Innovation Awards 2019: Winners & Finalists

After extensive review and consideration, the GoAbroad Team is pleased to share the winners and finalists of the 2019 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, 2019 during the NAFSA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

Here are our 2019 winners:

Innovation in Cultural Immersion, Sponsored by StudentUniverse

Global Vision International: Volunteer Healthcare Project in Fiji

“On the GVI Dawasamu volunteer healthcare project, it’s paramount that volunteers earn the community’s trust. To this end, they are part of a thorough cultural immersion experience that integrates volunteers into the village.

On the day they arrive, volunteers are introduced to the idea of being of service, with a welcome and cultural presentation. The presentation introduces volunteers to hierarchy in the village, the importance of religion, the difference between individualistic and collectivist societies, and the Fijian language. This foundation to cross-cultural communication prepares volunteers for the role they play supporting community health workers in the village.

After dinner, a traditional welcome ceremony takes place, where kava is presented to the chief, asking permission to enter the village. This experience is only possible because of the extraordinary strength of local partnerships. The GVI program manager is seen as the head of the ‘GVI clan’ in the village, and must follow all Fijian customs and traditions.

Each volunteer is adopted into a Fijian family, where they learn the culture and language. Volunteers have learnt to make traditional meals, weave grass mats, and perform a traditional dance. The night before they leave the village, the volunteers attend a farewell ceremony.

From the moment they arrive, through every meal and every day, volunteers are integrated as part of a Fijian family. Village protocols such as dress code and traditional behaviour are followed at all times. For example, volunteers perform gestures of respect such as introducing themselves before entering a building.

This cultural assimilation strengthens national pride and promotes inclusion within communities. The chief talks about how this has helped him reinforce traditional culture, because the villagers follow the example the international volunteers set, of obeying the traditional cultural norms of the village. “

Innovation in Alumni Engagement

Diversity Abroad: The Diversity Abroad Global Student Leadership Summit

“Now in its 5th year, the Diversity Abroad Global Student Leadership Summit (GSLS) is a professional development program for study abroad alumni from diverse backgrounds to enhance their career readiness by learning how to leverage their international experience for future opportunities. Participants also develop an awareness of diversity and inclusion as it relates to  leadership in a global society. Student leaders are nominated by international educators to represent their institution/program.

Over four days, 70 student leaders engaged in a day of “Critical Conversations” surrounding their personal and leadership identities which helped them to define and shape how their identities have been impacted by their global experiences. Participants explored topics related to their professional identities including ‘code-switching’ in the workplace, hearing from a distinguished panel and participating in a new Speed Networking event where they were able to engage with over 30 professionals from a variety of fields to include; Research, Finance, Government, and more.

‘The networking/connections I made, especially with students like myself that are dedicated to diversity and global education were amazing. I think we will be great resources and support systems for each other as we become young professionals in the work force ourselves.’

GSLS is a model of alumni engagement that contributes to the developmental growth of students and prepares them to go back to their campuses to strengthen diverse student outreach in global education. Alumni of the program join a community of ambassadors who represent future diverse leaders and benefit from the Summit’s unique emphasis on identity paired with career readiness.

“Learning about campus life from students of mixed and diverse backgrounds allowed me to contextualize my own college experience. If that wasn’t good enough, hearing about how other students have worked to diversify the study abroad experiences at their home institutions was amazing.”

Innovation in Diversity

Howard University: #StudyAbroadSoBlack

“Diversifying study abroad has been a goal and rally cry for the international education field but for HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) they have been doing this work since their inception. In the past few years, the Howard University Ralph Bunche Center has completely revved up and renewed their outreach to speak to a new generation of diverse study abroad students. I am nominating Howard University Ralph Bunche Center (RBC) specifically for the innovation in Diversity award because their #StudyAbroadSoBlack is a homegrown campaign to connect not only Howard students but also black students all across the US.

