Innovation Awards 2013: Winners & Finalists

Innovation in Marketing/Social Media

Purdue University – Study Abroad Storytellers

Study Abroad Storytellers was an open-mic event that brought returned students together with an audience of prospective participants.  This event, partnered with the Purdue Student Union Board, took place during International Education Week.  The objective was to provide a casual venue for students to hear about adventures had abroad, thus being inspired to seek their own.

Domestic returnees, international & exchange students, as well as faculty program-leaders were invited to take the stage to tell a 2-5 minute tale.  Some stories were hilarious, while others were thought-provoking; all were entertaining.  Our Union Commons played host and free coffee was provided.  The event was heavily promoted, but as with any open-mic, there was concern over participation.  That faded fast as a queue of enthusiastic storytellers grew throughout the evening.  Quite a few shared more than one.  Some came with their stories rehearsed.  Others just happen to be studying near-by and jumped at the chance to join-in.  As past participants bonded over similar experience we practically had a Re-Entry workshop on our hands.

The event allowed us to market study abroad in a more personal way.  By sharing stories about cultural faux pas and aha! moments, we painted pictures of what international education can truly be about.  This endeavor succeeded in a way no publication, or more technical marketing campaign has.  Through simple stories, connections were made and a thirst for meaningful travel was ignited.  For the storytellers, it was strengthened through reflection and self-evaluation.  Shortly after the final tale was told, many more were shared at the pub down the street.

Through this effort, a new excitement for studying abroad was generated on the Purdue campus.  Sometimes a basic idea can end up being the most innovative of all!

Innovative Technology

Academic Programs International – API FastFind

In 2012, API introduced a new featured called FastFind to converge the catalog and website experiences. FastFind is a four digit alpha-numeric code that allows students who have an API catalog to use the code found on the program page of that catalog to go directly to that program’s corresponding webpage. For example, if a student wants to know whether she can take a specific art history or engineering class in the program she is researching in the catalog, all she has to do is type that FastFind code at the top of any API webpage and she is taken directly to the information on the page of interest. While there are several ways to find course information on the API website, the simplest and fastest way is to enter the FastFind code for course descriptions found on the program page in the catalog the student is already looking at. API has also created FastFind codes to help students more easily and quickly locate date and fee information, as well as information on scholarships and financial information.

The use of the FastFind codes has had a positive environmental impact, allowing API to dramatically reduce the size of its much respected program catalogs by removing information that is better viewed on the website such as bulky course offerings. When comparing the Fall 2012 (when FastFind was introduced) to Fall 2011 (before FastFind) one finds that unique visits to the API website increased by 25% and page views increased 32%, and the FastFind search box is now one of the most clicked on and utilized components on the website. FastFind – Two Letters. Two Numbers. You’re There.

Innovation in Access & Equity

SIT Study Abroad – Pell Grant Match Award Program

SIT Study Abroad is committed to making its study abroad programs affordable for a diversity of students. The Pell Grant Match Award allows SIT to place its high-quality, field-based study abroad programs within greater financial reach of a wider range of undergraduates.

The Federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate students to promote access to postsecondary education. Through the Pell Grant Match Award program, SIT awards matching funding for all students receiving a Federal Pell Grant. This doubles the amount that students would receive from the Pell Grant alone, making study abroad a more viable option for low-income students who might otherwise not pursue international opportunities.

SIT began this innovative program in 2010, offering matching funding to Pell Grant recipients for select SIT Study Abroad programs. Beginning in the spring 2013 semester, SIT started providing matching grants to all Federal Pell Grant recipients for any SIT semester program.

Innovation in Sustainability

University of Georgia Costa Rica – Walking the Talk: Sustainability at UGA’s Campus in Costa Rica

Studying, understanding, and embodying the interconnectedness of human society within the natural environment is core to the mission of UGA Costa Rica (UGACR). The 155-acre Monteverde-based campus is independently certified as a sustainable operation, achieving a score of 85% or higher in all four areas evaluated, including 100% in the assessment of employee relations and community engagement. Examples of UGACR’s innovative sustainability practices include:

  • Model anaerobic digestion wastewater treatment systems for human and animal waste generate biogas used for cooking meals in the campus dining hall, literally turning waste into food.

  • An integrated sustainable farm serves as a living classroom, producing 15% of food served on campus. Additionally, all food products come from within 200 miles of campus, with 25-30% coming directly from small farmers in our immediate community.

