Innovation Awards 2014: Winners & Finalists

Innovation in Access & Equity

University of South Carolina: Beyond Boundaries Initiative

The Beyond Boundaries Award is a minimum $2,000 scholarship intended to make global education more accessible to students from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in study abroad, including African-American, Hispanic, Pell-eligible, and first generation students.  However, it is more than just a scholarship. Beyond Boundaries is a multi-faceted program intended to promote education abroad through intentional support.

The Beyond Boundaries Award can be broken down into three key components: scholarship, service, and support. Applicants are evaluated based on both their level of financial need and application quality, and top applicants can receive up to $5000. One specific study abroad advisor works primarily with these students, helping to provide them additional support, as many may be the first in their family to travel internationally.

Recipients are required to attend the University’s Meaningful Opportunities for Students to Achieve International Competencies (MOSAIC) Symposium.  This symposium is a one-day conference with the goal of promoting international competencies and diversity in international education. During the Symposium, students have the opportunity to network with USC peers, faculty, and staff; attend breakout sessions focusing on international competencies; and hear from a prominent keynote speaker. By attending MOSAIC prior to their time abroad, Beyond Boundaries recipients are able to enhance their cross-cultural skills and global understanding, increasing their chances of having a successful overseas experience.

As a required component, award recipients must develop a follow-on service project upon their return to USC in conjunction with the Study Abroad Office. This service requirement may include presentations to student groups or organizations, or participation in scheduled study abroad events specifically targeting underrepresented students.  In this way, recipients produce a ripple effect of promoting education abroad to their peers.

Since the inception of the Award in 2011, over 125 underrepresented students have received over $468,000 in Beyond Boundaries funding.

Innovation in Marketing/Social Media

Loyola University Chicago: Vietnam Center Street Eats

Exploring the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, interacting with food cart vendors, and trying new foods is an essential part of the Loyola Vietnam Center student experience. In an effort to reproduce this dynamic setting at Loyola University Chicago, we designed and constructed Vietnam Center Street Eats; a pop-up food cart installation that encourages students and staff to see, hear, and taste a bit of Vietnam. By creating this interactive experience, we aimed to showcase Vietnamese culture in an exciting and high-impact way. The objective was to develop an innovative long-term marketing campaign to raise Vietnam Center awareness, develop on-going student interest about studying abroad in Vietnam, and increase enrollment.

Vietnam Center Street Eats events are advertised on our website, the university calendar, and social media. The mobile functionality of the food cart allows for easy installation in several locations around campus such as student centers, classrooms, athletic venues, and outdoor spaces.  During food cart pop-up hours, students sample Vietnamese street food, listen to Vietnamese rock and roll music, and watch vibrant travel footage displayed on a projection screen. To tie the experience back to the Vietnam Center, students learn how to order food in Vietnamese and are encouraged to pick up materials to learn more about the program.

This campaign has been effective in attracting a large number of undergraduate students and is now iconic and recognizable around campus. An average of 275 students and 50 staff members visit the food cart at each event. Immediate outcomes include a dramatic increase in applications and unprecedented enthusiasm and support for the Vietnam Center from both students and staff. The overwhelmingly positive response to this campaign attests to the impact innovative marketing can provide for study abroad programs in less traditional destinations.

Innovative New Program – Internship Abroad

Global Experiences – Executing a Strengths-Based Approach to Career Development-Focused International Internships

In early 2013, Global Experiences launched an innovative partnership with Gallup Education, making it the first and exclusive internship provider offering the Clifton StrengthFinder tool for its program participants. The goal for Global Experiences is to provide innovative personal career development as well as challenge the way international internships are measured, thus demonstrating how internships abroad positively impact lives. This new strengths based approach was embedded into existing career programming and results were measured to identify the benefits.

This new Strengths based approach was introduced with the Global Experiences summer 2013 internship program. Out of the large summer cohort a random sample of 107 were selected for a study. To ensure a solid research framework Global Experiences engaged the support of Dr Shane Lopez, one of the world’s leading psychologists and author of Making Hope Happen. From this collaboration the before and after surveys of Hope, Wellbeing and Strengths awareness were developed.

Participants who took part in the study began by taking the three-part questionnaire before taking the Clifton StrengthsFinder survey. The participants then took part in individual and group pre-departure training. On the ground in their host city they participated in workshops, integrated site visits, a de-brief orientation that allowed reflection from a strengths perspective, and had application of this knowledge into mock interviews and resume and cover letter reviews.

