Going the Extra Mile (GEM) Award


Congratulations to the Spring 2024 GEM Award winner


Azamat Tulepbergenov

 "Bilim-Innovation" International Community Fund

Spring 2024 GEM Winner Azamat Tulepbergenov


Azamat is an International ACAC Non-Profit Organization member in Kazakhstan. His nominators highlighted Azamat’s impact establishing college counseling in the country. However, his dedication goes beyond counseling, as he actively promotes the professional growth of counselors and initiates projects to improve opportunities for Kazakhstani students. Recognizing the lack of resources available to students, he compiled a comprehensive guide covering application procedures and financial aid opportunities. Azamat collaborates with university representatives and organizations to advocate for counseling in Kazakhstan, both domestically and internationally. Azamat is a valued member of the International ACAC Admissions Practices Committee. We commend Azamat for his valuable contributions to International ACAC, the counseling profession, his peers, and students.



What is the Going the Extra Mile (GEM) program?

The International ACAC Going the Extra Mile (GEM) program recognizes the exemplary work of International ACAC members by highlighting a dedication to our profession, our colleagues, and our students by demonstrating best practices, acts of good will, creativity, and ethics.

Who can earn the GEM award?

This is an award is for everyday International ACAC members who are “going the extra mile” to help their colleagues and/or students. Recipients will demonstrate their dedication to our profession by supporting the objectives and strategic goals of the International ACAC. This commitment may be demonstrated in a variety of ways including consistent participation in an International ACAC committee that strengthens the organization or a willingness to go above and beyond the duties of their role in order to assist others.

Who can submit nominations for the GEM award?

International ACAC members are encouraged to submit nominations of outstanding colleagues who show a high level of commitment to helping students, colleagues, and the overall organization. Nominees must be current International ACAC members in good standing.


How do I nominate someone for the GEM award?

Current International ACAC members may nominate an International ACAC colleague for the GEM award two times each year.  This recognition features the exemplary work of International ACAC members by highlighting a dedication to our profession, our colleagues, and our students by demonstrating best practices, acts of good will, creativity, and ethics.

International ACAC members are encouraged to submit nominations of outstanding colleagues who show a high level of commitment to helping students and/or colleagues. This commitment may be demonstrated in a variety of ways including consistent participation in an International ACAC committee that strengthens the organization or willingness to go above and beyond the duties of their role in order to assist others.

  • Eligibility Criteria
    • Nominees must be current International ACAC members.
  • Nomination Process
    • To nominate a fellow International ACAC member, please complete the GEM Nomination Form. You will need the following information to complete the form:
      • Nominee Name (First and Last):
      • Title:
      • Institution/organization:
      • Email:
    • Nomination forms may only be submitted by current International ACAC members.

How frequently will GEM award recipients be announced?

  • New GEM award recipients are recognized two times a year.
  • Nominations open on the first of designated months; members are notified via the monthly bulletin, posting on our Facebook group, and other social media outlets.
  • Following a two-week nomination period, the membership committee will review submissions and select GEM award winners.

How will GEM award recipients be recognized? 

A photo of all GEM award recipients along with a brief description of their service will be placed on the International ACAC website in the “Read about our current and past GEM award recipients” section. In addition, the recipient will also be recognized in the following ways.

  • Highlighted in the International ACAC Newsletter.
  • An email will be sent to the GEM award recipient’s direct supervisor recognizing their award.
  • All GEM award recipients will be provided with a printable award certificate.
  • GEM award recipients will be encouraged to list their award on their LinkedIn page.

Past GEM Award Recipients

The Going the Extra Mile program recognizes the exemplary work of International ACAC
members by highlighting a dedication to our profession, 
our colleagues, and our students by demonstrating best practices,
acts of goodwill, creativity, and ethics.


Laura Kaub

Duolingo English Test, Kenya

Laura Kaub Headshot

In her role at Duolingo English Test, Laura works tirelessly guiding refugee students through university admissions processes and securing the travel documents to get there - no small feat for refugees! She is a fearless advocate for students and has worked tirelessly to get the HALI Access Network up and running, serving as a mentor for scores of folks through her nearly 10 years with the organization. Laura leverages her network to connect people to mentors, opportunities, and support. Her nominator says, “I am inspired by her dogged determination, gentle tough love and by the unbelievable care and support she offers to those that are lucky enough to know her.”