  • Local farmers offer sustainable agriculture tours and share traditional knowledge with students. UGACR landscape architecture students in service-learning courses provide trail designs, maps, logos, and websites to enhance the quality of tours—a symbiotic relationship. These tours annually inject $15,000 into the local economy.

  • Homestays, dancing, and cooking lessons further support the local economy and stimulate cross-cultural understanding.

  • UGACR operates a unique carbon offset program whereby native trees, planted and monitored by students, capture carbon while simultaneously restoring habitat for migratory birds and stabilizing soils on degraded hillsides. Over 28,000 trees have been planted as of December 2012, with 10,000/year planned for 2013-2015.

  • Programmatically speaking, Sustainability in Action, a semester education abroad program, offers an interdisciplinary field experiences and is closely aligned with the UGA Office of Sustainability’s forthcoming Sustainability Certificate program. Courses include sociology, ethics, conservation ecology, organic agriculture, and climate change.

  • UGACR has formally endorsed the Earth Charter and offers an annual course producing published reports on the Earth Charter in Action in Athens.

Innovative New Program – Internship Abroad

GlobaLinks Learning Abroad – Global Personal Brand Discovery Toolbox

The GlobaLinks Learning Abroad internship program is now much more than just a placement – it is a global career-building experience. In 2012, GlobaLinks Learning Abroad re-invented the internship program, expanded to more countries, and added components that give participants the complete package they need to be successful not only during, but also after the program. The most remarkable addition is the Global Personal Brand Discovery Toolbox. This key component adds significant value to the program as it provides participants with training and tools to utilize their international internship experience  in their future career path.

The development of a personal brand is very important as a well-defined personal brand allows an individual to clearly differentiate themselves from the thousands of other graduates. The GlobaLinks Learning Abroad Personal Brand Toolbox helps participants discover and create their brand message for others, including potential employers. From the beginning of the program through to a participant’s return, each student is given numerous resources and tools in order to learn how to intertwine aspects of the international internship experience into a strong personal brand. The goal is to not only provide high-quality work experience and international discovery, but a solid framework that a student can use long into the future. The toolbox includes:

  1. Workbook on Personal Branding – An easy step-by-step book that you can use for tangibles on building your brand

  2. Business/Networking Cards – Specially designed business/networking cards to take with you on the program to encourage networking

  3. Social Media Development – Resources or online workshop which focuses on LinkedIn account information and utilization

  4. Personal Brand Assessment – A pre-departure assessment on current brand strength

  5. Resume and Cover Letter Resources

Innovative New Program – Volunteer Abroad

African Impact – Chimpanzee and Wildlife Orphan Sanctuary, Zambia

Described by Jane Goodall as ‘the most wonderful place on earth’, Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage in Zambia is the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in the world, and home to African Impact’s Chimpanzee and Wildlife Orphan Care Project.

Chimfunshi gives refuge to over 100 chimps rescued from the bush meat trade, circuses, zoos and bars (where they are chained up for entertainment and inadequately cared for).  In partnership with Chimfunshi, African Impact runs a volunteer program on the banks of the Kafue River in Northern Zambia to help rehabilitate and conserve rescued chimps.


Volunteers assist in important primate research, behavioural enrichment activities for the chimps, farming, building and refurbishing enclosures and conservation education for the local community.  The creation of chimp identikits has also been used for our ‘Chimp of the Week’ posts on our Facebook page where we share with followers the history and personality of one chimp every week; and the kits are essential for research and  keeping visiting tourists informed.


The newest innovation to be carried out on this project is the introduction of fruit-tree farming to aid self-sufficiency and sustainability.  Exotic fruits such as mangos, avocados and guavas are well loved by the chimps, and the indigenous trees such as Monkey oranges and Fig trees are propagated from bush cuttings in the vicinity.  Produce is organically grown and the carbon footprint greatly reduced by green farming practices and elimination of need for transport.  Fruit scraps are used to re-fertilize the soil for next planting.   Fruits and vegetables not used to feed the chimps are sold to raise further funds for the sanctuary.

The volunteer program at Chimfunshi has grown steadily with over 1,300 volunteer hours accumulated in 2012 alone; and a continued focus on new innovations and ideas for long term sustainability.

Innovative New Program – Study Abroad

University of South Carolina – International Perspectives on Higher Education Faculty-Staff Study Abroad Program

In support of the University’s strategic plan, USC Study Abroad launched the International Perspectives on Higher Education faculty/staff study abroad program.  Eleven faculty, staff and administrators took part in a week-long program that included guest lectures and visits to study abroad sites in Spain and France.  Participants were charged with developing follow-on projects that would allow them to bring their experiences back to campus.