Social media communities and tribes have become a way for communities to connect and share, the RBC keenly use this campaign to impact the study abroad profession, specifically to reach black students. With every Howard RBC event, from “Styling on the Go” where students share ideas on traveling fashionably to the HU “Night of Reflection”, where study abroad alumni share their experiences with prospective students, #studyabroadsoblack is used in marketing and social media posts to create access and generate excitement about going abroad.

With generation Z, and then Alpha generation, this campaign is an innovative and exciting way to connect students and diversify the state of study abroad.  Historically Black Colleges have a special place in the fabric of higher education and the United States, it is important that we amplify the work that they are doing.”

Innovation in Marketing & Digital Media

University of Minnesota Learning Abroad Center: Avatar Campaign

“The Learning Abroad Center at the University of Minnesota (UofM) kicked off its avatar campaign in summer 2017, and since then we’ve expanded it with more avatars and more media. We developed Alex, our first avatar, to be an instantly recognizable, illustrated character. When students see Alex, we want them to think of the Learning Abroad Center. As a racially ambiguous, gender-neutral person, Alex represents every UofM student. We modeled Alex’s story abroad after a common storytelling template, the hero’s journey: a character embarks on an adventure, experiences a crisis, triumphs over adversity, and finally returns home transformed.

Next, we developed 11 additional avatars, informed by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s archetypes. The avatars possess unique personality traits and together represent a portion of the diverse student body at the University of Minnesota.

The avatars appear in a variety of marketing materials:

  • the Learning Abroad Center viewbook
  • an augmented-reality viewbook insert
  • an ad in the Gopher Guide campus planner
  • still and animated Bitmojis on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter
  • study abroad photos on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter
  • a Snapchat geofilter
  • stickers for water bottles or laptops
  • a hero’s journey graphic on our website
  • campus bridge artwork
  • sidewalk decals across campus directing students to the Learning Abroad Center
  • animated study abroad-related YouTube videos in which we built the avatars as puppets and brought them to life in Adobe Character Animator

The avatar campaign has strengthened and cohered the Learning Abroad Center brand, as well as represented and welcomed all undergraduates to study abroad. Our avatar campaign is ongoing. Current and future projects include a fully illustrated viewbook, an avatar personality quiz, and more animated videos.”

Innovative New Program, Intern Abroad

African Impact: Social Development and Entrepreneurial Internship in South Africa

“In 2018, African Impact launched the Social Development and Entrepreneurship Internship in the Greater Kruger Area as an extension of a highly successful initiative (Farmers of the Future) that tackles food security and income generation issues through subsistence farming and entrepreneurial and social business development.

Working alongside the professionals who designed this social development initiative, interns support and incubate local entrepreneurs, learning from experts and helping the participants to ultimately establish their own small to medium-sized business start ups in the agricultural industry.

This internship provides unparalleled student learning opportunities for those interested in entrepreneurship and community development, allowing them to develop a curriculum that can be used for people with potentially very different education levels and business experience. Immersed in the community every day, interns work alongside participants of the Farmers of the Future initiative, on-site at the farms and schools where this program takes place.

This includes participants Taelo and Bheki, each of whom have benefitted from intern support and are now earning an income through food production and the creation of their own micro-enterprises.

Kevin, the latest intern to complete this internship, commented on the cultural engagement opportunities throughout his placement: “During the internship, I met local people who were as eager to listen as I was to help. To my surprise, they remembered and greeted me by name on my second visit, which is a testament to the deep relationship African Impact has built. They welcomed and trusted our support, which gives us a great sense of responsibility to be thoughtful about every engagement.”

“Being part of the program has awarded me invaluable lessons on problem solving, teamwork, empathy, and most importantly, that small changes can have big impacts.”

Innovative New Program, Study Abroad

InterExchange: Sustainable Action Costa Rica

“In its pilot Sustainable Action program, InterExchange facilitated a look behind the curtain of Costa Rica’s renown commitment to sustainability.

Challenging questions were explored: Is Costa Rica a fitting role model for larger nations? How did it come to be such a visible example of success in environmental conservation? Is there more to the picture than what we know of the Costa Rican “”success story?””  

