Innovation Awards 2018: Winners & Finalists

After extensive review and consideration, the GoAbroad Team is pleased to share with you the winners and finalists of the 2018 GoAbroad Innovation Awards!

The GoAbroad Innovation Awards Academy voted to determine the winner for each of these awards (excluding People’s Choice & Student Video). The winners were announced at the GoAbroad Reception on May 31, 2018 during the NAFSA Annual Conference in Philadelphia, PA.

Here are our 2018 winners:

Innovation in Diversity

CISabroad: Diversity & Inclusion in Marketing Audit Tool

cisabroad winners

“The overwhelming majority of Generation Z (those who are currently in college) value a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and social justice – no matter their own personal identities. They are also savvier than any other generation when it comes to sensing authenticity in advertising. When attempting to recruit traditionally underrepresented groups, international educators must first look at their marketing materials. Are we highlighting authentic diversity within our materials or simply using stock photos to check the “diversity box”?

CISabroad recently created the Diversity Audit Tool, a resource to assist an organization or institution with measuring diversity in outreach materials in order to connect with students from underrepresented groups, such as low socioeconomic status, first generation, ethnic background, religious background, LGBTQIA+ identities, and people with different physical abilities. The diversity audit tool walks professionals through how to conduct the audit, such as reviewing outreach materials such as the website, social media channels, print materials, as well as email messaging. The tool encourages educators to look through their materials and ask: Is there visible diversity among photos, videos, and student features? Are the materials authentic and representative of your students? Do marketing materials highlight scholarships and resources for underrepresented students? Are proper social media channels being used to reach this generation?

The last step of the audit includes suggestions on how to improve materials based on the findings. Potential post-audit action items could include asking faculty or site directors to capture images of diverse students groups and activities or highlighting resources or scholarships that are available to underrepresented student groups. Auditing marketing materials helps to demonstrate commitment to diversity and inclusion within all aspects of an organization, and students from underrepresented groups may be more likely to seek out international education opportunities if they feel they are represented in the marketing materials.”

Innovation in Marketing and Digital Media

IES Abroad: IES Abroad Film Festival Event

iesabroad winners

“Despite the evening’s gloomy weather, November 1, 2017, was a brilliant and blazing showcase of student talent and storytelling ability as we hosted our first-ever Study Abroad Film Festival event!

Since 2014, our Film Festival has been an online opportunity for students to share their stories from abroad through film. After hosting the Festival online for three years, we approached our 2017 Festival feeling it was time to do something bold.

For seven months, we worked diligently with our Advancement Department to cultivate the Film Festival event. We were star struck (literally) to have actor Kate Flannery (Meredith from NBC’s The Office) as our celebrity host of the evening, and held the event at the cutting-edge Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. We flew in four IES Abroad student filmmaker finalists to share their films on the big screen, and launched a huge-scale marketing and PR campaign to showcase the films, the filmmakers, and the event. A few of our successes were:

  • 100+ million impressions across all media coverage
  • 300+ total media placements
  • 7 Chicago broadcast interviews (out of 9 networks!) – see our media reel:
  • An 88% rate of attendance – the highest attendance rate for any alumni event
  • 188 guests – bringing together IES Abroad stakeholders & key audiences
  • 15 total minutes of TV & radio combined airtime across 13 broadcast spots post-event
  • Reach of 200,000+ on social media
  • New donor prospects introduced to IES Abroad Scholarship Fund
  • Chicago-area Vienna Class of 1971-72 alumni made the Film Fest their reunion

Our Film Festival event underscored the remarkable power of study abroad and the global network it creates using film. It was a reminder to us—and those who attended or participated—of how study abroad truly can change the world—one student, and one story, at a time.”

Innovative New Program – Study Abroad

Warren Wilson College: Appalachia to Cuba: Intercultural Approaches to Social Welfare and Education

warren wilson college winners

In a field where a vast majority of students will choose to study abroad among a fairly narrow scope of locations and topics, we seek inspiration from programs that travel to less common destinations, focus on less often-tackled subjects, are timely in the current landscape, and yield increased intercultural understanding. The Warren Wilson College Cuba program that ran in January 2017 was an exemplary model of a program that accomplished these goals. Entitled “Appalachia to Cuba: Intercultural Approaches to Social Welfare and Education,” the course engaged students to compare and contrast interdependent social, environmental, political, economic, and cultural issues in Appalachia and Cuba, from both historical and contemporary perspectives.

The program was co-led by the head of Warren Wilson’s Social Work department, Dr. Lucy Lawrence, and the Director of International Programs, Anna Welton. During the required semester-long course on Warren Wilson’s campus in Asheville prior to the program, students engaged in a field-based study of Southern Appalachia in order to understand the historical and contemporary approaches to addressing poverty and access to education in the region. The program then commenced with travel to Cuba, where foci of the field-based course included intercultural comparisons of social welfare service delivery and educational structures and practices that advance community self-sufficiency while promoting active citizen participation.

