Katja Sonkeng's portrait.

2020 Saeeda Peermahomed Award Recipient Katja Sonkeng

Katja Sonkeng is named the 2020 recipient of the Saeeda Peermahomed Award

Katja Sonkeng, a third year Ph.D. candidate in Sports Management and Policy in the Department of Kinesiology, working under the direction of Dr. Jepkorir-Rose Cheypator-Thomson, is this year’s Saeeda Peermahomed Award recipient. The award is given annually by International Student Life to recognize outstanding international students.

Katja initially came to UGA in 2017 after completing a year-long professional internship with the public affairs and the internal communications unit that primarily oversaw the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Prior to her employment with Disney Sports, Katja earned her Master of Science in in Sports Studies degree at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. Her academic achievements comprise of numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals along with several awards, including the 2019 Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award from UGA, the 2020-2021 UGA Graduate School Completion Dissertation Award and the 2020-2021 Mary Ella Lunday Soule research assistantship award in the Department of Kinesiology.

As an active member of the university community, Katja has volunteered with several initiatives at UGA, including serving as a student ambassador in the Mary Frances Early College of Education, as an active member of UGA’s Blue Key Honor Society, and as an faculty representative for the UGA NCBBA Men’s basketball club team.

Most notably, Katja served as chairperson of the International Student Advisory Board during the 2019-2020 academic year and received International Student Life’s Outstanding Graduate Student award this year, recognizing her leadership in and commitment to the international student community. In addition to her volunteer service, Katja also serves as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the department of Kinesiology, teaching undergraduate sport management lecture and PEDB courses.

Justin Jeffery, director of International Student Life, said that Katja is well-deserving of this year’s award.

“Her involvement on campus shows a true passion for helping others and improving the experience for all international students at UGA, and her academic success role models what we hope for all of our international students” said Jeffery.

Dr. Jepkorir Rose Chepyator-Thomson, professor in the Department of Kinesiology and the director of UGA’s annual Global Educational Forum, expressed great admiration for her advisee Katja in her letter of support.

“She is an extraordinarily talented, hardworking, and dedicated individual, who strives for excellence in whatever she does and knows how to cultivate warm and professional relationships with people of diverse backgrounds” wrote Chepyator-Thomson.

Katja said that winning the award means a lot to her personally.

“I am incredibly honored and humbled to receive this award. It will serve as a powerful reminder of my continuous commitment to growth and pushing the envelopes when needed, while serving as a strong but empathic and compassionate voice for the international student community at UGA and beyond” said Sonkeng.

The award is made possible by the Peermahomed Family and is given in memory of Saeeda Peermahomed. Saeeda was a University of Georgia student from India who was studying to obtain a master’s degree in journalism when she was killed in a tragic automobile accident in North Georgia in 1979. Saeeda was an outstanding international student who was active in international student organizations and promoted cross-cultural exchange. This award is given in Saeeda’s memory to honor the goals of inter-cultural exchange for which she stood.

Each year, all currently enrolled UGA international students are eligible to apply as long as they have a current GPA of 3.5 or better. Application details are made available in early February each year at isl.uga.edu.

International Student Life is one of the 19 departments within the Division of Student Affairs, and focuses its work on supporting UGA’s 2,700+ international students while also creating unique and educational opportunities for all UGA students to build skills related to intercultural competencies and cross-cultural understanding.