The annual ranking by the Institute of International Education again names Elon University the nation’s top master’s level institution in the number of students studying abroad.
Elon University continues to rank first in number of students studying abroad among master’s institutions.
The number one ranking comes from the annual Open Doors report, published by Institute for International Education, which reports that 1,654 Elon students studied abroad in the 2016-17 academic year. Elon placed ahead of James Madison University, California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo, California State University – Long Beach, and University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
Elon also continues to rank first in mid-length (semester-length) study abroad and is ranked second for short-term study abroad. Nationally, about two thirds of students studying abroad participate on short-term programs, whereas only about one third study on semester-length programs.
The top ranking comes as Elon continues to strive toward The Elon Commitment goal of “100 percent access” to global engagement by 2020. Galvanized by this goal, Elon’s study abroad participation has more than doubled between 2000 and 2017, rising from 710 to 1,654 students.
Global engagement has become a hallmark of an Elon education: 79 percent of the undergraduate class of 2017 studied abroad.
Partnerships to support “100 percent access”
Part of the staggering growth is due to special programs and partnerships, such as the global athletics initiative. Since 2011 Phoenix student-athletes have taken part in global experiences across the world in Europe, Asia, Central America, and North America.
With practice and competition commitments, strict N.C.A.A. regulations, and specific workout regimens, it can be difficult for student-athletes to study abroad. To address that challenge, the Global Education Center and Elon Athletics have partnered to bring entire teams on global programs.
“Elon has consistently been the national model for study abroad and creating opportunities for students to engage globally,” said Dave Blank, director of athletics. “The experiences we provide combine an academic approach with an athletic approach, allowing our student-athletes to experience all of the elements that are important to them. As a result, our program has been transformational and impactful on the lives of all of our student-athletes and will serve them well throughout their entire life.”
The men’s and women’s golf teams studied over Thanksgiving Break in St. Andrews, Scotland. Enrolled in the fall course “From St. Andrews to Augusta: Scottish Golf and Culture Through Time” taught by Assistant Professor of Psychology Bilal Ghandour, the students applied their classroom studies on-site while also competing in the birthplace of golf.
“To walk where the best players in the world have walked and to hit shots where they hit shots is an experience like no other,” the team reflected in a journal entry.
Another unique partnership, the Summer Liberal Arts, Music & Performing Arts program in Florence, Italy, grew out of the relationship between Elon and Accademia Europea di Firenze. Last summer, 12 Elon students studied under Polly Cornelius and were invited to join the professional performance of ‘La Traviata’ at Saint Mark’s Opera Company. Eight years in the making, “this dream is finally a reality,” said Cornelius. “Where better to study opera than in Florence Italy, the birthplace of opera?”
Targeted support through Preparatory Forums
In addition to expanding programs through targeted partnership, Elon’s growth in study abroad participation is also due to targeted support such as through identity-based preparation in topical orientation sessions. These preparatory forums are hosted in collaboration with experts across campus and are open to all study abroad students.
The Global Education Center partners with the Center for Race, Ethnicity & Diversity Education to host “The Skin I’m In: Perspectives on Race & Ethnicity Abroad,” a dialogue among study abroad returnees and faculty and staff of color about identities abroad.
The emerging partnership between these offices affirms important lifelong learning in global education. “Hosting focus groups and study abroad prep forums together explores the nuanced nature of engaging the study abroad process as a person of color and seeks to further elucidate pathways to access and success for the aspiring global citizen,” said Brandon Bell, assistant director of the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education.
Another identity-based forum, “Global OUTreach: LGBTQIA Topics While Studying Away/Abroad” is hosted in partnership with the Gender & LGBTQIA Center.
“The Gender & LGBTQIA Center has been proud to collaborate with the Global Education Center by hosting forums like Global OUTreach & Women Abroad, focusing on gender & LGBTQIA topics to consider before, during, and following Study Abroad. Topics include advancing community, safety, health, resources, identity, cultural norms around gender and sexuality, and reintegration back into Elon,” said Matthew Antonio Bosch, director of the Gender & LGBTQIA Center.
National Growth: Challenges and Opportunities
The Institute of International Education has conducted an annual statistical survey on international education since 1919 and has worked in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs since 1972 in producing the annual Open Doors report.
A highlight of the 2018 Open Doors report is national growth in diversity. In 2005-06, racial and ethnic minorities accounted for 17 percent of U.S. study abroad. In 2016-17, that figure has grown to 29.2 percent.
At Elon, global engagement participation among ALANAM (African-American/Black, Latino/Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American, Alaskan Native and Multiracial) communities continues to be a growth opportunity.
One way the Global Education Center is working to address this gap is in Allegra Laing’s promotion from study abroad coordinator to assistant director of diversity and inclusion in study abroad. In this role, Laing leads in integrating inclusive excellence into study abroad support, from advising through re-entry reflection.
For instance, Laing recently presented “Reframing the Narrative of Global Engagement: Studying Abroad as a Student of Color” at the 2018 Intersect: Diversity & Leadership Conference. The session featured five student panelists, who spoke to the unique challenges of traveling abroad as students of color.
One of those panelists, Maria Santana-Garces ’20, studied on the Winter Term program “Spain & Morocco: Historical & Contemporary Encounters” with professors Ketevan Kupatadze and Ricky Mendoza Castano. Reflecting on her experience, Santana-Garces said “there is not one type of American – there’s hundreds of types of Americans – and they all have different perspectives. I look back on my abroad experiences with a smile as most students do, which is why I hope that as studying abroad becomes more common, so does diversity, especially in Elon.”
Overall, according to the 2018 Open Doors report, global education is growing nationally. The report notes that “study abroad numbers grew by 2.3 percent to 332,727 Americans studying abroad for academic credit at their home institutions in 2016/17. Approximately one in 10 U.S. students study abroad during their undergraduate career.”
At Elon, that number is closer to eight in 10.
“At Elon, our focus is not only for students to study abroad, but to experience difference in a deep and impactful way,” said Matthew Buckmaster, assistant dean of global education. “We’re proud of the numbers of students, but even more proud of our focus to continue to strengthen and deepen our study away programs.”