Transylvania University is one of 34 U.S. colleges and universities in 28 U.S. states to be awarded a 2023 grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Increase and Diversify Education Abroad for U.S. Students (IDEAS) Program, which aims to develop and expand study abroad programs around the world.
The selected proposals will develop new international partnerships, train faculty and staff, internationalize curriculum, engage diverse students in study abroad, broaden the destinations where U.S. students study, and create virtual and hybrid exchanges. The IDEAS Program contributes to the State Department’s diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility efforts to engage the American people in foreign policy.
“Increasing and diversifying U.S. students going abroad for educational opportunities, as well as diversifying the places where they study, is a State Department priority,” said Lee Satterfield, assistant U.S. secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs. “This year’s recipients reflect the true greatness of America — our diversity — as almost 25 percent represent two-year institutions, 40 percent represent minority-serving institutions, and 25 percent represent rural-serving institutions.”
Transylvania’s grant proposal, “Global Health and Development in Ecuador: Expanding International Opportunities for Pre-Health Students,” has global health as its foreign policy focus goal. This emphasis was selected in part because nearly one-fourth of Transy students are affiliated with pre-health programs — an area of study often underrepresented in study abroad programs — but any interested student is eligible to benefit from the award.
“The idea with this grant and other initiatives that the university is undertaking is to help students who would not be able to get abroad otherwise, or who have self-selected out of the opportunity to study abroad due to their specific circumstances,” said Rachel Wilson, director of global and intercultural engagement, noting that curriculum and academics, as well as finances, can all serve as barriers.
Wilson hopes to use the nearly $30,000 that the institution received to support faculty-led study abroad programming, with an emphasis on incorporating the university’s new medical humanities minor. She also wants to start a peer-based mentoring program for study abroad.
“The idea is to create a pipeline of students who have studied abroad and can support students through the whole process — from getting students interested to the time they depart,” Wilson said. “This will give more visibility to the opportunities that already exist by giving Transy students resources to find out information about study abroad more easily and in a more efficient way.”
In recent years, Transylvania’s study abroad program was forced to temporarily halt overseas travel due to the pandemic. However, the 2022-23 academic year boasted a robust resurgence of international study, with 66 students traveling abroad for semester programs, academic breaks and summer study and internships. Transy students visited 10 countries, including Thailand, South Africa, Costa Rica and Austria.
Since 2016, the IDEAS Program has awarded 179 grants to 173 U.S. colleges and universities in 49 states and territories to create, expand and diversify their U.S. study abroad programs in 71 countries across all world regions. In addition to the IDEAS grants, the program offers opportunities for international educators at U.S. colleges and universities to participate in free virtual and in-person study abroad capacity-building activities.
Wilson hopes that the university programming developed with the IDEAS funding will encourage more students to take a look at the opportunities available to them, stressing that “regardless of finances or previous travel history — study abroad is a possibility.”