International Impact Award Winners: Engineering's Frank Jacobitz, Ahlers Center's Danielle Levanetz

At a university well-versed in internationalization, a campus located in culturally rich Linda Vista, 20 minutes from Mexico to encourage border education and a study abroad program ranked second nationally for undergrad student participation and 39th for undergrads and graduate student combined, it’s easy why the University of San Diego makes a daily international impact.

On Thursday, following a virtual faculty discussion about fall classes incorporating international projects into their curriculum, USD named two 2020 International Impact Award recipients.

Doled out in November during International Education Week to a faculty, staff or administration member in recognition of their sustained and deep contributions to promote global understanding through international education, the winners were Frank Jacobitz, PhD, and Danielle Levanetz, MBA.

Jacobitz is the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering’s mechanical engineering department chair and professor. Levanetz is the administrative director of the Ahlers Center for International Business in the USD School of Business.


The pair won among a group of eight strong nominees — the other nominees were Mark Chapman, PhD, Professor, Integrated Engineering; David Harnish, PhD, Professor and Chair, Music; Antonieta Mercado, PhD, Professor, Communication Studies; Ruixia (Sandy) Shi, PhD, Professor, Business Operations; Maria Silva, MA Candidate, Director, Neighborhood and Community-Engaged Partnerships, Mulvaney Center for Community, Awareness and Social Action; and Richard Stroik, PhD, Professor, French.

“We had, as always, fantastic nominees that are recognized by their peers for how they contribute to international programming,” said Denise Dimon, associate provost for international affairs and business economics professor. Dimon went down the list of nominees and pointed out highlights from each person. “This list is very diverse they’ve all made very deep contributions.”

Frank Jacobitz: Commitment to International Experiences

The International Center’s advisory committee chose in Dr. Jacobitz a faculty member who has been facilitating global education at USD for over 10 years. He has taught courses abroad in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Israel. These courses integrate engineering with education on culture and include opportunities to hear from international engineering experts.

He spent this past January in Uganda on a water quality, public health research and networking trip with interdisciplinary faculty, undergraduate and graduate students and USD President James and Mary Harris were there for part of it. Jacobitz then took students in his MENG 462 classes for an early March spring break trip to study water in Israel and collaborate with Azrieli College. He helped students secure significant funding so they could travel to Israel. In his Spring 2021 class, MENG 494 (Engineering Innovation), Jacobitz and his students will utilize the collaborative online international learning program to work with a class from Tel Aviv University.

Jacobitz’s passion for international travel and education has served the German native well, dating back to his youth. So, what does international mean to him?

“It’s a choice I’ve taken in life. I did three exchange programs when I was in high school and it’s been something I’ve really enjoyed doing. I think there’s no other time than when you are somewhere else where you can really reflect back about yourself because you have that necessary distance. And, also, I think you can really learn from others,” he says, offering Uganda as a recent example.

“I’m really impressed by the Ugandan people being so warm and open and always, even if you have a meeting that is really a business meeting and you’re trying to accomplish something, they’re always taking the time first to get to know you as a person. They want to know where you come from, what your education is, what motivates you personally, and they share the same about themselves. In the western world, we’ve really forgotten that. When we are doing a transaction in the business sense we’re still dealing with human beings. That’s a spirit and a tradition that’s very alive in Uganda and Africa in general.”

He appreciates his award win, noting it as “a really wonderful recognition to receive,” but Jacobitz quickly adds, “For me it really means, ‘let’s do more internationalization.’”

Danielle Levanetz: Students, Faculty Succeed Globally Via Her Support

For the past 13 years, Danielle Levanetz’s life, her M.O., was to make the Ahlers Center for International Business a place dedicated to student success. She arrived from the University of Wisconsin where her first study abroad trip was to Southern France. She earned her MBA degree at USD — again with study abroad trips to her credit — while working her way up the Ahlers Center job ladder. She’s provided years of dedication, energy and commitment to designing meaningful programs for students and supporting faculty to develop a global business mindset. 

She supported hundreds of graduate students as they pursue international opportunities through short-term study abroad and full semester exchange programming. She launched the Ahlers Center Fellowship program, which prepared undergraduate international business majors and minors for the global marketplace through practical experience and education. She was the International Business Club advisor for several years and worked with students to prepare for CUIBE International Business Case Competition as their advisor and coach, and traveling with the student team for competitions.

Levanetz played a large part in the success of the internationalization of graduate business programs — the number and diversity of international programming expanding during her tenure starting first as an advisor, assistant director and currently administrative director. Her nominator noted, “She creatively designed a program to offer over $400,000 worth of scholarships to graduate business students to study abroad while having them also write blogs, post photos, etc. to share their experiences with others.”

Levanetz should know. Her own international trip history, through USD, enabled her to see the world. Trips to Morocco, Spain, Guatemala, France, Italy, UK, Germany, Turkey, SingaporeChinaArgentina, Mexico, and Brazil give her vast international experience she can transfer to USD’s students and faculty.

She’s supported School of Business faculty by assisting with faculty development trips, study abroad course planning and connecting them with business executives around the globe. She conducts research on international education endeavors to help compile statistics and tracking for sustainability efforts, rankings, and international reporting.

“Her passion,” her nominator stated, “is a student-centric perspective. She works tirelessly to ensure meaningful international programming for School of Business students. Danielle embodies ‘global education at USD’ as a true champion of ensuring that international opportunities are always present for the students, faculty and the USD community she serves.”

And next month, Levanetz’s international footprint will take steps in a different venue. She is departing USD to create an in-home preschool that she said will include international education elements.

Receiving the International Impact Award is a fitting tribute for her work past, present and in the future. Emphasis, squarely, on impact.

“It’s a real honor; there are a lot of deserving people at USD because international is so much a part of what USD is as a university and I feel it is easy to all work towards that mission. It’s ingrained in the culture,” said Levanetz, “so yes, it’s flattering and humbling to be receiving this award.”

— Ryan T. Blystone


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