Study Abroad for Educational Opportunity Students
2015 Heiskell Award Winner: Study Abroad
Nomination submitted by: Bruce Sillner, Dean of International Programs
Too many underrepresented students enter college without the expectation of studying abroad. The State University of New York at New Paltz is shifting the paradigm by connecting these students with the resources needed to ensure that all students have access to study abroad opportunities.
The Center for International Programs (CIP) has teamed up with the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), a SUNY wide program that serves academically and economically disadvantaged students, to reach out to students who may not have previously thought about studying abroad. The campus professionals who run these programs introduce students to international opportunities early on, and provide the customized services they need to take advantage of them. Staff members work closely together to advise students on financial matters, expectations, cross-cultural adjustment, and scholarship opportunities for study abroad by providing tutoring and financial resources.
“Without the hard work and dedication of the staff in these programs, EOP students would not receive the support they need to complete a successful study abroad experience,” says Philip Mauceri, Provost of New Paltz. “At the institutional level, their collaboration provides underrepresented students opportunities for global learning,” says Mauceri.
First-Year EOP student seminars devote class time to international education opportunities, with assignments such as developing a four-year academic plan to include a study abroad experience. First-year students attend special workshops during which returned EOP study abroad students speak to students about their experiences. The EOP study abroad liaison surveys students to gather data related to students’ needs, and the international center provides a writing tutor for students who need assistance with their scholarship essays for study abroad.
EOP and CIP staff members help the students apply for and receive federally funded, national-level scholarships such as the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin Gilman Scholarship and the Boren Scholarship. Since 2009 more than 67 New Paltz students have received over $220,000 in Gilman Scholarships, and nearly half were EOP participants. In addition, 35 EOP students have received nearly $100,000 in funding from other national level and institutionally based scholarships in the past five years.
New Paltz, an IIE Generation Study Abroad partner, has also designated staff members in Financial Aid and Student Accounts to serve EOP and study abroad students. Close collaboration with the Registrar resulted in a new policy for study abroad students in which their grades remain “in progress” until their transcripts arrive from overseas, enabling students to receive their financial aid even if their grades are not yet issued by their host institution.
Study abroad seems to have had a positive impact on EOP students; the six-year graduation rate for EOP students who studied abroad is 96%, considerably higher than the 63% rate for their counterparts who did not study abroad.
New Paltz has successfully demonstrated how an infrastructure of strategic student support services can help build the pipeline for study abroad among all students. Based on the success of initiatives like this, State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher announced in October 2014 that the SUNY system has joined IIE’s Generation Study Abroad initiative, pledging to increase study abroad participation by students across SUNY campuses by 25 percent by 2020.