A SUNY Oswego campaign to extend international study opportunities to a wider diversity of students has won national recognition.

The Institute for International Education chose Oswego’s “I, Too, Am Study Abroad” campaign for honorable mention in its Andrew Heiskell Awards for Innovation in International Education program. The honor was one of only three awarded in the study-abroad category.

An initiative of the college’s Office of International Education and Programs and students serving as study-abroad mentors, “I, Too, Am Study Abroad” seeks to raise awareness among students who have been underrepresented in study abroad—through student-led panel discussions and promotions—of the benefits of international education and the availability of scholarships to help pay for it. It also offers follow-through and support from study-abroad mentors, students who have studied abroad.

Diverse backgrounds

Dr. Joshua McKeown, Oswego’s director of international education and programs, said that for too long, the paradigm nationally for study abroad has been overwhelmingly female, low in minority participation, focused on the social sciences and humanities, and directed toward Western Europe.

“Our team is very active in changing this,” McKeown said. “We’re seeing a serious shift in this area. It makes me excited as someone doing this for a long time that we are now leading in the effort to provide more diverse experiences for students of diverse backgrounds.”

SUNY Oswego’s aggressive expansion and diversification of its study-abroad portfolio, coupled with increases in targeted institutional grants, have moved the campus toward ensuring that education abroad is attainable by all students. In 2010-11, underrepresented groups comprised 13 percent of students going abroad from Oswego; by 2014-15, more than 25 percent of study-abroad participants were from underrepresented groups, mirroring the college’s diversity.

Keith Davis, Oswego’s assistant director of education abroad, said the program was inspired by “I, Too, Am Harvard,” a photo- and social media-driven effort to give black students ownership of and more of a voice in their experience at Harvard College, the undergraduate side of Harvard University.

“I, Too, Am Study Abroad” has moved to collaborate with student organizations and other college offices, he said. For example, the program held a panel discussion titled “LGBT Experiences Abroad” in cooperation with the Pride Alliance. Collaborations will expand to the offices of Career Services and Financial Aid this semester.

“Critical mass and momentum in study abroad—that’s the kind of culture we strive for,” Davis said. Education abroad associate director Lizette Alvarado and Caitlin Pollard, education abroad specialist, also are instrumental to the program.

Helping build the momentum are returning study-abroad students like Tiana Morris, a senior marketing major from Long Island who studied in London last spring. Morris put together her own panel for “I, Too, Am Study Abroad,” with the help of junior business administration major Morgan Barcus, who studied in Paris last summer.

Too often, Morris said, the price tag of a study-abroad opportunity puts up a stop sign for students of limited means. “It is expensive, but there are alternatives,” said Morris, who will be a study-abroad mentor this semester. “Money alone should not turn you away. People don’t apply for the money that’s out there. I applied for a scholarship and won it.”

Morris received a Jose Ramon Perez International Scholarship, funded by Oswego alumnus John Christian, president and chief executive officer of CAPA International Education, and by CAPA. Other study-travel scholarships for SUNY Oswego students include the Colleen Brunner Memorial, International Education and Programs, Thomas Jacobsen ‘77 Memorial and Michael B. Zalkin Memorial scholarships, as well as GETGO Scholarships through Oswego’s department of modern languages and literatures. There are many other grants offered to students of any college, some targeting specific countries such as Japan and New Zealand.

The college offers faculty-led semester, full-year and short-term study or research opportunities abroad: Global Laboratory summer research in such countries as Taiwan, India and Brazil; courses with optional follow-up study/travel that takes place on breaks in Cuba, Ecuador and elsewhere; quarter-courses abroad in Honduras, Ireland and beyond; and more traditional semester-long offerings in countries around the world.

More information on the award is available on the IIE website.