The program focused on economic, environmental, and socio-cultural aspects of sustainability: Students visited local NGOs such as Sistema Integral de Formación Artística para Inclusión Social (SIFAIS), committed to improving access to quality education in San José, and heard directly from students and teachers. They visited conservation initiatives such as Eco-Centro Danaus, where they learned through hands-on volunteer work. A day with Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de La Fortuna (ADIFORT), the community association supporting public works in La Fortuna, revealed how community members are at the center of Costa Rica’s sustainability efforts, and how tourism can be handled with sensitivity towards local communities and ecosystems.

It is essential to InterExchange that the impact of a short-term trip is justified by its long-term benefits. To this end connections were drawn to students’ lives. How does this relate to initiatives in my community? What does this mean for my career and academic endeavors? In this way the learning goes beyond the eight days the group had together in January. Furthermore, the program supports local, sustainably-run businesses. Students themselves were invited to contribute their own ideas as to how to travel responsibility, and positively.

Sustainable Action does not end with Costa Rica. In the summer of 2019, a group of German and American peers will unite during a two-week, multicultural exploration of sustainability in two countries on the inaugural United for Sustainable Action program.”

Innovative New Program, Teach Abroad / TEFL

Greenheart Travel: Teach English in Costa Rica—Skills for Life

“Greenheart Travel is excited to be assisting the Costa Rican Government’s “Skills for Life” initiative, which will provide intensive English education and life skills training to local Costa Rican communities. The goal of the program is to empower and improve the employability of at risk young adults to gain employment at local businesses where a basic to intermediate level of English is required. This is an important initiative, and our teachers have had the opportunity to meet the President of Costa Rica as representatives of the program!

Learning English is a gateway to careers and jobs beyond what some of these students might have access to without this education. This program aims to make a big impact in each community where teachers are placed, as well as in each student’s life.

‘These students are receiving the opportunity to learn English from the government for future employment, and it was amazing to be even a small part of that mission. I watched my students grow so much over the 4 months I was in Costa Rica. I felt like I learned just as much as the students did. These students, and this organization, gave me a life-changing experience that I will never forget.’ – Marybeth Ward

Innovative New Program, Volunteer Abroad

GoEco: Thailand—Eco Clay Community Construction

“GoEco’s promoted Eco Clay Community Construction program works with naturally-occurring mud to create an entire eco-friendly community just outside of Singburi. Concrete bricks are more susceptible to heat and water damage, while the mud structures are more durable and long-lasting.

This community consists entirely of eco-friendly, mud structures! The volunteers on this program even live on-site in one of the mud houses.

Using naturally-occurring mud as opposed to cement is a sustainable, alternative construction process. Not only is it better for the environment to build using a natural material, but living in a mud house is also healthier for the community, as there are no artificial toxins in the building. The mud buildings are healthier for both the environment and the local community members.

In addition, the construction techniques that are used are those that have been passed down from generation to generation of Thai families. This allows volunteers to positively engage in cultural exchange and to learn about the local culture.

GoEco sent the first volunteer to this program on January 14, 2018. Since then, GoEco as sent more than 20 other volunteers to assist in the construction of numerous structures. These structures include both homes as well as community buildings such as schools.”

Innovation in Philanthropy, Sponsored by the GoAbroad Foundation

African Impact: The African Impact Foundation’s 10 Year Birthday Campaign

“To celebrate the African Impact Foundation’s 10th birthday, African Impact launched a creative social media campaign that aimed to raise awareness around the foundation and help generate USD$10,000 in donations. Throughout November 2018, African Impact’s different Facebook pages shared content generated by our staff, volunteers, and community partners.

The anniversary campaign shone a light on the key impact areas of the African Impact Foundation: education and enrichment; health and nutrition; gender equality; conservation; and empowerment of African communities. This was done by asking our team, volunteers, and audience to share a photograph or video of themselves holding up a sign saying: “I stand for ___ with the African Impact Foundation” and filling in the blank with a chosen impact area.

African Impact received a phenomenal response to this, with content generated from far and wide. One of our favorite video clips came from a grandmother in the township of Khayelitsha, who proudly exclaimed that she stood for gender equality with the African Impact Foundation.

