GoAbroad Innovation Awards

Innovation in Diversity

Institute For Study Abroad, Butler University: UpFront Program

IFSA Butler logoAfter introducing the First Generation College Scholars and Fill the GAP (Global Account Program), IFSA-Butler added the UpFront Program in Fall 2014. The UpFront Program is a creative effort to expand IFSA-Butler financial support to diverse students, especially those on substantial financial aid and/or who need to pay for time-sensitive expenses via employment over time. Some of the most immediate costs of studying abroad are the most daunting. Charges like deposits and international airfare can be burdensome to a student’s budget before even departing. Students who are dependent on federal and institutional aid–and their highly regimented disbursement dates–may find that while on paper they can responsibly afford their program fee, the tertiary expenses of the term abroad are unaffordable. Likewise, those who depend on employment during breaks to cover personal expenses often do not have funds available when program deposit and flight deadlines arrive.

In an effort to help students pay these costs over time, and to minimize the stress of oft-overwhelming out-of-pocket expenses, IFSA-Butler offers students the ability to enroll in their UpFront Program. This financial assistance program allows students to bill program deposit, housing deposit, and international airfare to their account. The student can then pay these expenses over time with financial aid, loans, or with the IFSA-Butler monthly payment option. The goal of this program is not just assisting low income students, but providing support to those middle income, or “doughnut hole” students, who may not have full financial aid. These students must work to fulfill their financial demands through a combination of: summer/winter break employment, on-campus jobs, private and federal loans, and grants and scholarships.  The study abroad experience is within reach for these students. The UpFront program’s creative support and assistance helps by connecting financial realities with their goal of studying abroad.

Innovation in Marketing & Digital Media

University of South Carolina Study Abroad Office: See the World Presentations

University of South Carolina Study Abroad OfficeThe University of South Carolina Study Abroad Office’s “See the World” marketing presentation is designed to give first year students the tools necessary to navigate the many education abroad opportunities available at USC. Instructors of USC’s first year seminar course, University 101 (U101), can request a “See the World” outreach presentation for their class. “See the World” was designed by an education major and study abroad returnee who expressed interest in volunteering with the Study Abroad Office. Using study abroad learning outcomes, this student created a lesson plan encouraging U101 participants to play along, talk, and engage in the presentation while learning about education abroad.

“See the World” outreach presentations are led by study abroad peer advisors who highlight their own international experiences while facilitating an interactive discussion about overseas opportunities. Through the use of a “Scattergories” style game, students reflect on their own study abroad goals by brainstorming responses to the categories “Where,” “Why,” and “Why Not”. Presenters discuss the benefits of education abroad, and address students’ concerns by dispelling study abroad myths and perceived barriers. Presenters then outline the steps students need to take to begin the study abroad process.

The “See the World” presentation is consistently one of the top-requested campus presentations for U101 classes. In Fall 2012, 89 sections of U101 requested that a “See the World” moderator visit their class. That number climbed to 114 sections in Fall 2013, and to 123 sections in Fall 2014. For Fall 2014 alone, this represents more than 2100 first year USC students reached via “See the World” marketing. That same semester, 98% of students surveyed following the presentation stated that they were now aware of one or more advantages of education abroad, and 96% confirmed that they were now familiar with how to start the study abroad process.

Innovative New Program – Internship

Global Experiences: Project Innovation: Entrepreneurship Bootcamp in Dublin’s Startup Community

Global Experiences logoIn early 2014, Global Experiences saw the opportunity to develop a unique internship program for budding entrepreneurs. The Irish business community, hit hard by the 2008 economic crash, was starting to return to form through a set of unique initiatives by the government and private enterprise to cultivate entrepreneurship and a robust startup community. With a unique environment consisting of both major multinational headquarters and a budding incubator community, Dublin was becoming the perfect place for business and entrepreneurial minded students to experience the buzz and unique environment of the Dublin business world. Project Innovation was born.

Project Innovation is an 8 week program that offers the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of the Irish startup economy and a framework through which interns can develop a social/commercial idea to final pitching. In addition to a full time professional internship at a startup, incubator, or other entrepreneurial company, interns:

  • Visit IBM Smarter Cities to reflect on the concept of idea-based solutions, Facebook to develop understanding of the role social media plays in development of interest, and CurrencyFair to explore the transition from startup to established enterprise
  • Attend panel sessions led by professionals and graduates of Wayra and Dublin Institute of Technology incubation programs to gain insight on what it takes to start a business
  • Are mentored and given feedback by startup founders/owners to assist the interns in finessing their idea towards the program’s final presentation
  • Participate in a business plan competition enabling interns to practice their public speaking and persuasive skills, improving their idea pitch in the process

The business competition culminated in one team being selected for their innovative app that had the judges contemplating a concrete financial investment. After an immensely successful first summer in 2014, Project Innovation is returning in the summer of 2015.