Kristen Karovic
College Bloom, Italy


Kristen Karovic Headshot

Kristen Karovic is a first-generation college graduate, Fulbright recipient, former professor, and most recently, an Independent Educational  Consultant at College Bloom in Italy. Supporting low-income students is incredibly hard work, but Kristen works tirelessly to identify affordable programs and meaningful options that will change her students' lives. She compiles lists of scholarships and schools with tuition under a certain amount, and researches visa requirements that could impede a need-based student from studying internationally. Those who work with Kristen remark that she's wonderful at connecting new counselors and helping them establish themselves, as well as bringing them into the International ACAC family. Kristen ensures that her colleagues feel a part of a supportive community of counselors around the world, sharing her research with others so that they too can support low-income students.  Her nominator says “Kristen is the definition of an IEC who goes the extra mile!”


Nathan Mack
University of Southern California, USA


Nathan Mack Headshot

Nathan Mack, Associate Director of Admissions at the University of Southern California, has more than a decade of leadership and management in higher education. In this role, he thoroughly enjoys the work that he is able to do in helping students discover their best-fit college or university. Part of how he achieves that is volunteering as the Chair of the International ACAC Fairs Committee. As such, he has helped the organization as a whole navigate the pandemic by making the pivot to the online environment, innovating to hybrid options, and now fully back in-person. Nathan is described by his nominator as “a true creative, a motivator, and most importantly has the best interest of the International ACAC membership in mind.” Those who work with Nathan on the committee indicate it is an absolute pleasure, due to the fact that he is such a happy and passionate admissions professional.

Mick Amundson-Geisel
International School of Yangon, Myanmar

Mick Amundson-Geisel Headshot

Mick Amundson-Geisel from the International School of Yangon is the architect of an amazing counselor network who worked to put students from schools in Myanmar ‘on the map’. As part of those efforts, he built a multi-school fair that was added to the Southeast Asia fair circuit. This allowed universities to learn about the potential of the students from the small, but mighty country. 

As Myanmar experienced a coup, followed by the pandemic, Mick worked tirelessly from the U.S. to not only counsel his students, but keep the network going, providing innovative virtual experiences for the students of this country. He continued to face obstacles that are familiar to many of us due to the impact of the global pandemic, needing to support his students in their university planning journeys, but without the ability for universities to visit in-person. Mick embraced online opportunities and shifted his multi-school fair to a virtual one, creating further access to and for his students. His continued focus on collaboration with other schools and the platforms that made this possible was critical to its success.

His nominators were quick to point out that Mick is known for "working to look beyond the well-known universities of the world, to truly find the best fit for his students." Truly going the extra mile! 

Rebecca Pohl 
American School of Warsaw, Poland

From the USA to Mexico, then on to China and Zambia, finally landing in Poland, Rebecca Pohl is currently working at the American School of Warsaw.  When war broke out in Ukraine, Rebecca sprang into action giving new Ukrainian arrivals in Poland a temporary home to transition to the next part of their journey. At the same time she worked tirelessly gathering support from friends and colleagues around the world to help in any way they could – finding educational opportunities and translating donations into much-needed supplies on-the-ground in Warsaw.   Food, medical supplies, books for a book exchange project between Poland and Ukraine, bulletproof vests and more have found their way to those in need due to her dedicated efforts.

Rebecca has also been sharing the stories of those she has helped and the helpers that she has brought together for the cause.  Across the world she has brought people together to support the cause and make a difference. Figuratively and literally, Rebecca continues to go the extra mile. There are many stories of grateful organizations and families on her Facebook page!  

The International ACAC Going the Extra Mile (GEM) program recognizes the exemplary work of International ACAC members by highlighting a dedication to our profession, our colleagues, and our students by demonstrating best practices, acts of good will, creativity, and ethics. For her efforts, her ongoing support in the local community and her dedication to ASW and her students, Rebecca is the recipient of the Going the Extra Mile award from IACAC’s members.  Congratulations Rebecca!


Niki Dinsdale

UWC South East Asia, East Campus, Singapore

Congratulations to Niki Dinsdale, winner of the final Going the Extra Mile (GEM) Award for 2021! In addition to being a full-time university advisor at UWC South East Asia, Niki serves as Volunteer Head of Amala Pathways at Amala Education, a non-profit organization that works with refugees at camps in Jordan and Kenya, providing an online international high school for displaced persons.

Niki has successfully recruited 25 college counselors from all around the world to match with Amala students for one-on-one guidance, and supported each of those counselors as they took on this new role. She led the development of comprehensive workshops on finding pathways to universities, supported her team in writing powerful recommendations, and helped individual students apply to higher education institutions across the globe.

In addition to this, Niki facilitated and collaborated on a unique scholarship for UWC students with Huron University in Canada. Niki’s work in this area and her out-of-the-box thinking is much appreciated by her nominators.

Descriptors such as wonderful, advocate, commitment, enormous contributions, and generosity of spirit were sprinkled liberally throughout Niki’s nominations. By definition, the work that Niki does is certainly going the extra mile, and her nominators recognized that: “she has done a phenomenal job” and “she has elevated our profession and we are lucky to know her!”


