Community and international affairs advocate Sarah Lande receives University of Iowa’s International Impact Award

UI undergraduate and graduate alumni Sarah Lande will receive the award recognizing her key work as an Iowan representative to China.


Samantha Murray, News Reporter

University of Iowa alum Sarah Lande, 82, received the 2020 UI International Impact Award Monday for her diplomatic work to strengthen ties between Iowa and China.

Lande was one of three recipients of the award the UI recognized — UI alumni Patrick and Susan Keefe, who’ve given medical care to underprivileged communities, were also recognized.

The alum wrote a book on Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom Lande hosted for his two visits to Iowa in 1985 and 2012.

Lande has spent a considerable amount of time working in China, particularly in Hebei, Iowa’s sister province in China. After receiving both her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Business Arts from the UI, Lande said she began to volunteer in several community and international organizations, including Iowa Sister States, a Des Moines based organization that strives to form international connections and citizen-based diplomacy.

Lande said she has hosted two visits with Jinping, one in 1985 and one in 2012, both in Muscatine, before he became president of the People’s Republic of China.

Lande, along with three other volunteers, put together the book Old Friends: The Xi Jinping Story during a three-year period with the help of three volunteers.

“Following [the 2012] visit, these four gentlemen that had traveled with Xi Jinping in 1985, during his visit to Iowa, brought their memories and impressions and asked that they be written up in a book, because it could not be written up in China,” Lande said.

Many other residents of Muscatine and Hebei have enjoyed cross cultural visits, as well, Lande said. Groups such as the Chinese Arts and Entertainment Group have visited Muscatine, she said, considering Lande’s section of Iowa Sister States to be good friends.

“When [Xi Jinping] was leaving our home in 2012, he said to us, ‘you were the first people I met in America — to me, you are America,’” Lande said.

At 82, Lande is the executive director of Iowa Sister States and continues to be active in international affairs. She said she is involved in the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Community Improvement Action Team, Rotary International, and Muscatine-China Initiative Committee, to name a few.

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Director of Communications and Relations for the International Department Joan Kjaer Kirkman, who hosted the awards night, said – although this award is a university-wide award – it is chosen through the International Programs.

According to the International Programs’ website, Lande was chosen for the UI International Impact Award because she is a lifelong proponent of citizen diplomacy and a key figure in Iowa’s relationship with China.

“International Programs sends out a call for nominations in mid-March with nominations due in early May,” Kjaer Kirkman wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. “A faculty committee reviews the nominations and makes a recommendation to the IP dean. He makes the final decision.”

Lande said receiving the honor was “beyond words.”

“I love the University of Iowa, double graduate of it, and I have worked at different times with the international division, so I knew of them, but I feel very humbled by it,” Lande said. “I really think the award should be for all the volunteers in Muscatine and the state of Iowa, that facilitated it.”

Two award recipients received the Global Student Award, Mishma Nixon and Nicholas Stroup.

Nixon, a junior at the university, said she is currently living and taking online classes back in her home country of Sri Lanka, while still being active in on campus activities both in and out of the International Department.

She said she would like to see more international students put themselves out there and be provided more roles.

“My personal goal would be to be more apparent that we are here and that [the university] should listen to us,” Nixon said. “Just a voice and get more feedback and have international students be more thought of and acknowledged.”