Donors support education abroad opportunities for KSU students

KENNESAW, Ga. | Aug 20, 2020

Christie and Tom Emerson have long believed in the importance of giving back to their community. Now, the couple is helping students at Kennesaw State spread their wings.

Christie and Tom Emerson
Christie and Tom Emerson
Christie, an associate professor of nursing at KSU, said that she and Tom, a urologist with Wellstar Health System, have always enjoyed traveling. But a trip in 2009 to visit a friend and former colleague who had relocated to the United Arab Emirates, started her wheels turning.

Christie developed a passion for the country and a year later developed a 19-day study abroad program for nursing students at KSU. She accompanied a group of students to the country and continued to make that trip with a new group each of the next five years. In 2015, she and Tom decided they wanted to do more and established an endowment to provide scholarships for KSU students to study abroad to countries outside of Europe.

With an initial donation of $25,000 they established the Christina and Thomas Emerson Scholarship for the Advancement of International Education through KSU’s Division of Global Affairs. They slowly added to the endowment for the next few years, then in December 2019, they committed to giving an additional $50,000 to this scholarship, making it the largest education abroad scholarship offered at KSU.

“Every time I go abroad, I gain a unique perspective that helps me look at my own world in a different way,” said Christie, who has taught at KSU for more than 20 years. “We wanted to share that experience with students and felt that a scholarship would be the best way to have a direct and lasting impact.” 

For the Emersons, however, just going abroad wasn’t enough. They wanted students to experience different cultures and asked that they visit countries outside of Western Europe. In order for students to have a truly immersive experience, the Emersons made it a requirement for scholarship recipients to have a community engagement component of their study abroad program.

“We really think it’s important to immerse in the local culture and build relationships with the people there, like I did with people I met in in the United Arab Emirates,” Christie said. “Students need to engage with people from that country rather than sit in the classroom and only interact with other KSU students while there.”

In addition to teaching at KSU, Christie is an alumna who earned both her master’s and doctoral degrees in nursing from the KSU’s Wellstar School of Nursing within the Wellstar College of Health and Human Services. Both she and Tom have also served on the Wellstar Foundation Board.

According to Christie, students have made it a point to pass along pictures and memories of their travels in gratitude for the opportunity to spend time abroad.

“We’ve gotten as much out of it as we’ve given,” she said. “When scholarship recipients return from their trips, we get to hear them tell us about it. That’s really a source of pride and pleasure for us.”

– Dave Shelles

Photos submitted

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit