NASPA recognizes IIE GIRE Program

One of the parts of my job that I love the most is the ability to pilot new programs, explore new models, and experiment with innovative concepts.

Today, we are thrilled to announce that one of the programs we administer, IIE-GIRE (Graduate International Research Experiences) Fellowship, has been honored by NASPA with the 2020 Best Practices in International Higher Education Award in the Study Abroad category.

Sylvia Jons, Lead of Global Fellowships and Programs, holds NASPA's 2020 Best Practices in International Higher Education Award that was awarded to the IIE-GIRE program.

Sylvia Jons, Lead of Global Fellowships and Programs on IIE’s Higher Education Initiatives team designed, launched, and administered the IIE-GIRE program. Ms. Jons accepted the award at a ceremony that took place during NASPA’s Annual International Symposium.

IIE-GIRE (Graduate International Research Experiences) is a fellowship program that offers funding and enrichment activities to doctoral engineering students to support innovative research abroad for 3 – 5 months. The IIE-GIRE Fellowship provides an innovative faculty award for the grantee’s faculty advisor to visit their student abroad (and strengthen the partnership between the home and host lab, department and institution) or use the money to internationalize their institution at home. This small investment in faculty advisors of grantees awarded, will help foster further research, learning, collaboration and partnership building, that outlast the 3 – 5 month initial grant.

IIE-GIRE is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under grant no 1829436. Over three award cycles to date, IIE has awarded 38 IIE-GIRE Fellowships to 38 American students and their 38 faculty advisors. These grantees represent 25 U.S. institutions conducting research at 26 non-US institutions in 14 countries.

IIE’S Higher Education Initiatives – An Entrepreneurial Approach to Program Management

For the Higher Education Initiatives team, this is part of our broad remit at IIE. Ideation in program and fellowship design is a creative, boundary-less process that involves design thinking, challenging our team to think loudly and outside the typical global program box. The HEI team in many ways is IIE’s own think tank and incubator/accelerator, combined – we dare to dream big, can pilot new program, initiative, and fellowship models – and can pivot and adapt easily.

Ultimately, this contributes to IIE’s mission to help people and organizations leverage the power of international education to thrive in today’s interconnected world, and to create a more peaceful, equitable world enriched by the international exchange of ideas and greater understanding between people and cultures.

A few examples of these initiatives are:

A Global Movement – Program Model
In 2014, IIE launched Generation Study Abroad, to mobilize resources and commitments with the goal of doubling and diversifying the number of U.S. students studying abroad by the end of the decade. Over 800 Commitment Partners worldwide pledged to expand study abroad opportunities and participation through their institution, school, organization, or government. These Commitment Partners have worked to promote equity and increase access to study abroad programs.

A Consortium Approach to Mobilize Engineering – Program Model
The IIE Global E3 (Global Engineering Education Exchange) Program is a consortium-based exchange program for primarily undergraduate engineering students to study abroad and carry out internships worldwide, all while continuing to pay tuition at home. With members in over 20 countries, students at Global E3 member institutions can choose to study abroad at international institutions for a single semester or for an academic year. The Global E3 Program exchanges 250 – 300 students a year.

A Tri-Lateral Partnership – Program Model
Global Innovation Initiative (GII) was a joint effort of the United States and the United Kingdom government based in a trilateral partnership model. GII awarded grants to university consortia focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related issues of global significance that foster cutting-edge multinational research and strengthen institutional international partnerships. The multilateral partnerships provided a natural platform for cross-cultural exchange that allowed researchers from different cultural backgrounds to bring their diverse perspectives, knowledge, and approaches to the team.


NASPA was founded in 1918 and is the professional home for the field of student affairs with a network of more than 15,000 members at 2,100 institutions coming together to support each other, overcome expanding challenges, and center student success in the evolution of higher education.

Sylvia Jons Global Fellowships & Strategic Programs Lead, Higher Education Initiatives Manager, IIE Center for International Partnerships Institute of International Education