Innovation Awards 2016: Winners & Finalists

Innovation in Alumni Engagement

University of South Carolina: Graduation with Leadership Distinction in Global Learning

The Study Abroad Office (SAO) at the University of South Carolina is proud to support Graduation with Leadership Distinction (GLD) in Global Learning, in partnership with USC Connect. USC Connect is a campus-wide initiative designed to help students connect their in-class and extracurricular learning. Students who demonstrate extensive beyond-the-classroom engagement in one of four pathways can earn the honor of GLD on their diploma. One such pathway, Global Learning, is targeted to study abroad alumni and spearheaded by the SAO.
To receive the GLD in Global Learning, students must complete the following five requirements:

  1. Spend at least 12 weeks abroad
  2. Participate in three enhancement activities such as workshops, lectures, and cultural events
  3. Earn six credits from an approved list of globally-themed courses
  4. Complete a presentation or publication related to global learning;
  5. Complete a GLD E-portfolio demonstrating their within-and-beyond the classroom global learning experiences.

Through these activities, GLD allows returnees to explore the significance of their study abroad experience and integrate it with their on-campus learning. The E-portfolio prompts study abroad alumni to reflect on their overseas experience in a meaningful way that helps prepare them for articulating study abroad to future employers. The GLD requirements also increase the visibility of study abroad on-campus.

In the past year, the SAO has revamped efforts to encourage students to participate in GLD. They revised their goals to include an emphasis on re-entry programming, resulting in increased visibility of GLD. The SAO invites USC Connect to the Study Abroad Fair and Pre-Departure Orientation as well as to speak with faculty program leaders, and they created academic departmental liaisons to better communicate the value of GLD across campus. In 2014-2015, 21 students completed GLD in Global Learning, whereas 49 are signed up for 2015-2016- with 162 indicating interest for the following year.

Innovation in Diversity

CISabroad:  LGBTQ Ally Training

CISabroad deeply believes in the transformational power of education abroad and is always looking to diversify their student participants. As a proud supporter of Generation Study Abroad CISabroad is focusing on the LGBT student population in an effort to not only increase their knowledge about and access to education abroad, but to also better serve those students as Ally Advisors. Their organization became Ally/LGBTQ trained in the summer of 2015 and will continue to do the training every summer through the UMASS Stonewall LGBTQ Center. CISabroad has active members of this community on staff and on their Advisory Board and are proud to offer LGBTQ programming: LGBTQ Alternative Spring Break in Barcelona, Spain; LGBTQ Site Visits for Diversity Officers and Study Abroad Advisors in Barcelona, Spain and Athens, Greece; and multiple faculty-led programs. CISabroad surveyed their academic partners across the world to better advise students. They asked key questions about resources on their campuses, the availability of gender-neutral/single occupancy accommodation and restroom facilities, LGBTQ/Women and Gender Studies course offerings, and the availability of support services on campus. CISabroad added an LGBTQ resources section to their website so students could ask themselves some key important questions, among others:

  • How out do I want to be to my host family or roommates?
  • Is it important for me to participate in LGBTQ activities and events while abroad?
  • Is discussing my sexual orientation or gender identity something that is important to me?

In the future, CISabroad hopes to identify the top 5 destinations for students who identify as LGBTQ and want to further this identity through studies and cultural learning.

Innovation in Marketing & Digital Media

University of Oregon: The Duck Across the Pond

When the University of Oregon (The Duck) mascot wanted to study abroad, the Global Education Oregon office did everything they could to help the student go. Once the student was accepted into the London program, the marketing team decided it was the perfect opportunity to create a one-in-a-lifetime marketing campaign for study abroad. Students on the UO campus are incredibly fond of the mascot.

The marketing team worked directly with the student to train them and discuss what to do, planning out the entire campaign. With a recent merger in the UO study abroad office, it was the perfect time to release the new GEO brand with this video.

The Duck in Across the Pond video reached over 50,000 people and created in incredible buzz amongst the student body. Along with other process/marketing changes (such as implementing a new CRM in the office), the GEO team credits this video as one of the main reasons they have seen a 97% increase in student applications to study abroad this upcoming academic year.

Innovative New Program – Internship

Global Players: GPro Amsterdam

Global Players programs are designed for all student-athletes, from Varsity to Club, so participants can ‘bring the athlete’ when they go abroad to have the best of both worlds – around the world! Their new initiative, Global Professionals (GPro), is an overseas internship program where both undergraduate students and recent graduates gain valuable global experience through international internships from six weeks to one year. GP’s hand picked ‘global professionals’ will have an authentic expat experience while immersing him/herself within the local culture through both internships and their sport.

“We are extremely excited about the GPro program,” says Jess Thornton, Director of Marketing and Student Enrollment. “Global work experience is vital to your resume if you want to truly set yourself apart. As students, you are no longer just competing with your fellow graduates, you are competing with the world. So with our new product comes the opportunity to leverage your resume while growing both personally and professionally. GPro allows us to help student-athletes immerse in the local culture in two ways- through their sport and their jobs.”

