Study abroad alumni are uniquely positioned to influence their peers and campus leadership, especially when it comes to expanding equity and students’ access to education abroad programs.
By Angela Manginelli and Lee Rivers, NAFSA International Education Magazine
Alumni engagement is one of the most powerful tools the field of international education has, but it is an often-overlooked piece of the education abroad experience. Intentional and well-built education abroad alumni programs—initiatives that connect and engage students who have participated in an abroad experience either during or after their time on campus (e.g., the Fulbright Program)—provide opportunities for former education abroad participants to engage with their peers, model success for marginalized communities, dispel whitewashed narratives of who goes abroad, combat imposter syndrome for interested students, provide career development resources to alumni, and increase civic engagement.
Education abroad alumni are uniquely positioned to share their experiences, have them resonate profoundly with their peers, and have the ear of upper administrators and leadership to make a positive impact on their campuses and in their communities—provided they are given the resources and platforms to share their stories with purpose.
Who is invited to join the conversations?
University of California-Davis (UC Davis) recently expanded the traditional returnee conference model and created the Global Learning Conference, which was open to all students interested in solving global issues—whether they had done a formal study abroad program or not. By actively bringing together study abroad participants, international students, first-generation college students, and students who have navigated intercultural spaces, the conference expanded each attendees’ network and knowledge in myriad ways. The conference launched in 2020 with more than 150 attendees, and participation is expected to double this year.
“Aligning with our UC Davis goal of ‘Global Education for All’ and our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, expanding the scope and accessibility of the conference to all students and to all alumni emphasizes the fact that global learning can take place anywhere and anytime,” says Joanna Regulska, PhD, vice provost and dean of global affairs at UC Davis. “In addition to the different locations and contexts, we’re also emphasizing that global learning crosses generations, disciplines, industries, and all types of diverse experiences and perspectives. Our Global Learning Conference celebrates the unique backgrounds, experiences, and strengths of students and alumni, while bringing this larger group together to create networks, find opportunities, and explore global systems, global diversity, and equitable global action—all of which are relevant at any academic or career stage.”