Innovative New Program – Study Abroad

Maynooth University: UNCW FYSA@Maynooth Program

Maynooth University logoMaynooth University and the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), partners for student exchange, last year discovered a need for a destination and institution abroad for UNCW First Year Spring Admit (FYSA) students to spend their fall semester. Maynooth and UNCW worked together to create a UNCW FYSA@Maynooth program which brought 31 freshmen students to Ireland for their very first semester of university.

The program comprised on-campus housing, meal plan, excursions, a core Irish cultural heritage class, an Academic Advisor, and an On-site Coordinator for the duration of the semester. The students were immersed into Irish university life and life as a student with great guidance and support from Maynooth and UNCW. Maynooth customized the program to cater to a study abroad, freshman, new university student who would be experiencing many things at once for the first time.

The success of the program has been overwhelming and the relationship between Maynooth and UNCW has been strengthened immensely. The students’ feedback was extremely positive and they returned to UNCW prepared and ready to transition into life at on campus. The UNCW FYSA@Maynooth program will run again in fall 2015.

As a result of the growing partnership with UNCW, a new customized program has been developed which will bring 12-16 MA and PhD Higher Education students to Maynooth University in October 2015 for a two week internship in various offices such as International, Residence, Disability, Student Engagement, Career Development and Chaplaincy. Maynooth strives to develop multi-layered partnerships with a holistic approach, and the development and success of the FYSA program is evident of how international institutions can work together to establish new and innovative programs for students today.

Maynooth University Innovation Awards

Innovative New Program – Volunteer

UBELONG: Expedition Mexico: Immigration Through The Lens

UBELONG LogoUBELONG’s Expedition “Mexico: Immigration Through the Lens” was held in November 2014 in Yucatan, Mexico. The goal of the Expedition was to bring light to the human side of immigration through citizen photojournalism. The program was co-led by Lonnie Schlein, Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist from The New York Times, and Raul Roman, UBELONG Co-Founder, and included 11 participants from 6 nationalities.

The Expedition team conducted fieldwork in three rural and highly marginalized communities that have lost up to 60 percent of their population to the US. The team interviewed and photographed over 40 families in these communities. At the end of the trip, the team presented its work to the public (sold out: over 150 attendants) at the most prominent convening center in Merida, the Yucatan capital, and that night was received and recognized at the Merida Town Hall by local authorities. The work of the Expedition team took the front page of the most important regional newspaper, the Diario de Yucatan. It also received wide international media attention–most notably, an article in The Washington Post, and an extensive article on the printed edition of El Pais, the most prominent newspaper in the Spanish language.

After the trip, the Expedition team continues its journey. The Cervantes Institute in NYC, the flagship institution for the diffusion of Latino culture in the US, will host the exhibition “Immigration Through the Lens” from October 8 to 23, 2015 –a collection of 30 photographs and accompanying stories—which will continue advancing the Expedition mission of raising awareness about the social and human aspects of Mexico-US immigration in a way that has not been done before. This UBELONG program is an extraordinary example of innovation in international service.

Innovation in Philanthropy

Fund For Education Abroad: Increasing Participation Inside and Outside of the Field

Fund for Education Abroad logoAt the Fund for Education Abroad (FEA), international education is invaluable, not only to the future of the individual, but also to the future of the collective, as a nation and world.  In five short years, FEA has become the leading independent study abroad scholarship provider by channeling the passion of professionals in the field into grassroots fundraising events; and by reaching funders outside the field of study abroad, who recognize the societal benefit of more Americans studying abroad.

In 2014, FEA expanded opportunities for volunteers to crowd-source through grassroots efforts, including a bowl-a-thon, a 10-Mile Run, and a curl-a-thon. The PDX Abroad member group implemented an inaugural scholarship, and the Rainbow SIG and Texas groups joined them online for #GivingTuesday. Powered by social media, featuring “unselfies” and Rockstar Cat memes, the volunteer groups raised more than $18,000 in a single day, enabling PDX Abroad and the Rainbow SIG to offer an additional FEA scholarship each. The Fund for Education Abroad empowers their volunteers to organize, fundraise, and dedicate scholarships for their region or group. They see the fruits of their labors in the scholarships awarded, and in the process become the most passionate and dedicated supporters and ambassadors.