The results of the exit survey of the 107 showed a 78% increase in Hope, a 78% increase in understanding of Strengths and an 86% increase in overall Well-being.

The study validated the broad benefits of an international internship experience that includes a well-integrated Strengths-based career development. For the broader industry it provides understanding of an understudied area of international education. For participants of the program it offers proven benefits for their life and career.

Innovative New Program – Study Abroad

Cleveland State University & Asia Institute: Follow the Smart Phone Trail

Cleveland State University (CSU) in collaboration with host partner the Asia Institute, is the first college or university in the world to offer students a ten day international study program, which tracks an end-to-end supply chain. The “Follow the Smart Phone Trail” program offers students a faculty-led experience in Shanghai, Suzhou, and Shenzhen, China and Hong Kong SAR, incorporating visits to leading companies that are redefining the smart phone industry, such as Apple Retail (consumer experience), ZTE and Huawei (OEM/ODM), Knowles and TE Connectivity (component manufacturers) and including the Yangshan Deep-Water Port (import/export).

Dr. Oya Tukel, Chair and Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management at CSU notes, “For the first time, students can experience a new culture, in this case China, while also learning about global supply chain management practices, challenges, and opportunities, as well as social and environmental realities.” Dr. Tukel added, “Our students are Master’s students and working professionals, so this experience to study, compare and contrast various aspects of supply chain management including demand and supply side factors, international business strategy, environmental sustainability innovations as well as manufacturing, port operations, and R&D is a truly unique and practical learning opportunity. With the importance of smart phones in our daily lives, needless to say, demand for the program has been huge.”

Course/Learning Outcomes:

1. Students combine course and in-class readings with on-the-ground experiential learning

2. Students research, examine and compare course themes with a chance to challenge their own assumptions about supply chain management

3. Students were joined by a Global Sourcing Manager from Ohio based PARKER to witness buying strategies, real decision making, and how to tackle problems with supplier issues

4. Students expanded their professional network, through meetings with Directors, General Managers and Vice Presidents, as well as Cleveland State University alumni

Innovative New Program – Volunteer Abroad

African Impact – Maasai Literacy Program – Moshi, Tanzania

The Maasai Literacy Program is a core element of our Education Project in Moshi, which currently supports the local community through teaching and healthcare.  The primary aim of this particular literacy program is to teach members of the Maasai tribe to read, write, as well as to speak basic, conversational English.

Many children in Maasai tribes don’t receive formal education as family livelihoods depend upon them tending livestock and crops. Although this is slowly changing, current literacy rates amongst Maasai adults are considerably lower compared to other tribes across Tanzania.

When our Education Project was established in mid-2013, we launched a daily English class offered to members of the local community free of charge. Members of the Maasai tribe registered for these lessons, but we soon realised that, though they were eager to learn, they could neither read nor write.

We conducted research and developed a new literacy program; and saw attendance grow from 4 students to 14, with ages ranging from 19 to 48! It’s inspiring to see such a commitment to better education which they can use to shape the rest of their lives. Basic English skills significantly increase work opportunities in tourism.

Volunteers help conduct these lessons and improvise fun, educational games to aid learning.  The Maasai are famous for their traditional dance which is based upon a series of jumps, so to increase participation and memory retention we incorporated jumping games when doing number and alphabet drills. This is a great ice-breaker for volunteers and Maasai students, further encouraging a truly authentic cultural exchange.

One month after the start of this program we saw a 28% increase in number recognition and 36% increase in ability to write phonic sounds. In the first 3 months of 2014 volunteers spent over 162 teaching hours with the Maasai.

People’s Choice

Academic Programs International (API)

Academic Programs International, API, is an educational organization dedicated to providing challenging and enriching study abroad programs for students. The experience of living, interacting and learning in an international environment presents invaluable opportunities for each student’s academic and personal development. All  academic and extracurricular offerings are selected with the goal of helping students to grow more self-aware and culturally sensitive. API envisions each student evolving from a tourist to a resident to a global citizen, and the staff is dedicated to supporting this lifelong process. API is committed to providing the best comprehensive study abroad experience possible with personal attention available to students throughout his or her program, and to working closely with home universities to offer support before, during and after the education abroad experience.