The Dutch Research University Consortium (DRU) 
Anne Kuijs, Saskia Cluistra, Carina Bravo Plancarte,
Kim Zwitserloot, Maarten Dikhoff,
Denise Nijhuis, Carolyn Barr

When you hear the word collaboration, the Dutch Research University Consortium (DRU) may be the first thing that pops into your mind. The DRU consists of eight member institutions and their staff, in particular: Tilburg University (Anne Kuijs), Maastricht University (Saskia Cluistra), Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University Rotterdam (Carina Bravo Plancarte and Johanna Goossens-Noel), University College Utrecht (Kim Zwitserloot), University of Groningen (Maarten Dikhoff), Eindhoven University of Technology (Dennis Baas), University College Roosevelt (Denise Nijhuis) and Leiden University (Carolyn Barr). These eight institutions have worked together very closely for over a decade to offer a clear and succinct message about studying in the Netherlands. Working this way benefits everyone: students, counselors, and the universities themselves. In addition, they seem to have a lot of fun doing it all, too!

Nominators described that the admission folks from these eight universities have gone above and beyond in their efforts to support of counselors and their students applying to Dutch universities. They have embraced a very transparent and supportive Facebook group in which they answer questions, share resources, and create community. They have offered multiple webinars, student events, and counselor meet-ups in this past year, reaching across time zones. Most recently they offered the DRU Bootcamp for Counselors, a week-long professional development opportunity at no cost for counselors. Counselors in attendance described this deep dive into new content about studying in the Netherlands as informative and useful, a brilliantly organized series of events, and seriously excellent professional development.

We thank the Dutch Research University for their dedication to our profession and congratulate all eight members on receiving the June 2021 Going the Extra Mile award.

Kevin Fuchs
Peterson School, Mexico 

Characterized by his nominators as an outstanding human being, and a joy to know, Kevin is a pivotal member of his local counseling community, as well as the regional counseling community in Latin America. Kevin is seen as someone who is exceptional in his support of students, sharing of knowledge and a facilitator of connections. Of special note is his ability to cultivate relationships – regardless of country or language. 

Kevin’s work in the Caribbean and Latin America Network has been extensive since its inception in 2018. He played an integral part in creating a resource pool, investing in the professional development of his colleagues in the region, and seeking out new opportunities for students and fellow counselors alike. Of late, this has manifested in promoting and collaborating with International ACAC and other organizations for events and webinars, sourcing certificate opportunities for colleagues, all in addition to his full teaching and counseling schedule.

We thank Kevin for his dedication to our profession and offer our congratulations both to him and to Peterson School, Mexico on his receiving the December 2020 Going the Extra Mile award. 

John Liu
Yew Chung International School of Shanghai, China 

The May 2020 GEM awardee was John Liu. Multiple nominators particularly noted John’s dedicated work back in January 2020 to develop a gathering place for on-line events to support students in China affected by COVID-19 and the cancelation of March to May in-person recruitment events, pivoting a platform he had created two years earlier for another initiative for Shanghai area college fairs. One of them wrote that the website he developed showed innovation and virtual support for what would become a trailblazing effort as the rest of the world was impacted by COVID-19 in the following months. The resource he created is a space that students, counselors and admission officers now rely on to share events. This outreach is no small feat and his colleagues are aware that he spent hours of your own time supporting this project during a difficult time in our industry, keeping the website up-to-date and refashioning it to fit a wider audience several times.

We thank John for his dedication to our profession and offer our congratulations both to him and to Yew Chung International School of Shanghai on his receiving the May 2020 Going the Extra Mile award.

Sarah Loring de Garcia
Independent Educational Consultant, Mexico 

The December 2020 GEM awardee was Sarah Loring de Garcia. Sarah's nominators emphasized her enthusiasm and commitment to the profession.  One described her as a powerhouse when it comes to offering authentic, smart, principled advice. You can catch her threads on a variety of forums, always assertively helping others and offering her expertise and resources to back up her responses.  She counsels like a well-oiled machine - every document is student-centered, every interaction is a community -friendly and every mentoring technique handed out is intentional.  Another nominator shared her annual USA Test-Optional List for International Students is comprehensive and supports offering counselors an easy go-to resource while also allowing those universities who have policies that are flexible to promote them. Maintaining such a list is selfless and shows Sarah's commitment to offering reliable resources for counselors to use around the world. Sarah is often a contributor in the International ACAC Facebook group supporting members with their questions or concerns as well.  Sarah's enthusiasm and commitment to the profession is exemplary and the December 2019 GEM Award is a well-deserved recognition of her contributions to International ACAC.

