CMSI and CIEE Release Report Exploring Study Abroad Experiences of Students from Minority Serving Institutions

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The Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) in partnership with the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) has published a report entitled, “Diversifying Study Abroad and Expanding Equity for Minority Serving Institutions.”

The report offers an important glimpse into the challenges that dissuade students from studying abroad, including barriers of cost, culture, and curriculum, all of which may be exacerbated at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). MSIs often have limited institutional resources to support study abroad and the majority of students are of color and come from low-income backgrounds.

In particular, the report highlights the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship (FDGF), a collaborative initiative created by CMSI and CIEE that covers the costs for 10 outstanding MSI students, chosen for their academic achievement, communication skills, and service to others, to participate in an intensive four-week study abroad program focused on intercultural communication and leadership.​

“By outlining the obstacles that can stand in the way of study abroad, and highlighting a program designed to minimize the impact of those obstacles, we hope this report will encourage additional efforts to make study abroad more accessible for under-resourced students, especially those at MSIs,” asserted Daniel Blake, the report’s lead author and a research associate at CMSI.

The report details how the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship is shifting the narrative of study abroad for underserved students. Using pre- and post-FDGF interviews as well as data from the Intercultural Development Inventory, the report shares how fellows have been shaped by the intentional programming and customized curriculum provided by the program.  

“It has been incredible to observe students respond to the targeted intercultural support and guided reflection built into the curriculum,” said Dr. Keshia Abraham, Director of Strategic Initiatives at CIEE. “The success of the program and the anecdotes from students reveal the value of intentionality in crafting a program that serves this distinct population—MSI students. Such deliberate planning can foster not only academic growth in students but personal growth as well.”

The report ends with data on MSI study abroad participation. According to the report, 10.9% of all U.S. study abroad students in the 2016-2017 academic year came from MSIs. This reveals the underrepresentation of MSI students in study abroad given that MSIs enroll over 25% of all college students. Hispanic Serving Institutions contribute the most to the overall representation of MSI students abroad and are followed closely by Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions. The report also includes information on the fields of study that MSI study abroad students derive from, their destinations, and the duration of their study abroad experiences.

“One of the exemplary components of the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship is to encourage fellows to become ambassadors at their home institutions,” said Lola Esmieu, Associate Director for Programs at CMSI and one of the authors of the report. “As ambassadors, fellows are encouraged to spread the mission of the Frederick Douglass program—normalizing study abroad on their campuses and raising awareness on the benefits of education abroad.”

“The Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship recognizes the power of positive role models to encourage young student leaders to embrace the life-changing impact that studying abroad affords,” said James P. Pellow, President and CEO of CIEE. “First, the inspiring life of Frederick Douglass encourages students to believe in their ability to change the course of their lives, just as he did in the mid-19th century, and then returning Frederick Douglass Global Fellows inspire their peers with their unique personal stories of transformation. They become the proverbial ‘pebbles on the pond’ of culture change in their campus communities. We hope this report inspires other innovations in study abroad designed to expand participation by MSI students and members of other underrepresented groups.”

The report can be found here.

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