DeArman Awarded ‘Most Innovative International Initiative’ Award by NAFSA


Dr. Brooke DeArman, assistant director of international student services at Southeast Missouri State University, has been awarded the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers (NAFSA): Association of International Educators Region IV’s “Most Innovative International Initiative Award.”

DeArman was recognized for the national anthem performances videos she made during the spring 2020 semester.

DeArman said, “I’m so very honored. We’re in a large region and I’m certain there were many nominees, so to be selected for the award really means a lot to me.”

Understanding that international students might feel especially isolated when Southeast transitioned to fully online learning in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, DeArman decided to use her passion for music to support international students at Southeast.

DeArman and her husband, Ken DeArman, who graduated last May from Southeast with a Bachelor of Music in trombone performance, recorded full quartet and quintet arrangements of the national anthems of Southeast’s international students. The DeArmans played and recorded 63 national anthems over 62 days and posted the videos to the International Education and Services at Southeast Facebook page, her personal Facebook profile and her “Brooke at Southeast” Facebook account for international students and alumni.

DeArman was nominated for the award by Shvetha Gohn, assistant director of international admissions at Southeast.

Greg Wymmer, the region IV chair of NAFSA, said, “This award recognizes someone who has done something outstanding, innovative or creative; someone who has given hours to a special project; someone who has an idea that could be adapted elsewhere and has potential to impact students or international education profoundly in a very positive manner. We were impressed with DeArman’s national anthem project and thought it was a great way to support international students.”

DeArman said, “When everything shut down in March, that was a tough time for everyone, but especially for international students. Many of them could not return home and felt isolated. Many students told me it was nice having a piece of home to turn to when they felt homesick. It also gave them something to look forward to each day as they knew I would be posting a new video and they wondered if their anthem would be next. They even had competitions to see which anthem could generate the most views, so they started sharing the videos with their friends and families back home. Before we knew it, one video might have 22,000 views in less than 2 days. I definitely feel that the project made us all feel more connected, and we all learned something about each other.”

DeArman, who received a Bachelor of Music in instrumental performance with a minor in business administration in 2008 and a Master of Arts in higher education administration in 2010 from Southeast, as well as a Master of Music from Oklahoma City University in 2012 and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Missouri-Columbia through the statewide cooperative Ed.D. program in 2018, said that she first found a passion for working with international students as a graduate student.

She said, “Interacting with international students in graduate school made me realize how little I knew about the world. I was fascinated anytime I spoke to those students. I was thrilled when I returned to start working at Southeast and saw so many international students on campus. When I started working in the Office of International Education and Services in 2015, we had nearly 1,200 international students on campus. Those students quickly changed my view of the world for the better. As every field continues to become more globalized, I feel it is so important that all of our students and community members have the opportunity to work with and learn from one another, and I feel a responsibility to help facilitate those interactions and help students build relationships.”