What Will it Take to Double Study Abroad in [Your State Here]?

Three weeks before IIE’s fall Generation Study Abroad commitment deadline, I packed a suitcase full of newly released IIENetworker magazines and flew back to Oregon, my home state. My destination was Idealist.org headquarters in Portland, where PDX Abroad had gathered 26 higher education professionals from Oregon and Washington to hold a Generation Study Abroad Think Tank. The event, which was modeled after IIE’s March 2014 roundtable discussion titled “What Will it Take To Double Study Abroad?” was the first such event organized spontaneously.

This question—”What will it take to double study abroad?”—is also the topic of an IIE green paper, which recorded the outcome of IIE’s March 2014 roundtable discussion, as well as the theme of IIE’s fall 2014 IIENetworker. The new magazine features 14 articles covering high-potential areas of growth in study abroad, including community colleges, STEM programs, and co-curricular programs. It also includes a section devoted to expanding diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, and academic disciplines.

Asking a variety of stakeholders what it will take to double study abroad is an important component of IIE’s Generation Study Abroad strategy. While the magazine provides a running start, answering the question will require meticulously identifying countless local obstacles and solutions. That’s why IIE is continuing to grow its list of commitment partners in locations throughout the United States and abroad, and why we were particularly pleased to find out about the PDX Abroad Think Tank taking place in Portland, Oregon.

PDX Abroad recognized that Portland could serve as a hub of ideas, resources, and action around this campaign and brought together an impressive group of regional leaders in study abroad. The event began with Generation Study Abroad commitment partners—including Oregon State University, AHA International, IES Abroad, Washington State University, Asia Society, and CEA—each presenting their commitments to the group. OSU shared how it plans to triple study abroad on its campus by shifting ownership and accountability for the metrics to the institution as a whole. AHA, having already focused intently on cost and curriculum in recent years, committed to addressing cultural barriers by offering “Shake the Fear” coffee mixers for students and study abroad alumni.

Participants used the table discussions that followed to discuss the partner presentations in more detail—no doubt to discover how these ideas might help encourage study abroad among their own students. During the larger discussion, one attendee suggested a follow-up meeting at the Association of Washington International Student Affairs (AWISA) regional meeting in Seattle, WA. Arrangements are already underway.

This event succeeded in advancing the overall dialogue on the question of doubling; I took plenty of notes to add to the Generation Study Abroad green paper. But more importantly, it gave Oregonians an opportunity to work out solutions specific to Oregon and to build a close-knit group of innovators committed providing Oregon students a twenty-first-century education.

We hope to hear about more regional events of this kind. To reach our Generation Study Abroad goal, we need commitment partners of all types all over the world to take action so that together we can affect real change in study abroad.