The 2011 Innovation Award, conferred by the Diversity in Global Education Network, has recognized New Paltz as a leader among the nation’s colleges and universities for implementing creative, practical strategies that bring study abroad opportunities to 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.
Dean Bruce Sillner (International Programs) attributes the College’s 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 Assistant Director of Study Abroad Carlton Rounds (Center for International Programs) and EOP Advisor Clare Kelly-Barra (Educational Opportunity Program).
The collaborative relationship that exists between EOP advisors and their counterpart advisors in Study Abroad was originally spearheaded by Kelly-Barra and Rounds. As first-generation college graduates who are part of marginalized communities, Kelly-Barra and Rounds espouse a multi-faceted, student-centered approach to advising. They listen to each individual student, meet them at the level they are, anticipate their needs and provide them with the support, knowledge and tools to have fulfilling international educational experiences.
Kelly-Barra is originally from London and an alumna of Vassar College’s Exploring Transfer Program. Her passion for international education and travel began with her own study abroad experiences at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and at Oxford University’s Exeter College (England) and in Sicily.
“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-Barra said.
Rounds has worked in cross-cultural service education for 25 years. His past jobs includes work with homeless lesbian, gay bisexual transgender teens of color from the South Bronx and students from South Africa who suffered oppression under apartheid.
“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.”
“This is about human connection. People are successful in ways you never imagined. It’s commonly thought, ‘I’m a product of my culture,’ but international education shows us that maybe we have more of a choice in this than we think,” Rounds said. “The effects of this education can influence everything: how you deal with obstacles in your life, how you raise your children, how you love.”
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, named after the former Hudson Valley Congressman who chaired the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
“The 2011 Innovation Award justifies 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-Barra 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.”
The team 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.