2022 GoAbroad Innovation Award Winners Announced!

The GoAbroad Innovation Awards celebrate institutions, organizations, and individuals moving the field forward. It’s a time to recognize everyone for their efforts to go beyond the conventional. The winners are chosen by the Innovation Awards Academy, a group of leaders in the field.

We’re are excited to announce the winners of the 12th annual GoAbroad Innovation Awards!

2022 GoAbroad Innovation Award Winners

Innovative Technology 

2022 Winner: Black & Abroad, Go Back to Africa, Black Travel Photos using AI

The expression “Go Back To Africa” is a racial slur often used against the Black community. While the phrase has a long and complicated backstory – with roots in the transatlantic slave trade – it’s far from old history. Even today, it appears nearly 5,000 times a month online – often with hateful intent.

As a brand dedicated to redefining experiences for the modern Black traveler, Black & Abroad wants to end that hate. So they are reclaiming the phrase “Go Back To Africa.” “Go Back to Africa” is a pan-African tourism campaign – for every country in Africa – designed to reframe the story. It’s also designed to flood the Internet with positive images of and ideas about African Americans traveling in Africa. So others can see themselves there, and maybe get inspired to go there. Not because someone said so, but because at its core, going back to Africa can be an amazing experience.

The campaign uses Artificial Intelligence to source images of members of the Black community on their travels to each of Africa’s 54 countries.

Innovation in Alumni Engagement

2022 Winner: Appalachian State University, Global Encore

Global Encore was initiated — and continues to be completely facilitated by — Appalachian State’s Education Abroad Graduate Assistants. It’s a fantastic program that helps to capture the enthusiasm and passion of returning study abroad students, allows them to navigate the challenges of returning home, and pushes them to explore new academic paths, careers, education, etc. The semester events include a Welcome Back Gala and the following workshops: Navigating Reverse Culture Shock, Resume and Interviewing, International Majors Fair, Re-Adjusting to App State Academics, and the International Careers Panel. Additionally, among the group of study abroad alumni, several leaders are identified who help to facilitate small group social activities. In this way, participants stay connected in both formal and informal ways, ensuring that all facets of returnees’ needs are being met through the program.

Innovation in Diversity

2022 Winner: Barcelona SAE, TODOS Sounding Board

To combat performative action around diversity, equity, and inclusion, Barcelona SAE created the TODOS (The Outcomes-Based Diversity Outreach Strategy) Sounding Board, in support of our existing TODOS Diversity Initiative. 

The TODOS Sounding Board consists of Barcelona SAE partners and institutions seeking professional development, who are generally not in senior-level positions and are interested in actively working to dismantle systems and structures that support discrimination and bias in all forms of International Education. 

Through guided discussions in 2021, nearly 400 international educators from around the world discussed how they can make themselves accountable for creating more equity and access in International Education.

Through the TODOS Sounding Board, we have to be able to critically review all of our practices, from our course offerings to our application, scholarships, and even the location of our offices. 

Innovation in Sustainability

2022 Winner: The GREEN Program, Sustainable Action Through Education: Microgrid Systems for Rural Development in Nepal

Since the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal in 2015, the country has been working towards recovery and restoration. With nearly 70% of the affected communities still living in temporary shelters, micro-grid energy solutions are being introduced to electrify rural areas that were affected by the earthquake. 

The GREEN Program’s Microgrid Systems for Rural Development program is an intensive 10-day program that provides future sustainability leaders with knowledge of microgrid technologies, energy policies in Nepal, and its implementation, especially in rural and Indigenous communities. In partnership with Kathmandu University’s School of Development Studies, and the Give Power Foundation, this unique program is led by local experts and consists of lectures and site-visits, including solar and hydropower facilities and rural communities, to install microgrid systems and assist in Nepal’s efforts to electrify rural areas.