Equally, FEA reaches outside the field to promote study abroad scholarships to constituents through its fall Annual Reception, where notable figures speak to the value of study abroad, and individually through a newly implemented major gifts program. Increasingly, the case for sending more of the next generation of America’s thinkers and leaders to study abroad is resonating with those outside the field, with FEA at the forefront of this message, encouraging philanthropists to invest in access to international education.

With an innovative focus on both grassroots and societal philanthropic investment, FEA aims to introduce more dedicated American university students to the benefits of study abroad.

Innovation in Sustainability

Rochester Community and Technical College: Sewing for Sustainability

Rochester Community and Technical College logoRochester Community and Technical College (RCTC) embeds sustainable environmental projects within the curricular design of its Cambodia Service Learning Trip, stresses development of relational “partners-not-patrons,” and balances the essential needs of the Cambodian people with contextual and future limitations of resource use. Shared leadership within an American-Khmer student designed social entrepreneurship program funds and fuels a comprehensive service cycle, thereby providing programmatic sustainability with measurable outcomes.

This program immerses students in Cambodian culture by working “elbow-to-elbow” with Cambodian partners and NGOs, providing students opportunities to develop intercultural communication competence on a personal level, and first-hand education on the environment as a system: culture, people, politics, resource use, poverty, and troubled history of genocide and civil war.

Projects are completed side-by-side with Cambodian students. One such original and ongoing project, initiated and run by students, is Sewing for Sustainability. Founded and operated by former trip students, this small NGO encourages sustainable development of institutions and small businesses in Cambodia by buying goods at a fair price to then selling them in the US to generate funds. Profits from the venture are returned to Cambodia to support future and ongoing service projects, e.g,. testing water, developing clean-water wells, installing compost toilets, health and hygiene education, and teaching English.

As a two-year community and technical college, a long-term goal is to build communities which create an opportunity and an obligation to strengthen cross-cultural learning. The opportunity can help the people of southern Minnesota build bridges in local communities, strengthening the economic and social health of all people. The obligation is that the world gets smaller every day–and two year institutions, like RCTC, are needed to keep access alive for people to reach out to engage and understand the wider world.

Innovation in Technology

Carpe Diem Education: Unplugging Abroad Policy

Carpe Diem Education logoIn a world bombarded with photos, videos, tweets, posts, texts, emails, notifications, and the like, Carpe Diem Education flips innovation in technology on its head by prohibiting the use of all personal wifi and cell phone technology during their programs. As a leader in gap year and experiential education programs, Carpe Diem places high value on students’ ability to actively connect and challenge themselves culturally, personally, and emotionally.

The absence of personal wifi devices and cell phones facilitates growth in all three of these areas to encourage deeper connections with one another and locals, more thoughtful reflection on their experiences, and increased awareness of the world around them. Students problem solve in real time, foster lifelong skills, and interact in a more authentic way. While students initially report difficulty in adapting to this policy, most are thankful for the reprieve and develop healthier, less dependent relationships with technology. In return, students introspectively engage and learn about their host countries and cultures, and start a mindful, intentional path of global citizenry.

The STA Travel Start the Adventure Award

Susan Sygall: CEO and Co-Founder of Mobility International

Mobility International USA logoSusan Sygall’s work has transformed international exchange and global development for people with disabilities. Sygall became a wheelchair rider after a car accident at age 18, while she was studying recreational therapy in college. In 1981 she started Mobility International USA, a non-profit organization working to advance the rights of people with disabilities globally. Mobility International also focuses on empowering women through the Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability. Before Mobility International, Sygall co-founded the Berkeley Outreach Recreation Program at the University of California, Berkeley, focused on improving access to recreation and sports for people with disabilities. In 1995, Sygall influenced the U.S. Congress to establish funds that created the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The Clearinghouse aims to increase the participation of people with disabilities in all types of travel.

When she studied abroad in Australia, Sygall noticed she was unusual: there were very few disabled people on her trip. She wanted to activate people around the world to advocate for themselves and get access to all activities and exchange programs. When she was abroad and encountered someone with cerebal palsy begging on the ground, she says, “I could feel there was this connection with him. It was like we’re all part of a family of people with disabilities. And people with disabilities were not having the chance to share information and to share strategies. So when I came back after that year, I co-founded Mobility International USA. We started off with a donation of $500 and sort of went from there. And then started getting more grants and expanding our programs.”

Susan has had a personal and professional commitment to disability rights and women’s issues for more than 30 years. She’s dedicated her life to working for equality for underrepresented groups.

