More Knox College students are studying abroad, thanks in part to a national campaign to help colleges and universities set clear goals and measurable actions to increase the number and diversity of American college students who study abroad by 2020.
At its 2016 Summit in Washington, D.C., this week, the Institute of International Education's Generation Study Abroad initiative recognized Knox and 11 other U.S. higher education institutions that have already exceeded their goals to boost study abroad participation.
Knox is among the first higher education institutions to meet or exceed their goals among the more than 700 colleges and organizations that have joined Generation Study Abroad since its launch two years ago.
About 50 percent of Knox students participate in study abroad and off-campus programs at some point in their undergraduate education, according to statistics compiled this year. That's a dramatic increase from just four years ago, when about 32 percent of Knox undergraduates participated in study abroad, either in term-length programs or short-term immersion programs.
Study abroad and other international experiences are more accessible to Knox students through programs such as the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which offers grants to students studying or interning abroad. Available to students with financial need, the Gilman program seeks to help a diverse group of U.S. students study and intern abroad in an array of countries.
Specific actions that were part of Knox's commitment to Generation Study Abroad included identifying more affordable study abroad programs and highlighting those options to students, and creating a digital storytelling class for returning study abroad students so they can articulate the value of their experiences.
"Knox is particularly pleased to be recognized for its commitment to and success with study abroad. Intercultural immersive learning is a signature learning experience for almost half of our students at Knox, and offers students exactly the kind of global understanding needed to succeed after they graduate," said Laura Behling, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College.
"Our goal, of course, is to continue to support students who want to have this transformational learning experience, and to help them realize the possibilities in living and learning abroad," Behling added. "The Stellyes Center for Global Studies does terrific work in demonstrating the commitment that Knox has, and I am proud of the Center's successes."
Brenda Tooley, director of Knox College's Eleanor Stellyes Center for Global Studies and the Peace Corps Prep Program, said, "It is a joy to advise students as they explore the rich array of study abroad options available to them."
"The investment they make in their education by deciding on study abroad will offer returns for many years to come, both personal and professional," Tooley added. "International educational experience opens so many doors for students—study abroad is highly correlated with better academic performance and with increased maturity and self-confidence; it often enables language acquisition (or improvement of language skills), it frequently incorporates independent research or an internship in the host community, and it results in an expanded global network of friends and colleagues."
According to the IIE, evidence indicates that students who study abroad have better grades, experience less attrition and graduate from college at higher rates than students who do not study abroad, and have a competitive edge on the job market. Still, fewer than 10% of American undergraduates study abroad and only one quarter of those are from underrepresented groups.
In recent years, the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange has shown modest increases in study abroad, but it will take bold action to reach the ambitious goal of doubling study abroad.
Knox joins these universities and colleges in meeting their Generation Study Abroad commitments: the College of Charleston, Davidson County Community College, Lamar University, Pellissippi State Community College, Sacred Heart University, SUNY Oswego, SUNY Plattsburg, The New School, University of South Alabama, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Upper Iowa University.
The diversity of the 12 higher education institutions that have met or exceeded their goals early demonstrate how all institutional types—community colleges, arts schools, private liberal arts colleges, and public research universities alike—can incorporate study abroad into the American undergraduate experience.
"Just two years after joining Generation Study Abroad, colleges and universities across the country are seeing measurable results in their study abroad participation rates," said Allan Goodman, the president and CEO of the IIE. "Studying abroad is one of the best ways to prepare to enter and succeed in the interconnected, globalized workforce, yet 90% of American college students do not study or intern outside of the United States. We owe it to the next generation of Americans to explain why study abroad is more crucial than ever and to find ways to make it more accessible to a wider range of students."
More information is available at www.generationstudyabroad.org.
(Photo at top of page: Liz Rivera '17 is among the many Knox students who study abroad. She spent time in Peru during the summer of 2016.)