Study abroad grant aides minority students

Mackenzie Mathews

A new grant has been created to fund underrepresented minorities in study abroad programs.

The Diversity Abroad Grant is available to minority students in all majors on any of WKU’s campuses. Applicants must create a budget centered on their potential program and participate in a service project the semester after their study abroad trip.

Andrea Cheney, coordinator of International Programs, said the grant was created to increase student success.

“According to research, all students — but especially at-risk students — benefit from studying abroad and are more likely to be engaged on-campus, to be retained, graduate and go on to graduate and professional schools,” she said.

The required service project to be completed upon the student’s return to campus is meant to expand upon his or her education abroad. The goal is for the student to get involved on campus and to build skills in communication and leadership.

“It is our expectation that DAG recipients will become active leaders and advocates for education abroad on the WKU campus and beyond,” Cheney said.

WKU’s participation in global learning has been increasing over the last few years. The number recently saw an intense 25 percent growth in the 2012-2013 year. National study abroad numbers have seen an increase as well.

Countering the overall numbers, the number of students making up minorities has not greatly improved in terms of international education. In 2012-2013, African-American students made up less than 3 percent of study abroad registrations but were 10 percent of WKU’s overall enrollments.

“Both nationally and here at WKU, the number of diverse and underrepresented students pursuing education abroad experiences is out of proportion with overall student body enrollment,” Cheney said.

Once the uneven numbers became evident, the offices of Study Abroad and Global Learning, Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, Enrollment Management, and International Programs merged to create the Diversity Abroad Grant.

The grant is intended to generate opportunities for students who would not be able to otherwise earn class credit abroad through potentially significant financial support.

There are several ways to pursue international education and opportunities through WKU. Cheney said various scholarship opportunities and trips are relatively low-cost when compared to their quality to promote education abroad to every student.

“The Diversity Abroad Grant demonstrates our university’s commitment to ensuring all WKU students have access to education abroad experiences,” she said.