Faces on Campus: Meet Kali Heifetz at UIC Global

University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Illinois Springfield
advice for students
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By Sakina Taher
Published on September 14, 2023

As Senior Managing Director of UIC Global and UIS Global, Kali Heifetz inspires international students to thrive during their study abroad experience at the University of Illinois Chicago and University of Illinois Springfield.

University of Illinois at Chicago

As Senior Managing Director of UIC Global and UIS Global, Kali Heifetz is passionate about supporting international students in achieving their academic, career, and personal goals during their studies in the US. With more than 26 years of experience in international education, including over seven years leading UIC Global, she works alongside an enthusiastic team of academic directors and student service advisors to ensure international students have the support they need to thrive at the University of Illinois Chicago and the University of Illinois Springfield.

Kali’s Journey to UIC Global

Since the launch of UIC Global, Kali has always been passionate about Shorelight’s vision of guiding international students toward a well-rounded higher education experience in the US. 

“I started this partnership in [the] fall of 2016,” she said. “I felt like Shorelight’s mission [to educate the world] was something I definitely believed in.”

For Kali, ensuring that international students have a positive experience in the US is personal.

“I lived with my grandmother who did not speak much English. For 18 years of my life, I saw her struggle, but I also saw her perseverance,” she said. Kali is inspired by international students having the courage to move to a foreign country to achieve their dreams, then remaining focused, working hard, and succeeding in achieving their goals. “I really admired [my grandmother], and I think that’s why I started working with international students when I did,” she added.

Why Study at the University of Illinois Chicago?

The University of Illinois Chicago, ranking #97 among National Universities (U.S. News & World Report), provides hands-on learning experiences in a supportive, diverse environment. 

“It is a very diverse institution, so when students come to the university they don’t feel like they are singled out,” Kali said. “They feel very comfortable, not only outside of the classrooms with their peers, but also inside the classroom because faculty know how to teach in a diverse setting.” 

Kali also spoke about UIC’s state-of-the-art campus facilities, such as the unique makerspace studio, the Make Good Lab, where students have access to digital studios, laboratories, and learning resources to test out new developments, innovate processes, and carry out research projects to support their studies. 

“We have a lot of students who are interested in engineering and business,” Kali added. “UIC Engineering offers guaranteed paid internships to all incoming freshmen transfer students who are able to fulfill the participation requirements. For example, students must maintain a 3.2 GPA (grade point average) each semester in order to maintain program eligibility. Freshmen meet program requirements during their first fall and spring semesters and are placed during the summer. We have great career services within all of our programs and colleges!” 

UIC provides a wide range of academic services and career development opportunities on campus that help students gain real-world experience to work toward their career goals. In particular, the UIC Global team provides personalized guidance and mentorship to ensure students are confident in their career decisions and can easily get assistance along the way, including academic support, English-language classes, and navigating life in Chicago!

International Student Support from the UIC Global Team

Recently, Kali and her team noticed that international students face a variety of financial difficulties in completing their degree programs — and were able to make a real difference. 

“After I connected a UIC Global student with the vice provost of global engagement, the vice provost enjoyed the conversation so much that they created the ¡Podemos! scholarship fund. Starting Fall 2023, there will be a student recipient of a $5,000 scholarship to complete their program here at UIC!” Kali explained.

The UIC Global Student Services team takes a holistic approach to helping students navigate any challenge. To guide international students in managing finances, for example, the UIC Global team has initiated a budgeting workshop covering the tools and methods on how to budget and save funds, and also to discuss what kind of loans and financial aid programs are available at UIC.

Kali also works closely with Sandy Moklak, academic director at UIC Global, to improve the professional relationship between international students and faculty. Moklak had also created a faculty training program designed to guide professors on how to work closely with international students, understanding their concerns, and communicating with them effectively during class. This program is still being used at UIC.

There are really exciting things students can get involved in. My team [and I] are very much in tune with how to help our students.” — Senior Managing Director of UIC Global and UIS Global Kali Heifetz

Students also have access to pre-arrival webinars that answer questions about airport pick-up, banking services, housing options, and more — all before they arrive in the US. 

“We give them a very brief initial presentation and then go into breakout rooms for finance, testing, housing, accommodation, and insurance, and students can ask questions pre-arrival,” Kali said. 

“How great is it for a student to have the confidence when they are coming to Chicago that all of their questions were answered, and not by just anybody, but the whole UIC Global team, [who] is here to help you?” she added.

Kali believes it is important to lead with compassion when working with international students, as many are in a completely unfamiliar academic environment and new culture. Kindness and respect are part of every interaction, and she and her team make sure students are well informed and comfortable during their time at the University of Illinois Chicago.  

“I am a mother of two, but usually at orientation I am a mother of 200 or 400, and that’s true because I really do care about each and every student in their own way,” Kali said. “We try to be as individualized as we can be.” 

Kali’s Advice to International Students 

Everything starts with good communication, explained Kali. “You need to be communicative. If you have a question, you need to ask that question, and we are hoping that we will create a welcoming environment for you to do that,” she said. 

Her goal is to reach out to all the international students who hope to begin their studies in the US, welcome them, and tell them they have the full support of the UIC Global team to make their dreams a reality. 

“It’s very difficult and we understand that. There will be some homesickness, there will be some butterflies, and there will be some second-guessing yourself,” she said. “That’s growth! That is going to give you what you need in order to mature and be that great adult that you know you are going to be after this experience.”

With the support of Kali and her team, you too can begin your journey at the University of Illinois Chicago. 

“At the end, when you graduate and have that certificate in your hand with all the knowledge that you have gained, it will be perfect,” she said.

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