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OSU earns Senator Paul Simon Award for Excellence in Campus Internationalization

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Media Contact: Sydney Trainor | Communications and Media Relations Specialist Enterprise | 405-744-9782 |

NAFSA: Association of International Educators has awarded the prestigious Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award to Oklahoma State University. 


Named after the late U.S. Sen. Simon of Illinois, the award celebrates outstanding innovation and accomplishment in campus internationalization. The spotlight award is presented to no more than three institutions each year and highlights innovative internationalization programs and initiatives. OSU received this recognition for the Afghan Family Project. 

“We were thankful for the opportunity to partner with other agencies and provide support for Afghan refugees during their time of need, and our institution is both honored and humbled to receive the Senator Paul Simon Award,” OSU President Kayse Shrum said. “Oklahoma State University follows the Cowboy Code, a foundation that guides us to do what is right and to stand for what we believe in. As Cowboys, we are called to serve, and I am proud of how the Cowboy family responded to this opportunity, putting a service mindset into action.” 

In 2021, 1,800 Afghan refugees displaced from Afghanistan were resettled in Oklahoma, 72 of which arrived in Stillwater. Working in collaboration with Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma, OSU promptly provided the refugees with 17 apartments and extended aid such as transportation, internet access and access to campus resources.  

Since July 2022, OSU has established a robust organizational infrastructure to accommodate not only the initial group of Afghan refugees, but also collaborate with groups nationwide to become a hub for university-based refugee resettlement. The university is positioning this service as integral to its land-grant university mission, aiming to support the community, especially the international and marginalized populations within Oklahoma.  

“It is a great honor for OSU to receive this award, and the recognition from the selection committee, for the incredible work that OSU staff and faculty, along with our community members, did in helping to resettle the Afghan families,” said Dr. Randy Kluver, associate provost and OSU Global dean. “Our goal from the beginning was to provide the tools that the Afghans would need to rebuild their lives and to start over with an opportunity to succeed in the U.S.

“Receiving this recognition demonstrates that these efforts exemplify our land-grant mission and values, in serving others, stewarding our resources, and improving the lives of people in Oklahoma, the nation and the world.” 

Nearly two years into the project, the majority of the 72 initially settled Afghans remain in Stillwater, with only a few seeking opportunities elsewhere. While efforts were not initially intended to be long-term, the evident need and strong desire for continued support have emerged. OSU has been approached by numerous groups to take a leading role in showcasing how universities can contribute to this and similar projects.  

“I am pleased to recognize such a diverse and dynamic group of institutions for integrating international education into their teaching, partnerships, systems, culture and student success models,” said Fanta Aw, NAFSA executive director and CEO.  

Other 2024 Spotlight Award recipients are:  

  • Syracuse University (Syracuse, New York)  
    • Program:  International Student Success Model  
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, Massachusetts)  
    • Program: Global Projects for All initiative 

Institutions selected for the Simon Awards will be featured in NAFSA's annual report Internationalizing the Campus: Profiles of Success at Colleges and Universities, to be published this fall, and honored during NAFSA’s 2024 Annual Conference and Expo this spring.

To learn more about NAFSA’s Senator Paul Simon Awards, visit 

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