Innovation in Philanthropy

2022 Winner: Coral Catch, Coral Restoration Scholarship for Indonesian Women

Coral Catch is a unique scholarship program that empowers local women to protect and restore the coral reefs of Indonesia. Coral Catch provides a nine-week coral restoration scholarship to Indonesian women who have the dream to work in conservation. Scholarship candidates live and work together on a small island called Gili Air and are the first complete local female coral restoration team in Indonesia, affectionately called the Coral Catch Superwomen. Three days a week they go out to grow and plant corals to restore dying reefs and bring life back to the ocean. Furthermore, they monitor the restoration site and collect an abundance of data to assess the health of the environment. Back on land, the Coral Catch Superwomen follow masterclasses from pioneering female marine biologists, entrepreneurs, eco-warriors, and dive professionals to further improve their knowledge and skills. 

Innovation in Marketing & Digital Media 

2022 Winner: School for International Training (SIT), Critical Conversations Webinar Series

SIT’s Critical Conversations Webinar Series originated as an initiative to promote the SIT Study Abroad and SIT Graduate Institute programs and maintain a presence with their community during the COVID-19 pandemic and a changing global stage. Through a series of free virtual webinars, their partners, current and prospective students, faculty, alumni, and curious global citizens came together to hear from guest speakers and experts around the world. Over the course of three separate series in 2020 and 2021, SIT offered over 115 webinars with 1,796 unique attendees.

These webinars were designed to inspire community-wide dialogue on global, interdisciplinary topics within SIT’s Critical Global Issues framework and to keep the SIT community-engaged and interactive during the pandemic. Topics ranged from Gen Z and DEI in education abroad; critical tools in gender and queer studies; and even soap making and cooking demonstrations.

Innovation in Online Programming

2022 Winner: API, Pausing for Perspective: A Quarantine and Self-Isolation Learning Experience

Knowing that quarantining and self-isolating can be difficult for students and may further compound feelings of culture shock and homesickness, API designed a unique learning experience for program participants who may have to quarantine or self-isolate during their in-country international experience. In the experience, learners navigate asynchronous content modules designed to develop essential skills necessary to maximize their time abroad, including skills of resilience, mindfulness, intercultural learning, reflection, and goal-setting. Additionally, learners receive synchronous support from API on-site staff, including regular chats, check-ins, and notifications all delivered via the APIConnect Learning Experience App.

The goal is to provide learners with an opportunity to pause and meaningfully reflect to prepare for intentional engagement with the host culture. While in quarantine or self-isolation, learners navigate asynchronous, self-paced modules, such as: Adjusting + pandemic protocols, Goal setting to maximize the experience, Focusing on identity, Researching the host city, Practicing Mindfulness, and more. The learning experience is designed for the learner to navigate over multiple days during quarantine or self-isolation and encompasses around 15 contact hours of student work.

Innovative New Program, Volunteer Abroad 

2022 Winner:  United Planet, Volunteer to Support Ukrainian Refugees in Moldova

United Planet Founder & President, Dave Santulli, traveled to Moldova to set up a program with a local partner to help with the Ukrainian refugee crisis in March 2022. In early April, United Planet launched a program to receive volunteers in Moldova to support Ukrainian refugees. Volunteers are able to travel to Moldova from two weeks to one year. After thorough assessment of the situation in the country with their Moldovan partner, United Planet was able to determine the areas of need with local NGOs which are supporting the Ukrainian refugee crisis.

United Planet volunteers assist with both hands-on support in providing supplies and donations to Ukrainian refugees as well as administrative and logistical support in providing guidance with relocation, job placement, and legal matters. United Planet volunteers also provide support in areas such as healthcare and education related to the refugees. Volunteer opportunities are available to English speakers as well as speakers of Ukrainian, Russian, and Romanian.

Innovative New Program, Intern Abroad

2022 Winner: Roots Interns, Law Internship with Gender-Based Violence NGO in South Africa

Roots Interns’ law internship in Cape Town is a unique opportunity to gain practical experience in the legal field, while playing a vital role in the development of an innovative female empowerment initiative. Gender-based violence is a prolific and wide-spread problem in South Africa. All too often, support isn’t readily available to abuse victims, and legal action against perpetrators is rare. Roots Interns is extremely proud to offer unique academic internships with a local NGO focused on providing resources to abuse victims. One of them is a law internship; an opportunity for students of law or related academic fields to use their knowledge to map out the legal situation in South Africa with regards to gender based violence. This information will help establish a foundation for workshop programs, awareness campaigns, and a legal support network to victims. On top of this, students have the chance to design and run awareness campaigns through social media, help provide legal support to victims, and assist with the overall development of the organization.

