Alumni Spotlight // Gaucho Families


Stanford's Global Studies Division Outreach Coordinator Kathy Welsh `85

Kathy Welsh `85
Stanford's Global Studies Division Outreach Coordinator Kathy Welsh `85

From bonding with her future husband over campfires and early morning rowing team practice, to watching her son recognized for his own commitment to her alma mater, Kathy Welsh `85 is a UCSB alum with a strong commitment to the University and its values.

Her husband, sister, and now her son David are all Gauchos – part of a long family tradition of high-achieving academics, community outreach and strong personal faith. And every summer, they return to UC Santa Barbara to visit their favorite campus spots and to share their Gaucho experiences with the next generation at the Family Vacation Center.

Welsh graduated from UCSB with a double major in political science and international relations and went on to earn her master’s degree in international affairs at George Washington University. After spending a year as a volunteer teacher in Namibia, she built on her passion for international education as a program administrator for the Center for African Studies at Stanford University and served as a library assistant at The King’s Academy, a Christian college prep school in Sunnyvale, California.

She returned to Stanford to take on her current position as the outreach coordinator for the Global Studies Division, where she develops workshops and fellowships to assist in the integration of internationalization in the K-12 curriculum and community college educators.

In this Alumni Q&A, Welsh shares why her family remains so connected to and how her faith, family and love of other cultures continue to inspire her to promote and celebrate the global community.

Justin Welsh `85, David Welsh `17 (in Ole suit) and Kathy Welsh `85 (Photo courtesy of Kathy Welsh)

What made you decide to study at UC Santa Barbara?

I got early admission to UC Santa Barbara and I took it. It was October of my senior year in high school when I decided.

What made you decide on your major at UCSB?

I actually went to college thinking I was going to study psychology. I started taking my general education courses, and one of them had to do international relations. I was at college during the time of the cold war, and I just thought this is stuff I don’t know enough about. I just found that these were important ideas and issues that I really need to learn about. There was still a lot of psychology involved in these courses, but it wasn’t Bob Newhart stuff. I realized I was in a place in my life that I could learn what I needed to know and it was a time to become more knowledgeable in something I WANTED to understand.

You met your husband Justin Welsh `85 at UC Santa Barbara. How did you meet?

WWe both noted in our housing application that we were Christian. We were invited to the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship Beach Party at Goleta Beach. I went to the beach party and sat in a circle -- he was across from me in that circle. For me, it was love at first sight.

When he was leaving the party, he got on his bike and I noticed that he used his turn signal…and I thought “WOW, that’s a good person!”

I think, to him, I was lost in the crowd.

To make sure I had his attention, I joined his freshman crew team as a coxswain. That put me in front of him during 5:30 a.m. practice at Cachuma. I spent a lot of mornings yelling at him. He finally asked me on a date in January. I only did crew that first year – he was on the life league in his sophomore year. (We went to 50th anniversary for the UCSB crew – that was really cool…and oh, the memories!)

In my junior year, we spent some time apart. I did the Capitol Hill program and Justin did the Education Abroad Program. He went to Birmingham, England and was there for the whole year of his junior year.

Do you recall any favorite moments during your time at UCSB?

One of the things that stands out to me about my life there was the wonderful Isla Vista community. I also liked to get up and jog out near Devereux – that was a regular part of my day.

What was your academic and career journey like, after graduating from UCSB?

Both Justin and I went on to grad school after UCSB. I went to George Washington University and earned my masters in international affairs. Justin went to Stanford, got his masters, found a job in the San Francisco Bay area were he worked as a consultant. I got a job as program administrator for the Center for African Studies in Stanford -- it kept me connected to so many things that fascinated me in my student days.

I had gotten fascinated with Africa in grad school. I worked at Stanford for five years, then stopped working when we had kids. I came back when we had to pay for college!

Before we had a house, before kids, we went and lived in Namibia for a while. I wanted to spend time that was in a place that was different and had another way of living. I was working in African Studies and Justin was very willing to have an adventure.

We spent a year there being volunteer teachers, through Harvard’s World Teach program. Namibia was a new country and needed a lot of teachers. This was a wonderful thing to do as a couple. The people there are from a lot of different tribes and they have different languages. We were in a company town run by a uranium mine. We taught the kids of the people who worked in the mine.

