When Katrina Kalcic enrolled at Columbia College Chicago in 2008, the Kenosha, Wisconsin, native was still reeling after losing her father to esophageal cancer in 2005.
“When I first went to college, it was a lot less about academic achievement and a lot more about struggling to find myself and struggling to redefine my identity without this person in my life,” she says.
“My father was absolutely everything to me,” says Kalcic, whose immediate family consisted of her and her parents. “He raised me and my mom went to work. I loved him completely. He was my best friend.”
Today, the University of Wisconsin–Madison alumna speaks with a strong sense of purpose – a commitment to a mission forged by a personal journey that has taken unforeseen – and decidedly international – twists and turns. During a visit to Madison, she recounts the experiences that fueled her passion for global health and public policy.
Kalcic entered college with plans to study journalism, communications, and international relations. In the spring of 2010, she says, “I had the good fortune to study abroad at Vesalius College in Brussels, Belgium, which was an incredible experience.”
That fall, she transferred to UW–Madison, where, she says, “I started studying genocide and mass atrocities, which was absolutely fascinating.” She also found work on campus as a sexual health educator with University Hospital System.
Then, through UW–Madison’s International Internship Program, she spent the summer of 2012 working with a non-governmental organization in West Africa.
“I really came to my turning point when I did an internship with New Seed International in Ghana,” she says. “The NGO works with women and girls who are impacted by HIV. I went there originally planning to be a communications person. But when I got there, I started working with a lot of the young girls and the young women who didn’t have parents and didn’t have families.”
Read the full story from the International Division