Global Players was founded in 2008 by two former Division I student-athletes, Tara Michael from American University and Jess Beard Thornton from James Madison University, both of whom played Women’s Lacrosse. Since its onset, Global Players has represented over 50 higher education institutions in the United States and more than 10 nationalities on tournament teams.

Innovative New Program – Study Abroad

Penn State: Ireland: Culture and Disability

People with disabilities are the largest minority in the world, making up 15% of the world’s population. Many people with disabilities face discrimination, stigma, lower socioeconomic status, and decreased life expectancy. Disability not only spans many professional boundaries (from teachers and doctors to policy makers and human service providers) but is a human rights issue as well. Since disability is a key component of culture, the opportunity to offer students experiences in both culture and disability through a study abroad program is unique.

The Penn State, Ireland: Culture and Disability program offers a six credit course through Penn State departments of Rehabilitation and Health Services and Special Education and is interdisciplinary in that the audience may include students from other majors, such as Pre Med, Kinesiology, and Psychology. Students and faculty participating in the program are housed at Trinity College in Dublin for three weeks where they visit multiple service agencies involved with different types of disabilities (mental health, cognitive, sensory, etc) as well as agencies involved in the disability process (direct service providers, umbrella organizations, service users, etc).

The last week of the program is based in Galway where students participate in the NUI Galway Summer School, a five-day International Disability Summer School equipping participants with insights and skills necessary to understand the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. While attending the conference, students have the chance to meet individuals from across Ireland (and the world) including persons with disabilities, civil society groups of persons with disabilities as well as advocates for disability, policy makers, academics, etc. The first program ran in the summer of 2015 with ten students participating.

Innovative New Program – Volunteer

African Impact: The Girl Impact

Being a teenage girl in Africa is tough. Many girls miss out on their education, end up in a teenage marriage, and some even find themselves with a baby at 15. Research is clear – women playing a greater role in their communities and earning a fair income has a positive effect on families and lowers poverty. African Impact and The Happy Africa Foundation have teamed up to help Africa’s girls make this change for themselves, their family, and their community.

The Girl Impact is an initiative in Livingstone, Zambia; Cape Town, South Africa; and Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. In 2015 they worked closely with community members and teenage girls to discover the main issues they face. Girl Impact asked questions in six areas: education, health, early pregnancy, safety & violence, earning a living, and self confidence. From this feedback they were able to set up programs specific to the local issues and with solutions that suited the local culture.

In Livingstone Girl Impact has 113 girls attending the Girls Club. At the Club they discuss important topics about growing up as a girl with focus on the six areas identified above. They have also started a Community Partners Club made up of the parents and community members who want to change how girls are treated.

In Cape Town they run Girls and Boys Clubs at a children’s home and with a locally-run dance group for vulnerable children in a local township. It’s a chance for children to discuss what’s on their mind and help them change attitudes.

In Kilimanjaro Girl Impact works with the Network Against Female Genital Mutilation to educate girls so they can make more informed decisions about their future.

It’s just a start, but it is the beginning of something they hope will change the lives of hundreds of girls in Africa.

Innovation in Philanthropy

Institute of International Education (IIE): Emergency Student Fund & Scholar Rescue Fund

The Institute of International Education has a long history of providing emergency assistance to students and scholars facing emergencies around the world. Through the Emergency Student Fund (ESF) and Scholar Refuge Fund, IIE is able to respond to urgent crises in an immediate and effective manner by providing financial support to students when emergencies in their home countries threaten to jeopardize the completion of their studies.

In June 2015 the Emergency Student Fund awarded 165 grants to Nepalese students at 122 U.S. college and university campuses who face urgent financial need due to the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal in April. IIE awarded approximately $330,000 in funding with grants up to $2,000 each. These grants were made possible with generous funding from organizations such as the Freeman Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York, as well as anonymous U.S. citizens who share IIE’s commitment to help Nepalese students remain enrolled in their U.S. degree programs so they will be better prepared to assist their communities when they return to Nepal.
In response to the Syrian Refugee crisis, IIE provided emergency assistance and educational opportunities to Syrian students and scholars. Thier Scholar Rescue Fund has supported more than 50 Syrian professors and researchers to resume their academic work in safety outside Syria. The IIE Syria Consortium for Higher Education in Crisis connected 70 Syrian students with scholarships in the United States in 2013, and plans to help up to 1000 students in 2014. They also partnered with UC Davis to produce the first known study on the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis on higher education. They hope this study will convince governments, donors, and international organizations to consider higher education initiatives an essential part of the humanitarian response and future development efforts.

Innovation in Sustainability

Pangea Educational Development: Awach Piggery Project

The Piggery Project at Awach Secondary School is an income-generating project with the goal of solving two issues: school income and student scholarships.