STA Travel – Start the Adventure Award

Michelle Tolan: Specialized Field Director for Latin America for the Institute for Study Abroad, Butler University

I have worked alongside Michelle Tolan at IFSA-Butler for seven years. Recently she began researching first-generation college students. Her passion came from being a first-generation college student herself.

What resulted are the most successful programs targeted at first-gen students, both which she single-handedly promoted and implemented. Michelle has made study abroad more accessible for many students and deserves to win the award.

IFSA-Butler’s First Generation College Student Scholarship. Winners are provided financial support up to $2500 for up-front study abroad costs along with additional pre-departure advising services and publications. The Scholarship program and support materials and toolkits have been recognized as exemplary by the Forum for Education Abroad. Since the inception of this program in 2012, we have had a total of 16 FGCS scholarship recipients. The percentage of first-gen students participating in IFSA-Butler programs rose from 2% in Fall 2012 to 16% in Spring 2014.

Fill the GAP (Global Account Program). This savings/matching program was developed by Michelle to encourage students to plan early and take responsibility for their study abroad funding. Participants receive an account where they (and donors) deposit money. IFSA-Butler then provides a matching scholarship up to $1000. Michelle’s philosophy is that first generation students know how to work hard and this gives students financial empowerment.

Michelle has also been a leader in teaching and training others. Her work has influenced other institutions to improve scholarships and programming for first-generation students. Michelle was recently promoted to a new position of Field Director of Diversity Access and Research. She has also been invited to take part in the IIE Think Tank on “What Will It Take to Double Study Abroad?”

For these reasons, and for her commitment to empower a more diverse student population in meaningful travel, I recommend Michelle for the Start the Adventure Award.

Innovative Student Video

Cultural Vistas: 4400 Miles Closer to a Dream by Gorazd Lazorik

In “4400 Miles Closer to a Dream,” Gorazd Lazorik shares his journey from a small village in Slovakia to the bright lights of New York City, where he spent five months as a marketing intern with Cultural Vistas through the IAESTE exchange program. As a part of his training, Gorazd was assigned the task to make a video documenting his international internship.

In his video, Gorazd not only shows off the technical skills he was able to build upon during his internship, but he gets to the heart of what exchange is all about: an opportunity to challenge oneself, to learn, and to form meaningful connections while living in a new culture.

“Coming to New York City was not just another dream come true for me, but it was also the biggest challenge of my life. Thanks to Cultural Vistas, I have been given the opportunity not just to visit but live in the greatest city in the world. Through the professional experiences I had with Cultural Vistas I have also learned many life lessons and gained confidence in my next steps in life. I will always remember my internship with Cultural Vistas as one of the most important events of my life not just professionally but also personally.”

Innovation in Sustainability

Foundation for International Education: FIE London Student Switch Off Campaign

The Foundation for International Education’s mission ( includes a commitment to reducing its environmental impact, addressing issues of sustainability, and applying concrete initiatives. Active engagement with community-based environmental conservation and education is embedded in the FIE London experience.


In 2014, FIE became the first and only non-university participant in the UK’s National Union of Students Student Switch Off (SSO) scheme. Student Switch Off is a nation-wide campaign that encourages students to save energy when living in university halls of residence. The program focuses on peer-to-peer communication and creating a sense of competition to provide incentives that go beyond just being more ‘environmentally friendly’. Over 300 students in all four of FIE’s residences participated, demonstrating significant energy savings.

OVERALL IMPACT:  During the spring 2014 semester, energy usage in the winning residence was reduced by 20% compared to previous years. Altogether, FIE London SSO participants reduced carbon emissions by 6 tons which is equivalent to making over 377,000 cups of tea or taking 65 round-trip flights from London to Manchester! FIE’s involvement in SSO was a resounding success and as a result the competition will continue each semester in the student residences and beginning Fall 2014, in visiting faculty accommodations.


The StAG Champion Awards were created in Spring 2014 to recognize FIE students, faculty or staff who make a significant contribution to FIE’s sustainable development initiatives. The inaugural awards went to two FIE Student Switch Off Ambassadors for their efforts in promoting the SSO competition.

FIE hopes that through their active engagement and commitment to the environment, our students will take the knowledge and positive habits that they developed as part of FIE’s sustainability initiatives in London back to their home campuses across the US.

