SUNY New Paltz has won the Heiskell Study Abroad Award, a top honor in the 2015 Andrew Heiskell Awards for Innovation in International Education (IIE). The award recognizes outstanding study abroad programs at institutes of higher learning that make study abroad opportunities available to a wider range of students, according to the IIE’s website.
According to the SUNY New Paltz Dean of International Studies Bruce Sillner, this is the first time the college’s study abroad program has received such a high honor.
“[This] is one of the highest-level awards in international education,” Sillner said. “It means that our peers recognize New Paltz as an innovator in the area of international educational exchange. 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.”
Sillner explained that New Paltz’s unique groups target a wider range of students, including underrepresented students, to involve them in study abroad programs. According to Sillner, since 2012 there has been a 30 percent increase in student participation in the study abroad program at New Paltz.
“A long-term strategic partnership between our Center for International Programs and our Educational Opportunity Program has enabled New Paltz to develop a ‘best practices model’ for international educational exchange,” Sillner said.
Looking forward, Sillner said he plans to further expand the study abroad program. Sillner said he wants to increase overall student involvement in study abroad at New Paltz from 20 percent to 30 percent as part of the SUNY-wide Generation Study Abroad Initiative. Sillner said he also hopes to continue to make study abroad a feasible option for students who may have previously considered study abroad impossible during their undergraduate education.
Study Abroad Program Director Christian Wilwohl detailed some of New Paltz’s current strategies to achieve these goals.
“The study abroad staff at the Center for International Programs has developed integrated outreach and programming to expand study abroad participation and prepare students for the experience,” Wilwohl said. “As part of our efforts, we have also increased our social media presence and updated our web and print materials.”
Sillner, like leaders at the IIE, believes that study abroad is a valuable experience for all students. Wilwohl agreed, citing multiple benefits students gain from their time abroad.
“Having a study abroad experience as part of one’s education gives students the opportunity to develop skills such adaptability, problem-solving, cross-cultural understanding and the ability to communicate in another language, which are all assets for the 21st century global economy and job market,” Wilwohl said.