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Robust Study-Abroad Program Recognized for Exceeding Goals

Sacred Heart nearly doubles the number of students experiencing education overseas

Francesca Schenker and Christina Gunther, center, accept their award at the summit.

Sacred Heart University is among the first of more than 700 higher-education institutions participating in the Generation Study Abroad initiative to have met or exceeded its goals for students studying overseas since its launch two years ago.

In recognition of that achievement, the Institute of International Education (IIE)—the organization behind Generation Study Abroad—recognized Sacred Heart University and 11 other U.S. colleges and universities at its recent 2016 summit in Washington, D.C. Francesca Schenker, SHU’s assistant director of global affairs, and Christina Gunther, director of global health programs, attended the IIE summit to accept the award.

Sacred Heart’s goal for the 2014-2015 school year was to send 218 students abroad for credit, service learning or clinical experiences. That year, 329 students went abroad, representing 92-percent growth in study-abroad enrollment. That exceeded SHU’s pledge by 47 percent.

“From a University standpoint, this means the international experience is becoming a fixture within our culture, within our programs and within our academic discussions,” said Carrie Wojenski, executive director of global affairs. “It means awareness of programs is growing, and students are recognizing the value of studying abroad. It means our students are becoming more globally aware.”

With the help of faculty promoting programs and offering educational experiences abroad, Wojenski said, more students are getting a global experience. “They build upon their experiences and learn how to engage with a diverse range of perspectives, values and ideas,“ she said. “They can have richer academic conversations on campus.”

Wojenski said she is pleased the University exceeded its goal and, not resting on its laurels, her department strives to have even more students take part in the overseas experiences available to them.

Evidence indicates there are significant advantages for students who study abroad: they have better grades, experience less attrition, have a competitive edge in the job market and graduate from college at higher rates than students who do not study abroad. Yet, fewer than 10 percent of American undergraduates participate in such programs, 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 the number of students studying abroad, but it states that bold action is necessary to reach the ambitious goal of doubling the participation rate.

Other universities and colleges that have met their Generation Study Abroad goals are College of Charleston, Davidson County Community College, Knox College, Lamar University, Pellissippi State Community College, SUNY Oswego, SUNY Plattsburg, The New School, University of South Alabama, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Upper Iowa University.

“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, 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 percent 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.”