NASPA Online Learning Community

Supporting Pathways for First-generation Students to Study Abroad

First-generation college students represent a growing segment of the U.S. higher education population and a group consistently underrepresented in study abroad programming (Cataldi et al., 2018; Rausch, 2017). According to the Consortium for Analysis of Student Success through International Education (CASSIE), only eight percent of first-generation students study abroad, yet those who do are more likely to graduate within six years and have higher GPAs at graduation (Bell et al., 2020).

As U.S. higher education institutions return to offering study abroad programming, there is an opportunity for education abroad leaders to focus on educational equity by examining pathways for underrepresented students to access study abroad. Dr. Leah Mason, research lead at IIE, and Ms. Kelly Holland, vice president of institutional partnerships at AIFS Abroad, will share findings from the AIFS/IIE Global Education research report, Supporting Pathways for First-Generation Students to Study Abroad, including promising practices for all phases of a first-generation students’ study abroad experience, highlighting unique program models being implemented at U.S. higher education institutions. 

Learning Outcomes:

Participants will:

  • understand the benefits of study abroad for first-generation students;
  • identify funding sources that support first-generation students to study abroad; and
  • implement strategies for demystifying the study abroad application process for first-generation students.

Leah Mason, Ed.D.

Research Lead

Institute of International Education

Leah Mason, Ed.D. is research lead on IIE’s Research, Evaluation, and Learning Team. Dr. Mason leads a portfolio of multiyear research initiatives, including IIE’s Project Atlas, Global Workforce Pathways, and the Global Education Research Report series. She has more than 20 years of experience as a researcher and program administrator in international education and higher education. Dr. Mason works closely with IIE program and external clients, including the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the AIFS Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, and U.S. Agency for International Development.

Dr. Mason has a keen interest in U.S. study abroad–elevating the experiences and voices of niche groups within study abroad, such as graduate student researchers, first-generation college students, and language learners. She is an accomplished author, including: Supporting Pathways for First-Generation Students to Study Abroad; Who’s Counting? Understanding the Landscape of Graduate Learning Overseas; and The Boren Awards: A Report of Oral Language Proficiency Gains During Academic Study Abroad: A Cumulative Report Over 15 Years and 53 Languages

Adriana Smith

Regional Director, University Relations

AIFS Abroad

Adriana Smith began her career in international education in 2016 as the assistant director of international programs at Presbyterian College in South Carolina. She studied and lived abroad in Spain (twice!) and has also volunteered abroad with UBECI (United to Benefit Ecuadorian Children International) Foundation, in Quito, Ecuador. In 2019, she published Studying Abroad for Black Women—a guide that discusses what it means to be a Black female college student studying abroad.

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