Sherrie Huan
University of Sydney, Australia

The Fall 2019 GEM awardee was Sherrie Huan. Sherrie’s nominators particularly noted her dedicated work on the Governance and Nominating Committee (GNC) of the International ACAC. As a member of last year´s GNC, Sherrie went above and beyond to share new ideas to encourage our members to get out and vote. One of her best initiatives was writing a blog to share her own experiences to motivate members to express their voice by voting. Her positive attitude to offer support, share insights, and lend a hand illuminates the work we do. Sherrie brings enthusiasm and commitment to the profession. We congratulate her on this award!  

Kelly Braun, Saigon South International School, Vietnam

Emily Dobson, Edge College Consultants, Brazil
Jamie Kanki, Concourse, USA
Marie Kobayashi, St Mary’s, Japan
Joan Liu, UWCSEA East Campus, Singapore
Selena Malla, USEF Nepal
Samantha Moktan Lama, GEMS Higher Institute of Education, Nepal
Diva Shrestha, Nepal Leadership Academy, Nepal 

The Fall 2018 GEM awardees were the Justice League who had a huge impact and have done admirable work helping and advocating for Nepalese students whose scholarships to attend university were revoked.  Nominators noted the inspiring demonstration of college admissions professionals coming together in this massive act of goodwill to help so many students at a critical time. The group’s collaboration was described as an example of empathetic, resourceful, collaborative, creative, and above all student-centered teamwork.

We are very pleased to thank Kelly, Emily, Jamie, Marie, Joan, Selena, Samantha and Diva for their dedication to our profession, and offer our congratulations both to them and their schools on receiving the Fall 2018 Going the Extra Mile award. 

Dale Ford
British International School of Phuket, Thailand

The Spring 2018 GEM awardee was Dale Ford of the International British School of Phuket in Thailand. Two members who nominated Dale particularly noted that he is an incredible advocate for his fellow members of International ACAC. One nominator wrote that “with the sudden demise of Naviance as a platform to overseas schools, Dale Ford took the initiative to create a shared space for counselors to compare notes on the platforms we are considering.”  His second nominator noted that Dale has been exceptional, including his work in creating “incredibly valuable resources to share” and again noting his participation in webinars to make sure everyone in International ACAC had access to the information they need.

Mitsuko Leonard
University of California, Davis; Davis, CA 

The Fall 2017 GEM award was conferred on Mitsuko Leonard of the University of California, Davis. The two nominators particularly noted Mitsuko’s dedicated work on the International ACAC Professional Development committee. Her leadership role as co-chair of Webinar Wednesdays, increasing the professionalism and breadth of the virtual professional development series, has been instrumental in the result of the program being recognized by NACAC with the Rising Star Award.

Jolynn Vallejo
California College of the Arts; Oakland, CA 

Jolynn had two nominators: Robert Duff from Northlands and Rachel Dillon from The American School Foundation. Robert noted, “One of the most outstanding aspects I would like to emphasize is her level of empathy; just by having very engaging conversations with a few of our students, she could pick up feelings and life events our students were facing (by analyzing their art work and by showing a true interest in what the students were trying to express). I have held many such portfolio reviews, but it is not usual to see this level of commitment and empathy.” Rachel added that, “She is wholeheartedly committed to whatever it is she chooses to dedicate herself to whether that be her music, her advanced studies in psychology, her daughter, or for the purposes this nomination, her work at CCA (and beyond!).”

Marie Whalen
Whitworth University; Spokane, WA

Marie’s nominator, Claudia Botero from Marymount School Medellin, particularly noted Ms. Whalen’s generosity in sharing her knowledge and mentoring both counselors and students. Claudia described Marie in glowing terms as “knowledgeable, patient, giving of her time, watches out for her institution and is proud of it, stands by and exalts her international students any chance she can, and loves, loves, loves what she does.”

Marie Kobayashi
St Mary's International School; Tokyo, Japan

The first inaugural GEM award was conferred on Marie Kobayashi of St Mary’s International School of Japan.  Marie’s nominator, Peter Hauet, particularly noted her dedicated work to organizing the largest college fair in the history of the 25-year-old Kanto Plains College Fair. The Kanto Plains College Fair has been going on for nearly 25 years alternating between St. Mary's International School and The American School in Japan.  Marie worked with all of the Kanto Plains, Japan high schools and the U.S. Embassy to make it an event to attend with universities from all over the world represented. Peter wrote that not only does Marie go out of her way to make college admissions representatives’ trips proceed as smoothly as possible, but that she always places her students first.

We are pleased to thank Marie for her dedication to our profession, and offer our congratulations both to her and to St. Mary’s International School of Japan on her receiving the inaugural Going the Extra Mile award (January, 2017).