IES Abroad Participates in NAFSA’s Advocacy Day 2016

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Ashley Houston
March 21, 2016

Last week, we joined NAFSA for their annual Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C.—an event that brings international educators together to help move key legislation on Capitol Hill.

Gretchen Cook-AndersonNAFSA Advocacy Day

The number of U.S. students studying abroad in the 2013-2014 academic year represented less than 1.5 percent of all U.S. students enrolled at institutions of higher education.

At IES Abroad, we strongly believe this number needs to grow, along with increased diversity of the students studying abroad. As the world’s largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education, NAFSA has also advocated for policies to increase both study abroad participation and diversity.

  International education    diversity study abroad

Our Director of Diversity Recruiting & Advising Gretchen Cook-Anderson, a former registered lobbyist, represented IES Abroad among more than 100 other international educators for Advocacy Day 2016. Gretchen gathered stories about the positive impact study abroad and internships have had on IES Abroad students—from the career benefits of study abroad to overcoming obstacles. She then flew to Washington, D.C. for a day of training and preparations. 

NAFSA's public policy staff, joined by NAFSA Board Chair Dr. Fanta Aw and Executive Director Marlene Johnson, spent Monday discussing the importance of advocacy, key policy issues, advocacy do's and dont's, and best practices approaches to meetings on "The Hill."

Marlene Johnson of NAFSAFanta Aw of NAFSA

Throughout Advocacy Day on Tuesday, students and administrators from dozens of schools and non-profit organizations met with Members of Congress and their staffers to seek their support or thank them for their advocacy on issues of high-skilled immigration reform, freedom to travel to Cuba, and removal of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.   

As a member of the Massachusetts delegation, Gretchen visited the offices of Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Ed Markey, and Representative Jim McGovern, all strong co-sponsors of the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act. The delegation particularly thanked Representative McGovern, a long-time supporter of pro-engagement with Cuba, for introducing the bill, and for his activism on its behalf with the White House.


Representative McGovern will accompany President Barack Obama and a delegation of as many as 20 Members of Congress, and other government and business officials on an historic visit to Cuba this week to promote normalized ties following decades of adversarial relations. At day's end, the Massachusetts delegation enjoyed a special unexpected treat—an exclusive meet-and-greet with Senator Elizabeth Warren.

While voters from several states cast ballots on Super Tuesday in presidential primaries, Gretchen and other NAFSA advocates enjoyed a great day on Capitol Hill raising momentum for Congressional support that will broaden U.S. study abroad participation—enabling more U.S. students to study in Cuba, and more of our international and undocumented students to study abroad from the U.S. with greater ease.

Learn more about our Initiative to Diversify Education Abroad!


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Ashley Houston

IES Abroad News

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