We had kids at the school that didn’t speak the same language as the other kids. Many were from a part of a country that recently had their independence from South Africa, which at the time had apartheid. We were the white people who spoke English not Afrikaans. They loved us because we didn’t speak Afrikaans – we gave whiteness a whole different face for them. We were the only Americans in the whole town. The little ones wanted to touch my hair! We were a bit like celebrities – it was a very different life for us, being such a phenomenon there.

We made friends with one of our students -- his family lived so far away he had to stay with different people. He was president of the student body and he didn’t have anything on his own, except his own excellence. We ended up helping him come to the United States. He got a college degree in Ohio, and went on to earn a master’s degree and his Ph.D. He’s now a man raising his own family in Namibia. I would love to go back to Namibia – it’s been 25 years! He’s wanted to host us – he’s been back to the States and has met our kids. He was like our first child. I feel like that he had a bigger impact on us than we had on him.

The Welshes at the UCSB Family Vacation Center (Photo courtesy of Kathy Welsh)
A Great Gaucho Family: The Welshes at the UCSB Family Vacation Center. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Welsh)

You and your family have come back to campus many times during summers, as part of the UCSB Family Vacation Center. What do you love most about FVC?

I think we went on Family Vacation Center summer camps like 5 or 7 times. There were a few times that my parents came too! My sister, who is also a UCSB grad, came with her family one time. It was great – we had both us sisters, our families and my parents all at the same time.

Family Vacation Center is just so easy – there’s plenty to do, you’re not on top of each other and the kids are having fun. The biggest, best thing about the Family Vacation Center that stands out to me is the staff. They put on a show for the campers at the swimming pool – it’s a great event! Everyone goes, and there are relays and prizes. The staff show is high-end entertainment. It’s goofy and funny. One year, they were the Tres Amigos…I think your associate director John Lofthus was one of them. Both our little boys loved it. In their very early life, theater and entertainment was so big. They did their theater camps, and then we would do the Family Vacation Center and see these shows. I know this was inspiring to the kids - one of them is now involved in improv comedy!

Congratulations on your son David, a senior at UC Santa Barbara, being honored as a UCSB Alumni Association Legacy Scholar. What spurred him to choose UCSB?

Actually, both of our boys were admitted to UCSB – the older one got a scholarship to USC. The deciding factor for David was the Regents Scholarship. For David, many of his friends from high school were going to UCLA. He was weight-listed for UCLA…and then he was admitted to UCSB with the Regents Scholarship. That was the deciding factor for him. At that time, he was invited to be part of the physics program – he later changed to economics.

He always had a sense that it would be a great thing to go to college where he was at the Family Vacation Center. When David was in elementary school, I was a field trip driver and I overheard the kids talking about where they planned to go to college. David told his friends, “I am going to college at Family Camp!” Now a senior at UCSB, he’s a tour guide who loves to tell prospective students and their families that he is the product for two Gauchos who fell in love at UCSB.

I consider him to be well-rounded – he’s so much like his father. He’s not an engineer but he has real math mind. He loves to play chess. He’s good at everything he has to do. At the same time, he’s also very social and dedicated to his friends. He’s had the same girlfriend for four years. He was also involved in improv comedy and organized the tutors for the UCSB honors program. He’s also been a leader now in the Campus Crusade Crew – he’s a Bible study leader. He’s got a lot going on in addition to his school work. He would be the type who would let his grades suffer to be a better balanced person. He’s good, GOOD guy.

One fun note: he’s volunteered to be the Ole Mascot many times at alumni events. (It was his second time in the suit at the recent Chancellor’s Reception.)

Why do you think your family has been so connected to UCSB over the years?

I think it’s such a special place – the beach, the beautiful scenery, the people…the further you get away from it, the more you realize you were living in Paradise. And you talk to anybody you were in school with, and we all say “Look at what we got to do – we got to be college students in Paradise!” The idea this experience is still available, when you go back to with your family to Family Vacation Center, as well as opportunities to go back for the All Gaucho Reunion Weekend – it’s wonderful.

And of course, it’s even more appealing, now that we have a student there, going back as parents now. I think the connection will remain good and strong. Certainly by David choosing go to school at UCSB, I can see us being the grandparents at the FVC with David’s kids someday. He’s graduating in June – and I want to recreate that picture with us and my parents that we had when we graduated. I think my parents still feel that connection too – that this is the college that both their daughters and now their grandson attended.


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