Innovative New Program, Study Abroad

2022 Winner: Webster University, Indigenous Rights and the Rights of Nature in Ecuador

A mere generation ago, the Sapara were presumed extinct by the Western world. Today, the less than 600 Sapara who remain are vital guardians of the Amazon rainforest. In partnership with a small community part of the indigenous Sapara Nationality situated in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Webster University launched a new short-term study abroad program that explores the relationship between indigenous rights and the rights of nature, and the importance of both in the fight against climate change.

Prior to their immersion experience, students study Ecuador’s history and its relationship to indigenous peoples, explore the cosmovisions of the indigenous nationalities they would visit, and reflect critically on their own definitions of knowledge. The group then engages with national-level experts and community leaders, organized to deepen their understanding of the indigenous conception of nature before they travel into the Amazon for five days.

Through conversations with Sapara leaders and allies, guided walks through the jungle, playing Sapara games, making pottery, and sharing dreams for traditional dream interpretation, students made real and life-changing connections with community members and one another. They learned with their senses, minds and hearts what life looks like from that corner of the Amazon, its inseparability from nature and other people. 

Innovative Program, TEFL / Teach Abroad

2022 Winner: Keningau Vocational College, Omiyage

Omiyage is a program that seeks to weave Japanese culture into English Language Learners’ educational experience through the combination of arts, crafts, literature, game, and ideation inspired by several aspects of Japanese culture and social inventions in which the English language is the medium of communication. This project introduces, trains and mentors teachers and students to learn and use several aspects of Japanese culture and social inventions, particularly in the manga, origami, haiku, sudoku, anime, and Pecha Kucha in teaching and learning. This project guides students to create their own Japanese poetry (haiku), Japanese comics (manga), Japanese paper-folding craft (origami), and Japanese cartoon-(anime) inspired shorts as their artistic work that enables them to develop their creativity and talents. 

Omiyage, a Japanese word which means a gift given to friends or family when someone goes on a trip can generally be used to refer to the takeaway that the participants acquire from this project which they can translate to artistic work like comics or poems or integrate into what they do like presentation skills. This project was initiated by a team of teachers from Keningau Vocational College and it is an inclusive project that guides and supports special needs learners to create their own masterpieces. 

Innovation in Crisis Response

2022 Winner: SafeAbroad, Russia-Ukraine Early Warning Detection

As the Russia-Ukraine conflict escalated and became a threat to international travel and study abroad, SafeAbroad assembled a team of analysts dedicated to addressing the invasion and disseminating vital information to study abroad programs on a global scale. SafeAbroad’s team focused on maintaining a timeline of events, dedicated to alerting students abroad of airport and border closures, government-imposed restrictions and mandates, and flight cancellations and delays.

On February 23, 2022, SafeAbroad’s Russia-Ukraine Early Warning Detection initiative began, with analysts sharing real-time intelligence of multiple explosions and military operations in major Ukrainian cities–the most significant escalation of the Russia-Ukraine crisis at that time. SafeAbroad alerted clients of explosions in Kyiv, Odessa, Kharkiv, and Khamatorsk within minutes of the event. On February 23, when Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure ordered the evacuations of Kyiv Boryspil International Airport, SafeAbroad was the first to alert its clients, even before the first credible breaking news report emerged. That same night, SafeAbroad updated its clients that Ukraine had implemented martial law nationwide 34 minutes faster than CNN.

SafeAbroad has forged innovative crisis management and early detection programs to safeguard the safety and security of student travelers and their study abroad programs, and continues to provide comprehensive and timely information.

Innovative Student Video

2022 Winner: Madison Pelland (ISA), “Life in Paris: Month 1”

People’s Choice

2022 Winner: International TEFL Academy

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners! 

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