Director’s Letter

October 24, 2016


The Study Abroad office is uniquely situated to build curriculum capacity through the creation of new knowledge and interdisciplinary space for students to study a range of critical global issues through program opportunities on six continents. With a focus on supporting as many students as possible in becoming effective and influential leaders in civil society, SAO strives to: internationalize the curriculum through program opportunities; engage UIC’s highly diverse student population to become intentional learners with increased global awareness; and assure student access to scholarship and grant support for an international academic experience.

The most important activities of this past year – as in any year – are in the context of the SAO focus on getting UIC undergraduates access to the right program for their academic success and the funding to support that.  Much of SAO’s work also involved persistence in ongoing efforts to create new – or renew existing – relationships with faculty and departments across campus, student support networks, and key university units like OSSP, Financial Aid, and the Registrar’s office.

  • The total face-to-face advising hours by SAO staff exceeded 900. An additional estimated 200-300 hours of advising took place by email, Skype, and phone before, during, and after program participation.
  • At the start of the academic year, SAO hosted an annual Study Abroad Fair and hosted 22 domestic and international academic consortia and university partners to talk with students about their programs and curriculum offerings.
  • A new grant fund of $100,000 sponsored by the Council on International Educational Exchange specifically for UIC students was established for study at any of CIEE’s 4 Global Institutes in Europe in 2016-17.
  • To enhance knowledge about study abroad and curriculum integration, SAO collaborated with academic partners to cost-share program site visits for faculty and college advisor to: Cambodia, Cuba, Denmark, and Spain.
  • SAO staff attended international education conferences, and made assessment visits to programs in China, India, Italy, Germany, Spain, South Africa, and Russia.
  • SAO Executive Director led a 10 year program center evaluation at the University of Hyderabad, India on request of the Council for International Educational Exchange and its 150 US university members.

As a ‘high impact activity’, study abroad is an important ingredient in the student success initiative.  Preliminary data reports indicate study abroad does not extend graduation, in fact those students who study abroad have graduation rates at almost double the rate of those who don’t.

SAO focuses on access, diversity, and inclusion in its advising and administrative protocols yielding participating students who reflect the wide socio-economic diversity of UIC undergraduates.  Counter-intuitive to national international education data trends:

  • 50% of the 178 study abroad students in the 2015-16 academic year were Pell eligible.
  • The retention rate for Pell eligible students from point of first contact with SAO to study abroad registration was 82% compared to an overall retention rate of 56%.
  • Over half of students [52%] identified as an under-represented minority, and 47% were first generation in their family to attend college.
  • There was a 40% increase over the previous year in the amount of scholarship and grant funding to students: $327,050, including over $85,000 in the nationally competitive Gilman International Scholarship.

Academic and cultural diversity was reflected in the portfolio of programs and curricula in the 33 countries on 6 continents where students studied abroad. All credit earned abroad was toward graduation requirements.

  • 43% of credit was approved for GenEd, elective, or Basic Language.
  • 57% of credit was approved by faculty, and/or advisors toward 49 majors in 9 colleges continuing an upward trend of previous years.
  • Students come with diverse worldviews, cultural attributes, and experience: 53% speak a language other than English at home [including Cantonese, Arabic, Romanian, Norwegian, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Croatian, Spanish, and Polish]; 48% have traveled outside of the US.

A link to a longitudinal data report for the 8 academic years 2007-2015 is posted on the SAO website.

There is no limit on our capacity to engage with students.  But at the same time we need to continue to strengthen our collaborations with those who spend the most hours in a day with students – in the classroom, in advising sessions, or through mentoring – to work with them in a way that makes an international academic experience a valuable and accessible option.

Many groups of individuals have had historically low rates of participation in study abroad, including those from underrepresented minority groups; first generation college attendees; recent immigrants; students with disabilities; those who identify as LGBTQ; students from low income backgrounds; and even students who study in particular fields, such as the sciences, IT, engineering, mathematics, health professions or other technical areas. All of these attributes are substantial elements of the UIC undergraduate demographic and the university’s study abroad cohort.

Thank you in advance for helping students understand the personal, academic, and career benefits of an international experience as part of their four year plan.

Chris Deegan
Executive Director
Study Abroad
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