Accompanying the user generated content, we premiered a 3-minute video that celebrated ten years of the African Impact Foundation and published blog posts that highlighted the importance of the foundation in the work that African Impact do. In one post, our Managing Director wrote, ‘Looking back, what African Impact and our Foundation have achieved together brings a very warm feeling to my heart. The Education Center we built in Zanzibar has given hundreds of adults the opportunity for employment within the tourism industry, while the paediatric ward we built in Zambia provides a safe and clean place for women to give birth.”

This fun, month-long campaign was a huge success, raising almost USD$20,000 for the African Impact Foundation’s focal projects across Africa, and allowing us to continue furthering our impact.”

Innovation in Sustainability

Human Connections: Carbon Neutral Student Programs

“In December of 2017 Human Connections committed to providing carbon neutral offerings for all of their student programs: Global Engagement Trips and Internships. We uphold the Cape Town Declaration’s description of responsible tourism and believe that environmental awareness of our impact is an essential aspect of this definition. Air travel in general, and much related to tourism, accounts for many carbon emissions each year. At Human Connections we want to balance the transformative aspects of travel with the responsibility that each of us holds as we take on the privilege of travel.

We’ve partnered with Ecosphere + to offer carbon credits and we are very happy with this collaboration and the quality of their offerings. Part of each program fee goes towards purchasing these credits and projects are funded across Latin America. We educate all of our students about this practice and offer them the information so that they may also offset future travel. However, we aren’t done yet! In the future we would like to offset our tour programs as well. We hope that by sharing our practices other travel organizations are inspired to take this step in sustainability, preserving the amazing world that we all enjoy traveling and exploring.”

Innovation in Technology

Center for Intercultural Learning, Mentorship, Assessment and Research, Purdue University: The Intercultural Learning Hub (HubICL)

“The Intercultural Learning Hub (HubICL) offers international educators the world over the opportunity to connect through forums, to share their research, and to contribute to a storehouse–the HubICL Toolbox–of intercultural learning tools available to any member. In this first year the HubICL was enriched by the membership of 250 new members from over 90 institutions.  Members are often faculty or staff who are involved with the intercultural learning of students before, during, or after their education abroad experience. Each member can use all resources at no cost to them.

As a science gateway, the HubICL belongs to all who share their knowledge or use its resources, with no one institution being privileged over another. The HubICL is designed to be a place in which intercultural learning practitioners can mentor one another in best practice, using the AAC&U VALUE Rubric in Intercultural Knowledge and Competence, the Intercultural Development Continuum, Dr. Michael Vande Berg’s 4 Transformative Processes, and the research of others such as Bennett, Deardorff, and Paige as a guide.”

Innovative Student Video

“What it Means to Be a Global Citizen” by Julia Schroder, CAPA: The Global Education Network

People’s Choice

API Abroad

“API was founded by four women – the Founding Mamas – with a mission to make going abroad as safe and accessible to as many U.S. students as possible. Today our staff of over 140 professionals across the globe are all still driven by this mission. Nothing is more illustrious of our achievement and exciting than hearing that our partners, parents and students voted us as’s People’s Choice winner for a second time in the past 5 years. On behalf of all of API we are elated and it means the world to us.” Jennifer Allen – CEO and Founding Mama.

Congratulations to all of our finalists:

Innovation in Cultural Immersion, Sponsored by StudentUniverse

  • Athena Study Abroad: Athena and VCU Globe Refugee Program in Greece
  • CET Academic Programs and Osaka Gakuin University: An Immersion Triple Threat
  • Greenheart Travel: Greenheart Travel Atlas
  • Global Leadership Adventures: Guadeloupe French Caribbean Adventure + Homestay Extension
  • Global Vision International: Volunteer Healthcare Project in Fiji

Innovation in Alumni Engagement

  • Nomaden Berlin: The Nomaden Community Growth Strategy
  • Amizade: The Global Social Action Accelerator
  • International Studies Abroad: ISA Global Ambassador Badge Program
  • Diversity Abroad: The Diversity Abroad Global Student Leadership Summit
  • International TEFL Academy: Teach Abroad Film Festival