Student Video

Chelsea Tamura, Wake Forest University: “Beyond the Forest

Wake Forest University logoChelsea Tamura, a first-generation college student, studied abroad on three different programs: Wake Forest University Tours (Summer 2011), IFSA-Butler University of Edinburgh (Spring 2012), and IES Abroad Paris (Summer 2012).

In her video, “Beyond the Forest: Embrace the Unknown,” Chelsea utilized her self-taught videography skills and gathered a diverse group of study abroad alums to provide insight for future study abroad students, as well as provide a platform for students to highlight some of their favorite moments and memories from abroad. This video has become an invaluable tool for the Wake Forest Study Abroad Office and has been seen by hundreds of prospective study abroad students and their parents in global themed events and initiatives.

Upon her return from abroad, she was an active member of the WFU Global Abroad Ambassador program for two years, encouraging her peers to go abroad, assisting with study abroad events, and creating new marketing and promotional materials for the WFU Center for Global Programs & Studies. While attending WFU, Chelsea was the Vice-President of Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity, launched a diversity campaign called “Speaking the Silence”, and graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematical Statistics.

People’s Choice

International Studies Abroad (ISA)ISA logo

For over 25 years, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has been providing students opportunities to travel and explore the world. Their mission goes beyond providing high quality education abroad programs to college students, but opens up access to a wider demographic of through affordable pricing. ISA’s programs aim to maximize student learning abroad and increase cultural awareness. In this effort, they strive to support students before, during, and after their time abroad.

ISA People's Choice Innovation Award


Congratulations to all of the 2015 Finalists!

Innovation in Diversity

• The Education Abroad Network: 20 for 20 Diversity Scholarships
• NAFSA: Diversity Impact Program
• CAPA International Education: Accommodating for Maximum Integration
• IES Abroad / University of Texas at Austin: Cape Town Maymester Program for Traditionally Underrepresented Students

Innovation in Marketing & Digital Media

• AFS-USA: Project: Change
• CEA Study Abroad: Male CEA Ambassador Blog Series
• IES Abroad: 2014 Study Abroad Film Festival
• Australian Internships: Science Without Borders

Innovative New Program – Internship

• BEST Programs: Teaching in Cuba Internship
• CEA Study Abroad: Alumni Ambassador Onsite Internship
• VAC: Impilo Phambili Public Health Project
• Oregon State University: Hüsnü Özyegin Engineering Internship

Innovative New Program – Study Abroad

• Institute for Study Abroad, Butler University / Ulster University /  University of Kentucky: Summer Nursing and Pre-Health Program
• VCU Global Education Office: VCU Globe in Oaxaca, Mexico
• Gustolab Institute / University of Massachusetts Amherst: Critical Studies on Food in Italy
• University of California, Riverside, Extension: Master’s Pathway Programs

Innovative New Program – Volunteer

• Unearth the World: Spanish school and Sustainable Tourism Project in Nicaragua
• African Impact: Beyond the Roots
• Pangea Educational Development: Gulu Remand Home Piggery
• Pod Volunteer: Creative Arts Project in Nepal

Innovation in Philanthropy

• Athena Study Abroad: S.O.S. Program
• FIE: London to South Sudan: Partnership with Marol Academy
• Semester At Sea: Collaboration with TOMS Community
• Rustic Pathways Peru: Sacred Valley Water Project

Innovation in Sustainability

• CEA Study Abroad: Service Learning & Sustainability in Pejibaye, Costa Rica
• CELL: Climate Action Now (CAN) Next Generation Leadership Program
• Pangea Educational Development: Three Phase Program
• Big Beyond: Creating Livelihoods in Uganda

Innovation in Technology

• VIF Education: Online Professional Development System
• Melibee Global: Personal and Pop Culture
• Global Experiences: Online Portal System
• Nicolle Merrill: International Mingler – Career Skills for Global Graduates

The STA Travel Start the Adventure Award

Dr. Aaron Bruce: Chief Diversity Officer at San Diego State University
Nancy Kepner: Executive Director at Foundation for Global Scholars
Gretchen Cook-Anderson: Director of Diversity Recruiting & Advising at IES Abroad
Mark Lenhart: Executive Director at CET Academic Programs and Founding Board Member at the Fund for Education Abroad

Student Video

Amber Beserra, The Alliance for Global Education: “Peephole into India
Andrew Brummer, IES Abroad: “Head-banging Around Europe
Leigh Bautista, Australian Internships: “When I Found Cooking … I Found Me!
Nick Bucci, ISEP: “Windows to the World

People’s Choice

Academic Programs International (API)
Athena Study Abroad
CEA Study Abroad
CEPA Europe