SUNY Oswego has achieved its commitment—among the first colleges and universities in the nation to do so—to significantly boost the number and diversity of its students in study abroad, thanks in part to its participation in a national campaign to help higher education institutions set clear goals and measurable actions in study abroad engagement.

At its 2016 summit in Washington, D.C., this week, the Institute of International Education’s Generation Study Abroad initiative recognized Oswego and 11 other U.S. higher education institutions that have already exceeded their goals to boost study abroad participation.

Dr. Joshua McKeown, the college’s director of international education and programs, said Oswego achieved an increase of 5 percent over the past several years; in the most recent year reported in the Open Doors Report on International Exchanges, 20 percent of Oswego’s students are now engaged in international education opportunities.

“SUNY Oswego has moved strategically and deliberately toward expanding education abroad over the past decade, embedding it well into our curriculum, creating more experiential programs abroad and establishing scholarships to fund these transformative experiences for our students,” McKeown said.

The college, too, has moved to engage students of all races, ethnicities and orientations in a broader variety of study-travel experiences.

“Our aggressive expansion and diversification of our study-abroad portfolio, particularly the ‘I, Too, Am Study Abroad’ campaign, has furthered our commitment to ensuring that education abroad is attainable by all students,” McKeown said. “SUNY Oswego is proud to be leading the effort to increase student participation in study abroad, but also in providing more diverse experiences for students of diverse backgrounds.”

Competitive edge

Evidence indicates that students who study abroad have better grades, experience less attrition and graduate from college at higher rates than students who don’t study abroad, and have a competitive edge in the job market, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE).

Two years ago, the IIE set about improving the numbers of American college students—fewer than 10 percent in 2011-12—and has attracted more than 400 colleges and universities, and several hundred other partners worldwide, to join the Generation Study Abroad campaign in making commitments to further its goal to at least double the participation rate by 2020.

Oswego joins University of Nebraska Lincoln, University of South Alabama, Sacred Heart University and eight other universities and two- and four-year colleges that have met or exceeded their goals early, the IIE announced.

“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 non-profit 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 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.”

Last year, the IIE awarded SUNY Oswego an honorable mention in the Andrew Heiskell Awards for International Education program for the college’s “I, Too, Am Study Abroad” campaign, one of only three initiatives honored nationally in the study abroad category.

In “I, Too, Am Study Abroad,” students promote the benefits of international education and the availability of scholarships to help pay for study-travel to fellow students who have been underrepresented in study abroad. Oswego students experienced in international education serve as study-abroad mentors and organize panel discussions to raise awareness, with the active assistance of the Office of International Education and Programs.

“When it (promotion of study abroad) comes from us and friends, other students trust us as peers,” said senior Spanish major Nico Angerosa, who has international education experience in Spain and Italy. “I think that means a lot.”

McKeown said the college is continuing its efforts to demonstrate positive impacts from study and travel, including improved awareness of students’ role in the world, global cultural diversity, and global systems and how they work.

“While growth in numbers is part of our success, our effort goes beyond that,” he said. “It’s also showing how study abroad is a vibrant part of life at the institution.”