Innovation in Diversity

  • Barcelona SAE: TODOS: The Outcomes-Based Diversity Outreach Strategy
  • Ira Kirschner on Behalf of the Rothberg International School, Hebrew University of Jerusalem: IsraeLGBTQ+ : Queer Issues in Israeli Society
  • CISabroad: #IamIcan Campaign and Diversity Scholarships Revamp
  • Howard University: #StudyAbroadSoBlack
  • Bright Light Volunteers: Pura Vida: Costa Rica

Innovation in Marketing & Digital Media

  • The Wandering Scholar: Why We Wander, A Podcast Hosted by The Wandering Scholar
  • BLUE Missions Group: Make the World BLUE
  • CRCC Asia: Intern Influencers –  Creating a Digital Campaign with Student Ambassadors
  • University of Minnesota Learning Abroad Center: Avatar Campaign
  • Gap Year Association: Gap Year Exploration Month  

Innovative New Program, Intern Abroad

  • New Zealand Internships: Tourism/Social Work/Volunteer Programs
  • African Impact: Social Development and Entrepreneurial Internship in South Africa
  • CRCC Asia: Ho Chi Minh City: Going Beyond Traditional Destinations and the Business of Internships
  • CEA Study Abroad: Southern Methodist University Prague Summer 2018 Internships Custom Program
  • World Internships: Industry Immersion – Marketing and Entrepreneurship in NYC

Innovative New Program, Study Abroad

  • Texas Christian University: TCU Global Academy
  • Florence Ethnographic Field School: Summer Course in Qualitative Research Methods
  • InterExchange: Sustainable Action Costa Rica
  • CISabroad: CISabroad Semester or Summer in Japan with Train to Teach Program
  • Michigan State University, University of Michigan, and University College Dublin: Summer Physics Program

Innovative New Program, Teach Abroad / TEFL

  • i-to-i TEFL: Level 5 TEFL Course & Diploma Launch
  • Apax English: 7 Traits of Success
  • International TEFL Academy: TEFL Certification Worldwide
  • Greenheart Travel: Teach English in Costa Rica – Skills for Life

Innovative New Program, Volunteer Abroad

  • Oceans 2 Earth Volunteers: Great Barrier Reef Marine Conservation
  • GoEco: Thailand – Eco Clay Community Construction
  • Global Leadership Adventures: Fiji: Marine Conservation Expedition
  • IOI – Intercultural Outreach Initiative: Galapagos Sustainable Agriculture and Urban Gardening Initiative
  • Carpe Diem Education: Spain & Morocco: Human Migration and Language Study

Innovation in Philanthropy, Sponsored by the GoAbroad Foundation

  • African Impact: The African Impact Foundation’s 10 Year Birthday Campaign
  • CRCC Asia: Social Responsibility Initiative: Connecting CRCC Asia Staff a World Apart Through Giving Back
  • WAVES International: Surf & Volunteer in Puerto Escondido
  • Greenheart Travel: Greenheart Odyssey
  • CEA Study Abroad: #MakeAPositiveImpact

Innovation in Sustainability

  • Pitt Business International Programs: Global Service Learning: Puerto Rico
  • TEAN: Choose Earth Certificate Program
  • Human Connections: Carbon Neutral Student Programs
  • Frontier: Frontier-Fiji Mangroves Conservation Project
  • Global Vision International: Short Term Community Research Project in Thailand

Innovation in Technology

  • Center for Intercultural Learning, Mentorship, Assessment and Research, Purdue University: The Intercultural Learning Hub (HubICL)
  • CAPA: Globally Networked Learning
  • CIEE College Study Abroad: Design Your Study Abroad Experience
  • KeynectUp: Two-Way Messaging
  • Texas Christian University: Change Your LENS

Innovative Student Video

People’s Choice

  • Premier TEFL
  • Athena Study Abroad
  • CEA Study Abroad
  • API Abroad
  • Global Experiences