Student Access and Experience Initiative

Student Access
and Experience

$15.88 Million


Providing a global perspective

One of the greatest joys in serving as chair of the Board of Trustees at Brenau University is to visit with our students who are fully engaging themselves in the quality education offered through our university. Many of you have joined my wife, Cathy, BU ’99, and me as we have collectively supported ForeverGold because we have an abiding desire to help our students reach their full potential. Through our collective efforts, we have increased scholarship support, expanded hands-on research and provided global opportunities for all students.

A critical piece of the Brenau educational experience today is the global perspective our students gain, as this opens up the world they are inheriting in truly impactful ways. Whether through our exchange program agreements with schools in France, Belgium, China, Denmark, Italy or South Korea, or shorter-term experiences in England, Mexico, Belize or the Bahamas, our students’ international experiences prepare them to better compete in a global marketplace and to help shape a better global society for all.

The partnership we have forged with Anhui Normal University in China has brought scores of Chinese students to our Gainesville campus, and hundreds more will follow in the years ahead. I have been personally enriched through my many trips to China, and I am confident that the enduring relationships formed among our students, professors and administrators will enrich all of our lives, our societies and our international relations.

A great benefit of a comprehensive campaign like ForeverGold is that it allows alumni and friends of the university to identify areas for which they have a passion and to invest in those areas. Cathy and I believe so strongly in these international experiences that we committed a portion of our endowment funds toward preparing for Brenau’s partnership with Anhui Normal through providing student ambassadors for these new students. The purpose of the ambassador program is to educate a number of Brenau students on Chinese history and culture, bring them to China to meet the future Brenau students, and help build relationships between Chinese and American Brenau students before the Chinese students even arrive on campus. By all measures, this approach is proving to be successful.

Thank you for all you have done to help make Brenau and
its students ForeverGold.

Peter D. Miller
Chair, Board of Trustees, Brenau University


Within one lifetime the world changes significantly, meaning Brenau students must have a global perspective to be successful. The ForeverGold campaign aspired to raise endowed funds to provide international experiences for all Brenau students, preparing them to be citizens of the world.

Yucatan adventures

Each spring, the School of Occupational Therapy conducts programs for students in Yucatan, Mexico. A 12-week fieldwork course places students in different health-care settings, including a specialty hospital for children, a psychiatric facility, an acute-care hospital and an orthopedic outpatient rehabilitation facility. Another program occurs during spring break, allowing students to work with Mexican clinicians treating children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and to experience everything from a modern hospital to traditional healers in rural settings.

“Living abroad in Mexico provided me with a broader understanding of the human condition and made me appreciate the beauty of diversity to a greater extent,” says Andrea Ratowsky, BU ’17, a pediatric occupational therapist working in Lawrenceville, Georgia. “I was given the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone in order to grow and challenge myself while being open-minded to other people and situations. This experience provided me with the strength to take on new perspectives and ideals to be the best occupational therapist I can be.”

Student ambassadors to China

Each summer, Brenau University sends 10 students to Anhui Province in Eastern China near Shanghai to act as ambassadors for the university and its various +2 programs with Anhui Normal University. These student ambassadors meet with faculty and students in the program at Anhui Normal and give the Chinese students a familiar face when it is time for them to begin their studies at Brenau.

“China is just so different from the United States, with such different history, culture and just a different way of doing things,” says senior Kyle Gomez-Leineweber, who has also participated in a semesterlong exchange program to South Korea and a two-week program in Mexico. “Travel broadens your horizons and perspectives. As a history and political science major, I have learned a lot about other countries and cultures. But once you spend real time in another country, you become involved and immersed in the culture. It gives you a better understanding of other people.”

Kyle Leineweber and Mary Rose Gibson

Brenau at Cambridge

Every two years, Women’s College students join an interdisciplinary summer school at the University of Cambridge in England. The program offers two- and four-week options with courses taught by Cambridge instructors in English, history, art history, politics, film, anthropology, philosophy and more.

“It was great to be able to study with people from literally all over the world,” says Dianne Honan, WC ’16, who participated in the Brenau at Cambridge program in 2013. “We were with people from Egypt, South Africa — people I never would have had the opportunity to meet had I not gone with Brenau to Cambridge. It gave me a perspective of how big the world is outside Gainesville and outside Brenau.”

Title: Forever Brenau

Brenau University doesn’t only make a lifelong impact on its graduates and alumni. Its alumni also impact Brenau by continuing the legacy of the institution and giving back to the community. This was true for Linda Borkat, BU ’92, when she graduated and for Deanna Stovall, WC ’15, BU ’18, more than two decades later.

Linda Borkat, BU ’92,
Deanna Stovall, WC ’15, BU ’18

By Alison Reeger Cook

In many ways, Linda Borkat and Sasha Deanna Stovall, who goes by Deanna, couldn’t be more different. But they both have hearts for helping others, and they both have been impacted by Brenau.

Borkat earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing as a nontraditional student in her 40s. Though she graduated in the early 1990s, she continues to stay in touch with and support the university through endeavors such as

Meanwhile, Stovall actively furthers the Brenau mission of preparing individuals for a lifetime of intellectual, artistic and academic accomplishment. She teaches kindergarten at Gainesville Elementary School, but she is perhaps best known in town for working as lead of the Real Interactive Summer-learning Experience (RISE) program, which prevents learning loss in children from low-income families with a six-week summer program.

