicing neurologists in the U.S. are graduates of foreign medical schools.

“Jennifer is the epitome of professionalism, and goes out of her way to make candidates feel welcome,” said Fredric Gorin, professor and chair of the Department of Neurology. “Her work is especially important to our department. We’re competing for a very small number of top-rate neurologists and neuroscientist applicants, and almost 40 percent of all neurologists are foreign medical graduates.

Whether it is successfully recruiting top candidates, steering through immigration processes or ensuring scholars feel welcome, Aten balances administrative expertise with human kindness-traits that are appreciated by her home department, by Services for International Students and Scholars (SISS) within Global Affairs and by the scholars themselves who are often making their way to a new city, state, country or even continent.

"Each year I am thrilled to see how faculty and staff are contributing to UC Davis' mission in innovative and international ways," said Joanna Regulska, vice provost and associate chancellor of Global Affairs. "This year in particular, I am proud to see how faculty and staff are supporting the internationalization of our campus and are creating new global learning opportunities for our students.”

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