Warren Wilson’s community partner in Cuba, the Autonomous University of Social Movements, provided brilliant support in placing students with homestay families in an Afro-Cuban neighborhood outside of Havana and running immersive programming to engage the group with local students and community members. The group visited seven different schools, several community medical clinics, community organizations, and students engaged in interviews with local educators and activists to produce portfolio projects in which they encapsulated their intercultural learning, which they shared in the Asheville community upon their return to campus.

Innovative New Program – Intern Abroad

Beyond Sports: South Africa ‘Sport for Development’ Internship

beyond sports award

“Student-athletes often miss out on international education opportunities due to the demanding schedule of their sport. Student-Athletes Abroad provides study abroad programs and internships tailored to student-athletes by combining study, athletics, adventure and service-learning.

In 2017 Student-Athletes Abroad successfully launched a 25-student internship program to Cape Town, South Africa focusing on Sport for Development. This experience allows students to learn about a variety of innovative Sport for Development nonprofit organizations in South Africa while engaging more deeply with a single organization. Time is split between daily operation assistance on site and utilizing our Innovation Lab to complete a project that will support the organization long after the students leave Cape Town.

We pride ourselves on our robust network of Sport for Development organizations and the positive impact they have on their community. Some organizations we partner with include: Great Commission United, Peace Players International, Grass Roots Soccer, BoxGirls South Africa, Healthnutz, and Coolplay Trust. These NGOs are using sports to combat serious issues facing South African youth like HIV/AIDS, crime, gangs, discrimination, and disadvantages for women.

Outside of internship duties, students take weekend cultural excursions touring Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years, hiking Table Mountain, one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, exploring Castle of Good Hope and the District Six Museum, and a guided wildlife safari. What student-athletes in particular find valuable on a program abroad is access to the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, a high-end gym facility to stay in shape and well-prepared for season.

Not only is this internship making a tangible difference in the lives of local South African youth, it is allowing for personal growth to student-athletes who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to experience the vibrant culture of Cape Town.”

Innovative New Program – Volunteer Abroad

Team4Tech: Autodesk Build Change Program in Nepal, June 2017

team4tech award

“Team4Tech partners with technology companies to provide pro bono services to nonprofits with a proven track record serving their communities. Team4Tech’s programs provide technology professionals with immersive, short-term service learning projects that leverage their technology skills to benefit underserved communities, while also supporting corporate social responsibility goals. Team4Tech programs benefit three distinct audiences: beneficiaries gain access to improved teaching and learning through technology, volunteers gain valuable leadership skills through experiential learning, and companies gain more engaged employees to lead customer-driven innovation.

In June 2017, Team4Tech partnered with Autodesk and Build Change, a nonprofit that designs disaster-resistant houses and schools in emerging nations and trains builders, homeowners, and government officials to build them. The program goal was to apply Autodesk employee’s expert knowledge of engineering and design technology to improve the retrofit process so that Build Change could scale their efforts to reach thousands of homes affected by Nepal’s recent catastrophic earthquake. With the help of the Autodesk volunteers, Build Change was able to increase their retrofit survey and modeling process from 2-3 weeks, to 2-3 hours. Build Change has trained 14,000 masons, engineers, and technical staff on the new technology. This has dramatically improved Build Change’s impact, and they have retrofitted 1,000 homes with the future potential of reaching 50,000 additional homes in the region. Build Change has applied the same innovation to similar programs in Colombia and Haiti. Thanks to the Team4Tech program, thousands of homes worldwide will benefit from Build Change’s work.

As part of the program, volunteers complete a human-centered design curriculum and apply these principles to their project goals. Volunteers also receive leadership development training in communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. Volunteers have said about this program, “This project helped me realign my purpose in life, professionally and personally,” and “I’m going to look more closely at opportunities for advancement and growth at Autodesk. I’ve gained a lot of confidence from this project.” Team4Tech programs are designed to motivate, inspire, and challenge volunteers through experiential learning in an unfamiliar environment.”

Innovation in Technology

Cultural Vistas: Free Online Therapy Services for Student Participants

cultural vistas winners

“Cultural Vistas began a new partnership in September 2017 with Talkspace, a global online therapy and counseling platform, to provide participants in its international exchange programs with free, on-demand access to online counseling services as they navigate life away from home.

The service offers access to over 1,500 licensed therapists who can help with stress, anxiety, depression, and other emotional needs. Talkspace users can engage in counseling with an individual licensed therapist through unlimited text, audio, and video messages in private, secure chat rooms. Talkspace is now available as part of the standard health insurance plan offered for Cultural Vistas participants.

Our nonprofit is the first international exchange organization to implement an online therapy offering of this kind. “

Innovation in Sustainability

Broadreach: Plastic-Free Day

broadreach award

“Broadreach was looking for a way to encourage our students to foster the principles of environmental stewardship they learn on Broadreach programs within their own communities at home, so we developed a NEW international holiday on Feb. 21 to raise awareness about single-use plastics and their impact on the environment. Surprisingly, a designated ‘Plastic-Free Day’ did not exist, so we created one, and asked people to pledge to participate so we could track the impact of the initiative. Thousands of people across the globe in 42 different countries participated, the day was covered in several national news outlets, and most importantly, several thousands of pieces of plastic were removed from circulation.

