Minority Students: Study Abroad and
Academic Success

Minority Students in Study Abroad: Visiting Zimbabwe

This article was first published in 2011. However, many of the strategies and perspectives shared below apply today.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the impact that study abroad and other forms of experiential learning (internships, service learning, etc.) have on the persistence and academic performance of undergraduates in general and of minority students in particular; yet increasing the participation of minority students in these programs often remains an overlooked pathway to retention and academic success.

Last year, findings were released from GLOSSARI, the Georgia Learning Outcomes of Students Studying Abroad Research Initiative, based on a decade of data. Among the findings:

  • Students completing study abroad programs show improved academic performance in subsequent terms
  • Study abroad students have higher graduation rates
  • Study abroad improves academic performance for at-risk students

However, as few as 1.5 percent of American college students study overseas each year, and participation from under-represented ethnic minorities is especially low. According to the 2010 Open Doors report from the Institute for International Education (IIE), although ethnic minorities account for 37 percent of enrollment in higher education in the US, they account for only 18.6 percent of students studying abroad.

This week, we turned to Jennifer Campbell, assistant director for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship at IIE (61 percent of Gilman Scholarship recipients in fiscal year 2010 were under-represented ethnic minority students), and asked for her observations about what steps college and university officials can take to encourage greater minority participation in study abroad programs.


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