Currently the Awach Secondary School has eight female and two male pigs. After one year, each female will give birth to between 8-12 piglets, bringing the total to about 66-96 piglets. From these piglets the Piggery Project will be selling off the original pigs and some of the piglets. The school will be using this income to restock the project, with vaccinations and feeds, and save the remaining profits to pursue the next priority on their strategic development plan.

The project’s second objective is to create a sustainable scholarship program for HIV/AIDS infected and affected girls. The scholarship program is based on the premise of a revolving methodology and creating an entrepreneurial spirit among the program’s beneficiaries. To highlight this, five female scholarship students were selected to receive a female piglet. When these piglets are of age, the student will bring them to school to be fertilized. From this litter, the girls will be passing on one of their female piglets to another female classmate, to begin another round of scholarships. The original cohort will be trained in both piggery management, entrepreneurial, and business management skills to pass on to the next cohort based on the Train the Trainer model. PED will also be providing quarterly professional development focused on best practices and project management, as well as a quarterly on-site personalized support, in order to ensure the project’s sustainability for years to come.

Innovation in Technology


GoCambio is a unique skill-sharing online platform that connects people who want to travel and share their skills with those who have a desire to learn and a spare room in their home.

Their mission is to connect the millions of people who want to improve the language or talent they are learning with the millions of people who travel in search of unique and independent experiences. In exchange for a couple of hours a day helping someone improve a language or skill, Guests get a place to stay and a warm welcome from a local Host.

GoCambio solves an age-old, global problem of high priced tuition fees – whether it be for language, culinary skills, music, or academic subjects by connecting skilled travelers directly to learners. Guests and Hosts join for free and find each other to arrange their connection; the process is completed entirely online. GoCambio leverages technology to connect real people, seeking real experiences.

In the past year, GoCambio has attracted almost 11,000 members from 120 different countries. Over 1,700 skill-share offers have been exchanged between members and almost 3000 messages have been sent through the platform. New Scientist says GoCambio is “dramatically changing how people experience new places” while Lonely Planet named them “a ground-breaking barter system.” The organization won the 2016 Enterprise Award for their region and is now competing to claim the National Irish Award.

GoCambio’s platform removes barriers to education, makes the world a little smaller and a little friendlier, and offers a new way for people to travel and share cultures. They are aiming for a community of 1 million ‘cambioers’ within three years.

The STA Travel Start the Adventure Award

Sergio Rodriguez Camarena, IES Abroad Alumnus

A senior at Pomona College, Sergio Rodriguez Camarena was not your typical study abroad student. Sergio is an undocumented student, who until June of 2012 when the Secretary of Homeland Security announced new guidelines under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), was ineligible to travel outside the United States, though his International Relations major required it.

Thanks to his study abroad office and academic advisors at Pomona, Sergio was able to acquire Advance Parole and find a study abroad program and country that would accept his undocumented status. He was excited to find IES Abroad’s European Union Program because of the opportunities it afforded him to learn about governing institutions.

“For me, study abroad was as much of an adventure as it was liberation,” Sergio said. “My study abroad experience was surreal. I traveled to nine different countries, 22 European cities, and seven European capitals. I could not wait to share how I learned to be free abroad, how I learned to live on my own, and how I developed my own intercultural competence.”

After returning home, Sergio became actively involved in international education outreach. He helped lead pre-departure orientations, faculty presentations, and email campaigns at Pomona. He also presented about undocumented students and Advance Parole at the NAFSA 2015 Region XII Conference in Hawaii. Sergio helps advise undocumented and underrepresented students interested in studying abroad. Sergio was awarded the IES Abroad Ambassador of the Year award for his efforts to help increase study abroad access for undocumented and underrepresented students.

Sergio said, “Being an IES Abroad Ambassador meant that I could increase the number of students who look like me and share similar socioeconomic backgrounds in meaningful study abroad programs. I wanted to debunk the myth that study abroad was not an option for low-income, first-generation, undocumented, students of color.”

Student Video

Adrienne Picciotto, IES Abroad Alumnus: “Abroad Sweet Abroad

People’s Choice

American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS) 

For over 25 years, the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS) has been providing students opportunities to travel and explore the world. Their mission goes beyond providing high quality education abroad programs to college students, but opens up access to a wider demographic of through affordable pricing. AIFS’s programs aim to maximize student learning abroad and increase cultural awareness. In this effort, they strive to support students before, during, and after their time abroad.

Congratulations to all of the 2016 Finalists!

Innovation in Alumni Engagement

Innovation in Diversity

Innovation in Marketing & Digital Media

Innovative New Program – Internship

Innovative New Program – Study Abroad

Innovative New Program – Volunteer

Innovation in Philanthropy

Innovation in Sustainability

Innovation in Technology

The STA Travel Start the Adventure Award

Student Video

People’s Choice