On Feb. 21, there were sustainability workshops, trash clean ups, restaurants removing plastics from the shelves, live stream videos and information sessions around the world. We were able to motivate all this participation after only creating the day a month before, and now Feb.21 is now an internationally recognized day that will only grow and make a larger environmental impact each year. Our hope is that one day of conscious, plastic-free decisions can lead to a lifetime of smarter and more sustainable choices about the things we buy and the waste we generate.”

Innovation in Philanthropy

Pangea Educational Development: Pangea Publishing

pangea award

“Pangea Publishing is a project that creates and makes reading materials accessible to families to improve literacy starting from the home. The project works in partnership with the Ugandan Ministry of Education and the Ugandan National Library Service to empower public sector actors sustainably countrywide. The project has two fundamental components: Book Creation and Mobile Libraries.

There are few children’s books produced in local languages in Uganda. However, Uganda has a rich oral storytelling tradition – each language with its own unique set of stories told from generation to generation. Pangea Publishing is recording, dictating, and illustrating these folklore stories and producing guided readers in full-color dual language (vernacular and national) books. Each story recorded, regardless of published or not, is shared with national archives to preserve Uganda’s rapidly changing languages and cultures.

Mobile Libraries are an innovative distribution model to increase access to a variety of texts, to stimulate interest and exposure to multiple levels of reading while providing a cost savings alternative to purchasing books for use in the home. Mobile Libraries will bring literature directly to family homes on a low-cost “Netflix” subscription model. Mobile Libraries will provide families with the monthly recommended number of books for the size of each family. Each month, the Mobile Library will return to retrieve and deliver new books to each family.

Pangea Publishing, as well as our community centers and hello hubs, builds on PED’s already sustainable in-school model, by addressing out-of-school factors. The goal is to nurture a culture of reading in our communities by developing a print-rich environment around culturally relevant stories. There is no silver bullet to the education crisis. PED believes it is about creating sustainable and scalable solutions based on best practices.”

Innovation in Alumni Engagement

Lessons From Abroad: Lessons From Abroad Conferences (Nationwide)

Lessons from abroad winner

“Lessons From Abroad delivers re-entry resources to study abroad returnees across the country through its innovative conference model, a practice that set the bar for the field at a time when re-entry was usually not considered as an important part of the education abroad process. Ten years later, LFA has run over 80 conferences in more than 20 regions across the country, serving about 3500 students. New regions sign on to start their own LFA conferences each year often spearheaded by professionals who have been involved in putting on LFA conferences and later move elsewhere, showing the strength of the community. It is a testament to the passion and dedication of its community that all LFA conferences and operations as a registered nonprofit are completely volunteer-run. There have even been several non-LFA-affiliated returnee conferences that have popped up (such as the North Carolina Returnee Conference and the EVOLVE Returnee Conference in Albany), showing how LFA has set the bar for re-entry programming models.

LFA conferences deliver content aimed at providing the following learning outcomes for students:

  • Explore various perspectives on the meaning of your study abroad experience.
  • Reflect on and learn how to convey your international skills in a job interview.
  • Discover how you can teach, work, volunteer, travel, or study abroad after graduation.
  • Stay connected to and share your study abroad experience in a purposeful manner.

Over the years, many innovative sessions have been developed for various conferences that are later shared with the community, including a diversity & inclusion session that explores identity for returnees, how to incorporate study abroad into job interviews and applications, internationally-focused careers and fellowship opportunities, and many more. Students have provided testimonials over the years saying how LFA helped them to solidify the learning they had while abroad and take their abroad experience to the next step. It is one thing to go abroad; it is another to learn from that experience and carry that learning forward into the future, whatever it may hold. LFA’s programming helps students do exactly that.”

Innovative Student Video

“I Spy” by Bianca Cortner, IESabroad

People’s Choice

International TEFL Academy

ITA people's choice winner 2018

“International TEFL Academy was founded on the premise that language education offers English speakers from all backgrounds the opportunity of a lifetime to experience other cultures and build relationships abroad while providing a worthy service to others.”

Their goal is to improve the world through international education & cultural exchange. In working with thousands of TEFL students and English teachers, International TEFL Academy is successfully accomplishing this goal.

Congratulations to all of our finalists:

Innovation in Diversity

Innovation in Marketing and Digital Media

Innovative New Program – Study Abroad

Innovative New Program – Intern Abroad

Innovative New Program – Volunteer Abroad

Innovation in Technology

Innovation in Sustainability

Innovation in Philanthropy

Innovation in Alumni Engagement

Innovative Student Video

People’s Choice

  • Rustic Pathways
  • International TEFL Academy
  • IES Abroad
  • Athena Study Abroad
  • Academic Programs International