New Paltz ranks first in nation for providing study abroad opportunities to diverse students

New Paltz-The State University of New York at New Paltz won the 2011 Innovation Award, conferred by the Diversity in Global Education Network. This accolade recognizes New Paltz as a leader among the nation’s colleges and universities for implementing creative, practical strategies that bring study abroad opportunities to the cohort of diverse and under-represented students.

“SUNY New Paltz has an outstanding international education office and the campus’ study abroad and Educational Opportunity Programs are second to none in New York and across the U.S.,” SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said. “I commend SUNY New Paltz on this national recognition and congratulate the campus on its tremendous success in diversifying higher education abroad.”

For most students, study abroad provides a unique value-added educational and life-changing opportunity that complements the traditional on-campus experience. However, for students from traditionally underrepresented groups, the study abroad opportunity may appear to be elusive due to financial, cultural and physical challenges.

Bruce Sillner, dean of International Programs at New Paltz attributes the success in providing broader access primarily to the strong intercollegiate cooperation among New Paltz’s departments, offices and programs. In particular Sillner highlights the cooperation between Carlton Rounds, assistant director of study abroad in the Center for International Programs and Clare Kelly, EOP advisor, in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), winner of the 2004 Noel-Levitz Retention Excellence Award.

The formidable, collaborative relationship that exists between EOP advisors and their counterpart advisors in study abroad was originally spearheaded by Kelly and Rounds.
Kelly and Rounds, who are both first generation college graduates and part of marginalized communities, espouse a multi-faceted, student-centered approach to advising. They listen to each individual student, meet them at their point in development, anticipate their needs and provide them with the support, knowledge and tools to have fulfilling international educational experiences.

“I ask students questions. I listen. And then I learn from them. Everyone should be able to go abroad. We are responsible to the students, they have so much to offer,” Kelly said. Rounds has worked in cross-cultural service education for 25 years.

“I’ve never met a student who has gone to another country, been accountable to another culture, had to stand on their own feet, engage with the world in this way–and did not come back changed,” Rounds said. “This is the democratization of international education. We are not doing a favor to underrepresented populations, they are doing us the favor.”

EOP advisors work closely with their students and alert eligible students early in their studies about study abroad opportunities made possible through EOP travel grants and other federal funding such as Benjamin A. Gilman scholarships.

“This Innovation Award rewards our model of cooperation between EOP and Study Abroad as a best practice model for the nation,” said Sillner. “We are honored to have the work of Carlton Rounds and Clare Kelly celebrated, supported and enhanced by such a prestigious award. Our colleagues in the Educational Opportunity Program and the Center for International Programs share a passion and commitment to increasing diversity in international education. For the students who will be the face of a new generation of diverse scholars, we feel great pride in their willingness to take risks and are humbled by their academic and social acumen.”

SUNY New Paltz will deliver a presentation on their best practices for equity in international programs at Diversity Network’s workshop, “Diversifying Education Abroad-From Discussion to Action” October 6 at San Diego State University.