“The goal isn’t for the children to go from the first grade to the second grade, or that kind of grade acceleration,” Stovall, a Gainesville native, says. “If they have just come out of first grade, we want to help them retain the first-grade education they just received.”

Borkat, who was born in Alabama but raised in Atlanta, says she always wanted to be a nurse — though, as a young child, seeing her father admitted for severe illness initially caused her to associate negative feelings with the hospital environment. But when she attended nursing school and was on the health-care provider side of things, Borkat found that she loved it.

She eventually transferred to Brenau after researching its nursing program. Because she had a full-time day job, Borkat attended the weekend and evening program at Brenau’s Norcross campus. She found that the small class sizes helped her retain a wider knowledge base, as she received more one-on-one attention from the faculty than she would at a larger school.

“What really stood out for me was the difference in philosophy between Brenau and the other nursing school I had attended,” Borkat says. “At the other school, I was taught to ‘learn and spit it back out.’

With Brenau, its philosophy is teaching you to think thoroughly, to retain the knowledge long after the class is over, which is what happened when I went there. In the medical profession, you need to think, evaluate, problem-solve and work your way through. I was not being taught that until I came to Brenau.”

Stovall, like Borkat, says Brenau taught her to think in ways she hadn’t before. She credits her Brenau professors, including Camille Ferrari, Karen Henman and Eugene Williams, for helping her learn new approaches to teaching and connecting with young students. Stovall says they emphasized the importance of passion in the classroom and said without that passion, neither the teachers nor students will enjoy learning.

“Brenau brought out some of my best abilities that I didn’t even know I had,” Stovall says. “The teachers are willing to help their students reach their best potential. That’s the reason I am the teacher I am today.” Stovall, who earned her M.Ed. in May, also started at another institution, attending Georgia Gwinnett College for two years before coming back home to attend a local university where she could major in early childhood education. Brenau was her first choice.

“I knew I would have more opportunities at Brenau to be able to do things on campus, such as participating in Greek life as a member of Delta Sigma Theta,” she says.

The early childhood education program was a natural choice for Stovall, who has always been passionate about working with children. At age 15, she started assisting in day camps at Gainesville Park and Recreations and has been doing it ever since. When she learned about the RISE program, which was established in 2012 by Brenau professors and students, she applied and was hired to be a teacher. A month before the camp started, she was offered the position of director.

After Brenau, Borkat went on to get her master’s degree in nursing from Georgia State and worked on the medical floors at Northside Hospital in Atlanta and Baylor Medical Center in Dallas and in psychiatry at Ridgeview Institute in Atlanta. She taught at Clayton State University, tutoring nursing students as a clinical supervisor, and upheld the same philosophy of learning as she discovered at Brenau.

Borkat now lives in Columbus, Georgia, and she remains active in the Brenau family to this day.

“The way I’ve kept in touch with Brenau is that Brenau has wonderfully kept in touch with me,” Borkat says. “Brenau keeps its alumni connected, because Brenau is connected to us.”

Kayla Priest, a nursing major from Canton, Ga., and recipient of the Kimberly and David Barnett Adult Student Endowed Scholarship. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)


For 25-year-old Kayla Priest, the Kimberly and David Barnett Adult Student Endowed Scholarship has been “a big blessing.”

“I’m married with a single-income household, so it helped to make it possible for me to go back to school,” the nursing major from Canton, Georgia, says of the scholarship for nontraditional students looking to continue their education.

She first considered a future in nursing while in high school but later took time off from her education while her grandfather was in the hospital. Watching the nurses interact with him further encouraged Priest to enter the field. At a friend’s suggestion, she looked into
Brenau and instantly found it to be different from her previous college experience.

“Even though I had inquired in the middle of August about starting classes and thought it was too late, my advisor helped me get into orientation and get my classes started,” Priest says. “She was so helpful. That really stuck out to me because the previous college I
had attended hadn’t been as helpful. I had felt like just another number, and that was part of the reason I took a break from college. It’s amazing how willing and helpful Brenau is. They really want students to succeed.”

Xinyan Daisy Qiu, BU '18, and one of the teachers of RISE, talks with Jakie Gomez inside her classroom during the RISE summer program. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

A World of Opportunity

Xin Yan Qiu, or “Daisy,” from Hefei, China, was part of the first cohort from Anhui Normal University in Wuhu to come to Brenau as part of a 2+2 program between the two universities. She graduated in May with a degree in early childhood education and worked as part of RISE, a summer learning-loss prevention program. While she plans to go back to teach pre-K or kindergarten in China, she says she will always remember her time at Brenau as precious.

“Brenau provides a great opportunity for international students and non-English speakers to practice their English skills, to help them as much as they can,” Qiu says. “That’s what I really appreciate about it. I like to get out of my comfort zone and chat with people from different backgrounds. I’ve made friends from Denmark, South Korea and Afghanistan since I’ve been at Brenau. I’ve met people from all over the world, and it makes me excited every day.”

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