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SUNY New Paltz Study Abroad Program wins prestigious IIE award

New Paltz AbroadThe Institute of International Education (IIE) has announced the winners of its 2015 Andrew Heiskell Awards for Innovation in International Education, and the State University of New York at New Paltz has taken top honors in the “Study Abroad” category.

The Heiskell Study Abroad Award recognizes innovative programs in higher education that make study abroad accessible to a broader student population. It is one of the most prestigious honors bestowed on higher learning international programs, with more than 1,400 IIE member campuses eligible each year.

“We are deeply gratified that the Institute of International Education, while spearheading a national initiative to increase study abroad participation, has recognized New Paltz as a leader in that effort,” said Bruce Sillner, dean of International Programs.

“Congratulations to President Don Christian, Dean Bruce Sillner, Study Abroad Program Director Christian Wilwohl, and the entire SUNY New Paltz campus on earning this prestigious award from the Institute of International Education (IIE) in recognition of the exceptional and wide-ranging study abroad programs offered to students,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “SUNY New Paltz serves as an excellent model as we continue to work with IIE to expand the number of SUNY students participating in study abroad by 25 percent.”

SUNY New Paltz is being recognized for achievements of the partnership between the Center for International Programs (CIP) and the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), which has expanded the participation of underrepresented students in study abroad by offering advising, tutoring services, and study abroad information sessions to EOP students.

Additionally, the offices have undertaken to guide students through the application process for study abroad scholarships. The CIP estimates that EOP students have received nearly $190,000 in scholarship funding for study abroad since 2009.

Thanks in large part to these efforts, 140 New Paltz EOP students have participated in study abroad since 2007.

According to Christian Wilwohl, study abroad program director, “Having a study abroad experience as part of one’s education gives students the opportunity to develop skills for the 21st century global economy and job market.” The value of international study is evidenced by the fact that the six-year graduation rate for New Paltz EOP study abroad participants (96 percent) is significantly higher than that of their non-study abroad counterparts (63 percent).

But education abroad is also an invaluable life experience, said Clare Kelly-Barra, EOP advisor and study abroad liaison. “It creates a ripple effect. Study abroad internationalizes students. It broadens their experiences. Our students continue to travel after graduation, and they share with their peers about the value of international study and service learning.”

Thanks to the success of this and other initiatives, New Paltz has emerged as a leader among SUNY campuses in international studies, with an approximate 20 percent overall study abroad participation rate that is one of the highest in the SUNY system.

Sillner attributes the growth of study abroad at SUNY New Paltz to a “team effort,” undertaken by staff at CIP and EOP, the Offices of Student Accounts, Financial Aid and Records & Registration, and the diverse academic departments who help educate and prepare students for international study.

IIE will present the awards at its annual Best Practices in Internationalization Conference in New York City on March 20.

Learn more about the IIE and the Heiskell Awards at the IIE website.