Bringing New Voices: The Inaugural IIE Summit on Generation Study Abroad

#humility. #empathy. Two quiet yet powerful words that I heard frequently at the inaugural IIE Summit on Generation Study Abroad that took place in Washington, DC, last week.

The CEO of AIG, Peter Hancock; Amanda Ripley, journalist and the author of The Smartest Kids in the World–and How They Got That Way; and other leaders from the private, public, and higher education sector emphasized these qualities when describing the impact of study abroad on U.S. students. Empathy is a quality needed when working in teams and in particular with those who may work differently from you. Humility comes from being a foreigner in another country, learning a new language, asking for help, and acknowledging others may know more than you. Both of these qualities are desirable in the workplace and to become a global citizen.

But they were not the only ones to use these words. Seventeen “Generation Study Abroad Voices”—returned study abroad alumni—were present and shared the effect of their education abroad experiences on their personal and professional lives. Two of the voices, Alejandro Alba and Christine O’dea, were recipients of the Generation Study Abroad Voices Video Challenge that IIE launched in partnership with the New York Times in Education earlier this year. Alba and O’dea’s videos highlight how their experience abroad helped them discover who they are today.

Over 600 Commitment Partners of IIE’s Generation Study Abroad gathered to discuss progress on their commitments and how to move their actions forward to our shared vision of doubling by the end of the decade. The IIE Summit provided an opportunity to look at the pipeline of study abroad, from high school to college to employment. Partners shared “Commitments That Work”, such as developing innovative fee models, building endowments, working with faculty to map curricula, and providing passports to all freshmen. U.S. government agencies and foreign governments also discussed programming options to diversify study abroad destinations and attract new types of students.

The Summit brought in new voices into the discussion of how increase and expand study abroad participation. Claude Singer of Siegelvision and Moraa Onyonka of Travel Noire, shared their marketing and branding expertise: the study abroad sector needs to better understand Generation Z, speak in their language, and hang out where they are. Additionally, the private sector voice was present throughout the Summit and IIE presented the 2015 Generation Study Abroad Award to the Tampa Bay Protocol Council for their work to make study abroad work for the city of Tampa and state of Florida.

Thank you to all the attendees, speakers, and sponsors for your contributions to the rich discussions and ideas that were generated over the two-day conference. We have made some progress toward our goals, but our work is far from done. Generation Study Abroad will have to continue to widen the conversation and bring in new stakeholders if we are to shift the paradigm of study abroad from a luxury to a part of everyone’s education. We invite new and existing partners to go into your communities, engage with high schools, community organizations, churches, local business councils, and alumni about why study abroad is important. The IIE team looks forward to next year’s Summit, where the results of today’s actions and ideas will have evolved and be taken to new heights.