DES MOINES, IOWA (May 22, 2024) — Drake University football student-athletes are traveling to the Republic of Panama this month to participate in a unique study abroad opportunity as part of a three-credit travel seminar called Panama and the Global Economy — designed in partnership with Drake’s Zimpleman College of Business. While there from May 20 to 31, they’ll also take to the gridiron to play a special preseason game against an all-star team assembled by the American Football Federation of Panama and the Kiwanis Football League.

Through deepening relationships with local partner organizations and prominent alumni, as well as expanding programming in Panama, the University seeks to continue its work in establishing Panama as a global outpost for Drake.

"Preparing students for responsible global citizenship is core to Drake University’s mission,” said Annique Kiel, executive director of global engagement at Drake. “With a dedicated group of Panamanian alumni and established local partnerships, we are creating invaluable global learning opportunities for current and future Drake students while creating pathways into a Drake education for the next generation of international students.”

Academic and cultural experiences

The 52 attending students — all of whom have been fundraising for the trip for the past year — will take part in a variety of cultural activities to supplement their coursework, such as visiting the Panama Canal, touring Casco Viejo, and taking salsa dancing lessons. They will also participate in community and academic engagements, including a visit to an indigenous village in the rain forest to examine economic development and climate change outside of an urban environment. The course will include visits to leading Panamanian businesses Motta International, Copa Airlines, Banco General, and Panama Pácifico — all of which have strong ties to Drake through its Panamanian alumni base. The Drake football team and coaches will lead a football clinic for Panamanian youth, an opportunity for intercultural community engagement through sport.

Mari Carmen Aponte, US Ambassador to Panama, will act as resident host of the visiting Drake student-athletes and administrators. Ambassador Aponte will welcome the Drake group to her residence in Panama.

Tune in for the football game and pre-game conference

The nationally-televised game will begin with an opening ceremony at 7PM CT on Friday, May 24, and the official kick-off at 7:30PM. The game will be nationally televised in Panama and live streamed, with the link available on game day @AFFPma on Instagram. A pre-game press conference will take place at 11AM CT on Wednesday, May 22, with local Panamanian media.

“We offer unparalleled opportunities for a well-rounded and diverse educational experience at Drake, and this trip embodies that idea. It’s part football, part academics, and part community engagement, which leads to total character development,” said Todd Stepsis, head football coach at Drake. “Providing this opportunity to our student-athletes in an international context only further strengthens our mission as a football program and as a university.”

Panama as a global outpost for Drake

Drake has an engaged alumni base in Panama as a result of a cohort of Panamanian students who studied at the University in the Seventies and Eighties, and global relationships have continued to grow between Drake and the Panamanian community year after year. Students, faculty, and staff will have the opportunity to meet the Panamanian alums at a celebration event on May 25 at the American Trade Hotel in Panama City.

In March 2023, Drake signed a cooperation agreement with the City of Knowledge (Cuidad del Saber), a social innovation hub. This partnership is a result of ongoing collaborative activities beginning in 2018, and the agreement marks the University’s eighteenth global partnership across fourteen countries. These partnerships serve not only to build the University’s global network, but also to expand global-engagement opportunities for students, faculty, and staff.

Located just a few minutes from Panama’s city center and across from the Panama Canal, the City of Knowledge’s mission is to be an innovative community that drives social change. The site hosts entrepreneurs, community leaders, and experts from government, non-profits, and educational institutions to work in collaboration to address pressing global issues and drive change. The City of Knowledge serves as Drake’s on-site partner for study-abroad programming. In addition, Drake University’s School of Education offers international student teaching placements for undergraduate students at Balboa Academy, a school located within the City of Knowledge.

Drake will continue expanding its study abroad opportunities in Panama in January 2025 with a new faculty-led travel program called Business at the Hub of the Americas, led by Drake’s Zimpleman College of Business and the Office of Global Engagement. A special feature of the program is a business challenge, where students will have the opportunity to think critically about challenges multinationals in Panama face, and they will be able to offer solutions while working alongside the companies themselves.

To learn more about Drake University’s global engagement efforts, study abroad opportunities, and academic programming, visit

About Drake University

Drake University is recognized as one of the finest national liberal-arts universities. A distinctive and distinguished private university in Des Moines, Iowa, Drake enrolls approximately 2,700 undergraduate and 1,800 graduate students. Students choose from more than 100 majors, minors, and concentrations and 20 graduate degrees offered through seven colleges and schools. In addition, Drake offers a range of continuing-education programs serving working professionals, community members, and area businesses. Drake recognizes the importance of its location in Iowa’s capital city and seeks to connect its teaching and learning to the wealth of cultural, recreational, and business resources it provides. At the same time, it weaves global thinking and intercultural learning into everything it does, preparing students to lead in an increasingly-interconnected world.

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