Students at UW-Stout who wish to study abroad will find it easier beginning this fall, with one less financial barrier in their way to travel.
The Office of International Education recently was awarded grant funding through the Institute of International Education’s American Passport Project, which will support 25 first-year UW-Stout students to obtain their U.S. passports, one of the first steps in preparing for study abroad.
The Institute of International Education awarded 40 institutions from 29 states. The project supports students who are Pell-eligible to participate in an international experience as part of their college education. Through the IIE American Passport Project, IIE plans to support 10,000 students nationwide by the end of 2030. This is the second year of the program.
Director of OIE Scott Pierson noted there is significant pent-up demand for travel with a growing number of incoming first-year students expressing interest in study abroad. He’s excited that UW-Stout can provide opportunities for students who have been unable to engage in international travel during the pandemic.
“However, we know that barriers, primarily financial, remain,” he said. “This initiative aims to eliminate one by covering the cost of applying for passports for up to 25 students. We are hopeful that this will open the door to more resources, allowing us to enable more students to obtain passports.
“While there is certainly more work to do, we are making great strides in generating resources to provide greater access to education abroad programming through grants and scholarships,” he added.
The passport application fee is $130, and the acceptance fee is $35, for a total of $165. Additionally, since the pandemic, State Department passport processing times have been delayed for weeks and, in some cases, months. By applying for passports early on in their academic career, students can give themselves more time to submit their application or save on the $60 expedited fee, explained Study Abroad Assistant Director Andria Morse.
“Students do not have to be certain if they want to study abroad because the grant does not require a study abroad application in process to qualify for funding,” Morse said.
“Our hope is that by obtaining funding and receiving passports, students will learn about Stout’s more-than-200 study abroad offerings in more than 40 countries, and the benefits of participation in such high impact practices, both in personal and professional growth.”
Supporting diverse student populations
IIE’s mission supports the increased participation and diversity in study abroad and the extension of these benefits for all students, regardless of socioeconomic status. The grant supports diverse student populations.
OIE is collaborating with Multicultural Student Services and TRIO Student Support Services to raise awareness of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which provides study abroad funding to underrepresented students, and additional scholarships through information sessions. It will also provide passport application information sessions and transportation to the local passport processing center at the Dunn County Clerk of Courts Office, as well as study abroad workshops for Stoutward Bound students in August.
“OIE wants to provide more inclusive and accessible programming that appeals to underrepresented students. Two ongoing OIE EDI initiatives are to raise scholarship funds that will allow more students to afford study abroad and to develop heritage-based programming that will increase the number of underrepresented students studying abroad,” Morse said.
OIE staff members have had conversations with students in BIPOC organizations to learn about where they would like to study, the courses they would like to take and the faculty they would like to lead the programs.
Three heritage-based faculty-led programs have been developed:
- The first program will offer insight into Latin American culture and heritage through an international business course in Costa Rica during WinTerm 2023.
- Hmong culture and identity will be explored in Thailand during WinTerm 2024.
- A third program is being planned in Africa during WinTerm 2025.
“These programs are more accessible than ever,” Morse said, “because of generous support in the form of Foundation Scholarship funding raised in recent years, passport grant funding, and a $35,000 State Department and World Learning IDEAS grant.”
First steps to studying abroad
During the 2021-22 academic year, 119 UW-Stout students studied abroad, including 64 students studying abroad this summer.
While students are beginning to travel again after the halt of study abroad during the pandemic, this is approximately half of the number of students who traveled prepandemic, Morse explained.
This fall, 14 students will be studying abroad in Australia, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Japan, Scotland and South Korea, and approximately 20 inbound students will be studying at UW-Stout on exchange.
Students interested in learning more are welcome to schedule an appointment with a study abroad adviser. The OIE invites all students to the Study Abroad Fair from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 21, in the Memorial Student Center ballrooms. During the fair, students can talk with program representatives, study abroad alumni and faculty leaders.