Alliance Creates Scholarships to Boost Study Abroad - Higher Education
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Alliance Creates Scholarships to Boost Study Abroad

by Jamal Eric Watson

A new three-year initiative aimed at increasing student study abroad at minority-serving institutions (MSIs) will receive financial support from the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), thanks to a partnership between the organization and the Graduate School of Education’s Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) at the University of Pennsylvania.

CIEE has pledged 100 percent of all exhibitor fees related to its annual conference in 2016, 2017 and 2018 to support study abroad scholarships for students from minority-serving institutions. CIEE and CMSI expect the first-year scholarship pool to total at least $50,000.

“Our partnership with CIEE is an unprecedented effort to move the needle in a serious way around study abroad for students of color, and especially students at minority-serving institutions,” said Dr. Marybeth Gasman, an education professor and director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions. “Together, we are working to break down the barriers of cost, curriculum and culture that prevent far too many students of color from experiencing international study. This significant financial support will have a direct impact on some of our country’s brightest students.”

According to Gasman, funds historically used to support conference expenses will now be earmarked for the most financially challenged students attending the nation’s nearly 600 MSIs. Each year for the next three years, the scholarship funds will cover 100 percent of program fees and travel costs for 10 students of color from 10 separate MSIs. Each cohort of 10 students will take part in a summer study abroad program designed to enhance their leadership and intercultural skills in one of three locations: London (summer 2017); Cape Town, South Africa (summer 2018); and Seoul, South Korea (summer 2019).

The scholarship is being named the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship.

To become a Frederick Douglass Global Fellow, each student must be nominated and receive a letter of recommendation from the president of their institution following their first year of college. The first scholarships will be awarded on November 1, 2016, by Penn’s CMSI.

In addition to the scholarships, CIEE and CMSI have committed to a three-year partnership to co-sponsor training for college presidents and workshops for faculty to increase diversity in study abroad. Gasman said that research shows that students who study abroad can have higher GPAs, are more likely to graduate on time and are more attractive to employers that seek to hire candidates with intercultural competencies.

There is, however, a significant gap between the profiles of those who study abroad versus the overall population of U.S. undergraduates. While students of color represent almost 40 percent of all undergraduates, they represent only 26 percent of those students who study abroad, of whom just 8.3 percent are Hispanic and 5.6 percent are Black.

The deadline for students to apply to become Frederick Douglass Global Fellows is October 1, 2016. Details for applying will be available soon. For more information, contact pesmieu@gse.upen.edu.

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