Innovative Technology

RealCom Abroad: Abroadster Help Center

Abroadster is a mobile application for IOS and Android that makes Study Abroad easier, safer and more effective. It has helped thousands of students to feel at home in their new destinations; encouraging their participation in programmed activities, and keeping them safe from potential danger.

Abroadster has a web control panel, that allow institutions to optimize their administrative tasks, to communicate directly with students, and to reach them in case of emergency with its dynamic emergency protocols.

Abroadster currently has six sections that meet specific needs:

Program: Here you can find essential information about the program. This includes surveys and online forms, a calendar of activities, a list of onsite staff, and the contact details and geolocalization of: offices abroad, host study centers, host families, and places of interest.

My City: Students and staff can localize specific places and services in their new destination. For example, restaurants, shops, pharmacies etc.

Social: Abroadster has its own channels of communication where students and staff all over the world can chat and share interesting things in real-time.

Map: Students and staff can access the geolocalization of predetermined places of interest, as well as get directions to specific places.

Tools: These include time zones, weather predictions, measurement and currency converters, translators, and dictionaries.

SOS: Abroadster aims, above all, to ensure student and staff safety. In the SOS section, you can call the emergency services and the “Person On Call” directly. In the case of an emergency, users can be geolocalized and step by step instructions sent. The system shows users’ last known position, with the exact date and time. All these functions are dynamically activated and deactivated.

Abroadster promotes Study Abroad and internationalization, by making global travel more efficient, effective and controlled. It enables you to significantly increase Study Abroad participation in your institution.

Congratulations to all of the 2014 Innovation Awards Finalists!

Innovation in Access & Equity

Cultural Vistas

IES Abroad
IDEA Bloggers

The University of Louisville’s LGBT Center
LGBT Study Abroad in Greece

University of Texas at Austin
Planning Scholarships Initiative

Innovation in Marketing/Social Media

IES Abroad
We [Heart] Study Abroad Campaign

International Studies Abroad
ISA’s :60 on Study Abroad Video Series

International Student Exchange Programs (ISEP)
2014-15 Student-Sourced Catalog

Semester at Sea
TEDx Semester at Sea

Innovation New Program – Internship

Public Health Program with Victoria Hospital

Cultural Vistas
The Cultural Vista Fellowship

The National Management School
Semester Abroad with a Paid Internship at  Capgemini in India

University of Texas at Austin
The BE Global Program

Innovation New Program – Study Abroad

Florida State University International Programs
Exploring Grief, Loss, and Trauma in the British Culture

Institute for Study Abroad, Butler University
Exploring Community and Culture Initiative

King’s College London
Global Health & Social Medicine Study Abroad Programme

Loyola University Chicago
January Term – Human Rights and Social Justice in Rome & Malta

Innovation New Program – Volunteer Abroad

Binghamton University
Service Learning and Language Immersion Program in Cusco, Peru

Helping Hands Cambodia

International Volunteer HQ
Volunteer in Colombia – Cartagena

Projects Abroad
Shark Conservation Project in Fiji

People’s Choice

American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS)

International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Sol Education Abroad

The Education Abroad Network (TEAN)

STA Travel – Start The Adventure

Christine O’Dea
Alumni Peer Mentor for Academic Programs International (API)

Joaquin Berrocal
Spanish Professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Michael Lucerto
Advisory Board Member for the Fund for Education Abroad (FEA)

Rachel Hardison
Associate Director of the University of South Carolina’s Study Abroad Office

Innovative Student Video

IES Abroad
Departing for Beijing by Alexa Penton

Institute for Study Abroad, Butler University
Finding Home by Marielle Petranoff

International Studies Abroad
Lights of Love by Nick Paradooni

Semester at Sea
A Day in the Life by Jordan Mancusco

Innovation in Sustainability

African Impact
Sustainability Success at African Impact Livingstone, Zambia

Center for Sustainability Ltd
Sustainable Development in China

CET Academic Programs
The Impact of Locally Appropriate Sustainability Measures at CET Jordan

Child Family Health International
The CFHI Model

Innovative Technology

CIMBA Study Abroad
Personal Self Discovery Through Technological Support

Cross-Cultural Solutions

GlobaLinks Learning Abroad & Better Weekdays
Better Weekdays and GlobaLinks Partner for Interns

Melibee Global & Amizade
Better Abroad