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Villanova’s Kathleen Blehl one of six U.S. college students recognized by IES Abroad

Blehl’s study abroad experience in Milan fueled her passion for sustainable fashion and living

Villanova’s Kathleen Blehl one of six U.S. college students recognized by IES Abroad

CHICAGO, Ill. – IES Abroad, a leading not-for-profit organization providing access to 140 study abroad and internship programs in 34 cities around the world, has recognized six U.S. college students as part of its annual IES Abroad Global Citizen of the Year Awards. Kathleen Blehl, a senior Marketing major in the Villanova School of Business (VSB), was among the students honored by IES Abroad. From Oradell, N.J., Blehl studied in Milan during the 2016-17 academic year and during her time there become a passionate advocate for sustainable fashion and living.

Now in its second year, the IES Abroad Global Citizen of the Year Awards aim to bring attention to the next generation of global citizens. The awards are the first student-focused, study abroad honor of its kind. In addition to Villanova’s Blehl, students from Grinnell College; Loyola University Chicago; University of California, Berkeley; Williams College; and Yale University, were also represented.

“On behalf of VSB, we are proud of Kat’s recognition from IES Abroad,” said Julie Pirsch, PhD, Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning and Professor, Marketing & Business Law. “We are fortunate to have students like Kat who embody the spirit of an active global citizen and a promising business leader.”

Blehl studied abroad in Milan for nine months and during that time developed a fervent passion for sustainability. She interned at Front Row Tribe, an eco-conscious fashion company, and in doing so gained a familiarity with the idea of sustainable fashion—an alternative to introducing new items into one’s fashion wardrobe. Her experience at Front Row Tribe included the opportunity to model one of the outfits and create Instagram content for the company. Based upon her new views toward sustainable living, Blehl also began changing her lifestyle. She became vegan, started boycotting fast fashion brands and set off to express her newfound views through her blogging and social media platforms.

“Kathleen’s passion for sustainable living was evident through her choices to live a vegan, zero-waste lifestyle and work with Front Row Tribe, an eco-conscious fashion company that rents designer dresses, while she studied abroad in Milan,” noted IES Abroad. “We are inspired by her continued commitment to green living that she shares with others through her blog.”

Upon Blehl’s arrival back in the U.S., she continued her sustainability journey by transitioning her blog to a sustainable fashion and lifestyle blog, and becoming zero-waste. She also interned at a sustainable water bottle company in New York City called S’well Bottle, working in sales to promote the bottle to sustainable fashion companies. Most recently, she launched her own sustainable, vintage fashion company, “With Love By A Newer Kat,” on Etsy—where she sells redesigned thrifted and vintage clothing. Blehl showcased her clothing at Villanova’s annual “Love the Skin You're In” Fashion Show in February.

“While studying in Milan, I was able to further develop my understanding of the fashion industry through interning at a start-up fashion company, taking a fashion marketing class, and observing trends around me,” said Blehl. “Simultaneously, I started researching the environmental impacts of the fashion industry as well as general lifestyle practices. I realized the importance of practicing sustainable habits such as thrifting, composting, and practicing a vegan diet.”

Continued Blehl, “I look forward to continuing to educate and inspire others through my blog, using my Etsy shop to prove that secondhand fashion can be fashionable, and working together to create a more sustainable world." 

Submissions for the IES Abroad awards were accepted from students who participated in an IES Abroad or IES Internships program in 2017, and were evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • How They Have Changed the World Through Study Abroad - The contributions they made that impacted their local community while abroad.
  • How the World & Study Abroad Have Changed Them - The lessons they learned not only about themselves, but also about the local community in which they lived.
  • How They Will Sustain or Continue Their Impact - Their plans to sustain or continue their impact once they have returned from abroad.

As part of their applications, student winners shared a range of meaningful contributions and anecdotes, such as working with students from low-income communities in Santiago, translating documents to support the work of an environmental bureau in Vienna, volunteering with a nutritional health organization in Buenos Aires, and bringing attention to the individual stories of women in Spain and Morocco.

About IES Abroad: Founded in 1950 and based in Chicago, IES Abroad has provided study abroad and internship programs to more than 130,000 students. A not-for-profit, IES Abroad is also comprised of Customized & Faculty-Led Programs, IES Internships, and now the Study Abroad Foundation (SAF). In total, IES Abroad offers more than 350 programs and serves an Academic Consortium and international university network of more than 500 top-ranked universities around the world. Learn more at

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit