International Students and Scholars Staff Earn Recognition at Professional Conference

Kayla Milner, left, and Audra Johnson.
University of Arkansas

Kayla Milner, left, and Audra Johnson.

Two staff members in the Office of International Students and Scholars earned recognition at this year's International Office Conference held last month.

Kayla Milner, international student adviser, won the 2024 ISSS Newcomer Award, and Audra Johnston, associate director of international students and scholars, was nominated for the ISSS Excellence Award.

The ISSS Newcomer Award recognizes a professional with less than two years of experience who has demonstrated excellence and commitment in the field of international education. The ISSS Excellence Award recognizes outstanding contributions by experienced professionals in the field.

"A nomination for an award at a national conference is already a tremendous honor," Milner said. "When you have less than a year of service in higher education, and then win the award, you may find yourself speechless from both gratitude and excitement. This early career award means more than I know how to say thank you for. I am remarkably overwhelmed with gratitude for my colleagues and peers who chose to highlight my accomplishments and celebrate with me."

"I am extremely honored to have been nominated for the ISSS Excellence Award and thrilled that our own Kayla Milner received the ISSS Newcomer Award," Johnston said. "Being nominated by our peers in the field is incredibly meaningful, and I am deeply grateful for the recognition."

Milner has served in her role since March of last year. In her position, she assists in the university's international immigration compliance efforts and connects international students with the experience, skills and resources they need to succeed.

"Kayla is bright, kind, personable, professional, thoughtful and just a delight to be around," one colleague stated in their nomination letter. "This is her first year in the field, but you would never know it based on her fluency in the regulations and thoughtfulness in understanding the international student perspective."

"One incredible initiative to highlight is her International Flavors spice rack, which offers students a chance to take a taste from home when they visit her office," the nomination letter continued. "She also has a children's bookshelf to highlight international authors and diverse stories. When our students bring their kids into their appointments with her, it gives them a chance to see characters who look like them and enjoy a thoughtful story. As a former K-12 educator, she brings the charm of a language teacher into her advising appointments. She challenges her coworkers to think critically about how our systems and policies are actually affecting the lives of the students and scholars in our community."

Johnston began in ISS as assistant director in 2000 and was promoted to associate director in 2007. In her role, she advises J-1 status holders on immigration regulations, supervises F-1 student advising staff and oversees compliance functions related to international education.

"Audra has served in our ISS office for over 20 years and has been a critical part of helping create a space where international students can be at home as well as an irreplaceable immigration regulation geek for decades now," a colleague stated in their nomination letter. "She has gone above and beyond to support us as staff and is almost a walking NASFA manual. Her dedication to forward thinking and leadership that asks us to think of a whole person and their goals cannot go unnoticed. Although she prefers to not be in the limelight, her quiet dedication to student success is truly remarkable."

The International Office Conference is a virtual conference held each year through International Office Consulting, an agency that provides consulting for international education offices across the United States. More information on IOC can be found on their website.



John Post, director of communications
Graduate School and International Education


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