“My goal was to provide participants with the opportunity to live the student study abroad experience, to be a part of a faculty-led program themselves, and to see where students live, go to class, and intern.  We encouraged them to reflect on what they were experiencing, and challenged them to think about how it was impacting them personally and professionally.” – Jennifer Engel, program director.

As a result of the program:

  • Three USC employees left the country for the first time.

  • Multiple curriculum integration, course and program development projects were initiated.

  • Academic advisors adjusted their advisement strategies to increase access and help students connect their coursework, international experiences and future careers.

Innovative Student Video

Institute for Study Abroad, Butler University – “Not Just Lunch” by Emily Eckert 

Very early on in the process, Emily connected with the idea that Digital Storytelling is a form of self expression and should encompass a level of creativity that reflects its creator. This was the one aspect that clearly engaged Emily from the start, even when other aspects of the Digital Storytelling process seemed a bit daunting to her given her limit experience with video making. In reality, the true beauty of this kind of storytelling is that it requires no experience. It was, in fact, created as an artistic outlet for everyone, rejecting the idea that art is for artists alone.

As it turns out, Emily is an excellent artist and a wonderfully unique storyteller. Once she stepped past her initial uncertainly, she dove into the experience full of great ideas on what kind of story she wanted to tell, eager to showcase her perspective on culture as well as her perspective on creating art for a digital world. What resulted was her fantastically creative video “Not Just Lunch” which, as the title suggests, is not just another student video but a one-of-a-kind expression of studying abroad in Chile.

People’s Choice

International Studies Abroad (ISA)

ISA’s mission is to provide high quality education abroad opportunities to American and Canadian college students at an affordable price. We recognize that we play an important role in the worldwide effort of international educators to increase awareness of cultures and societies outside of each student’s national boundaries. Our programs are designed to maximize our participants’ learning abroad, and we understand that most college students need support and expert guidance before, during and after their time abroad.

The 2013 Finalists

Innovation in Marketing/Social Media

EF Education First
EF College Study Tours Guidebook 

Study Abroad Spotlight
Study Abroad Spotlight Platform

University of South Florida Education Abroad Office
Spotlight on Education Abroad for Sophomores (SEAS)

Before I Die Video Campaign

Innovative New Program – Internship Abroad

Internship and Business Studies in Brazil

CRCC Asia’s Internship + Travel Program

Global Experiences
Global Connections Networking Events

Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA)
New Zealand Culture and the Environment: A Shared Future

Innovative New Program – Study Abroad 

Antioch University Education Abroad
Community Development in Cameroon Program

Colorado Mountain College
Cuban Revolution in the 21st Century Program

The Institute for Shipboard Education/Semester at Sea
Unreasonable at Sea Program

SIT Study Abroad
Morocco: Field Studies in Journalism and New Media Program

Innovative New Program – Volunteer Abroad

Conversation Corps Argentina

International Volunteer HQ
Volunteer in Sri Lanka Program

Rustic Pathways
Floating Village Service in Cambodia

Volunteer in Morocco 

Innovative Technology 

Study Abroad Website Redesign Using Responsive Technology

The Institute for Shipboard Education/Semester at Sea
Semester at Sea Microsite

Melibee Global
Beyond Abroad: Innovative Re-Entry Exercises

Comprehensive Video Profiles

Innovation in Sustainability

Child Family Health International (CHFI)
CFHI’s Sustainable Program Model: Supporting Local Communities

Cultural Vistas – American Youth Leadership Program with Japan : Japan
America Watershed Stewardship Project (AYLP : JAWS)

Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD)
Environmental Sustainability

St. Mary’s College of Maryland
Going Green in the Gambia

Innovation in Access & Equity

Global Education Program/University of New England
Semester in Seville, Spain for Science Majors

IES Abroad
Boarding Passes for Diverse Students

International Carpe Diem Foundation
Carpe College Program

The Education Abroad Network (TEAN)
Comparative Semester in Cambodia and Thailand

Innovative Student Video

Danish Institute for Study Abroad/Haverford College: Andrew Maverick Bennett
“Biking Copenhagen”

Temple University: Jake Rassmussen
“Advice to Your Future Study Abroad Self” 

University of South Carolina: Olivia Keyes

WorldTeach Costa Rica: Luis Gallardo
“WorldTeach Costa Rica Summer Program”

People’s Choice

GlobaLinks Learning Abroad

IES Abroad

Institute for Study Abroad, Butler University

The Education Abroad Network (TEAN)