Our 2017 Annual Conference in Review

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Victoria Bruick
October 25, 2017

Our 2017 Annual Conference, held October 11-13, gathered study abroad professionals from around the world to participate in expert-led sessions, engage in networking, and recognize the accomplishments of outstanding study abroad students and individual professionals.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • 27 Center Directors in attendance
  • 70 colleges and universities represented from across the world
  • 4 IES Abroad alumni honored for their contributions to IES Abroad and their communities
  • 55th and 25th anniversaries celebrated for IES Abroad Freiburg and Berlin Centers respectively, and 30th for both the IES Abroad Tokyo and Milan centers

Opening Plenary by Daniela Papi-Thornton

IES Abroad Annual Conference 2017 Opening Plenary speaker, Daniela Papi-ThorntonThe Annual Conference kicked off with its first plenary session, Global Learning Service & Social Entrepreneurship, presented by Daniela Papi-Thornton. She divides her time working as an educator/consultant with System Change Leadership Group and as the Co-founder of Learning Service, an organization that works to improve volunteer travel through education.

Daniela encouraged us all to think about service learning as “learning service” – a way for you to learn how best to serve. Among her key points, she outlined the necessary process of learning through participating in a culture before trying to offer any service, and Daniela emphasized the need to understand your identity and role in serving another culture – both how you perceive yourself and how the culture you are hoping to serve perceives you.

And the Winners Are…

The second day of the Conference included the recognition of outstanding IES Abroad faculty members at the Business Meeting, and ended that evening at The Murphy Auditorium & Driehaus Museum, where we recognized outstanding leaders in the field during the Thursday Night Awards Dinner.

Faculty Awards:

Leadership Awards:

  • Lifetime Achievement: Jacqueline Levine, Assistant Dean and Director of Special Projects at the University of Rochester
  • Professional Development: Kelly O’Sullivan Sommer, Director, Study Abroad at the University of California – San Diego
  • Volunteer of the Year: Stacey Shimizu, Director of the International Office at Illinois Wesleyan University

During the final plenary session on Friday, we were happy to recognize four recent IES Abroad alumni:

  • Ambassadors of the Year: Haley Wilhelm (Freiburg, Academic Year 2014-15 | Scripps College) and Cheyenne Freelove (Auckland, Fall 2015 | University of Tulsa)
  • Blogger of the Year: Abigail Grinberg (Milan, Academic Year 2016-17 | Brandeis University)
  • Global Citizen of the Year: Sydni Williams (Madrid, Academic Year 2016-17 | University of Michigan)

The students were all invited to share a few words about what their time studying abroad meant for them. Blogger of the Year Abigail Grinberg reflected on her experience blogging while studying abroad in Milan, including an interview she conducted with a refugee family and her somber trip to a Polish concentration camp.

“I love words, and I think that words are so powerful—they have the ability to inspire, to motivate, and, I think most importantly, to educate,” Abigail said. “I wanted to take some of the heavier parts of being abroad, and the topics you hear about in the news as numbers and put them into words.”

Session Highlights

The following were the best attended session of this year’s Annual Conference:

Intercultural Awareness 101? Introducing Red & Blue Americans When They Share Classrooms Abroad

How do faculty and directors abroad address culture clashes within their Centers when American students from radically different campus environments (in this case, with regard to the current political environment) learn that they actually have to coexist in a classroom…abroad? In the United States, political discussion has, sadly, become compartmentalized and very little discourse in occurring. This session examined how Centers abroad are managing to open American students’ eyes to domestic cultural differences while simultaneously opening their eyes to international differences.

Presented by:

  • Mark Rush, Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Professor of Politics & Law and Director, Center for International Education – Washington and Lee University
  • Juan Hudson, Center Director – IES Abroad Buenos Aires
  • Nathalie Duburcq-Lenfant, Center Director – IES Abroad Paris BIA
  • John Ockey, Center Director – IES Abroad London


Ask an Alum: Challenges and Successes with Study Abroad Alumni Organizations

Study abroad alumni organizations can have various structures at different institutions, but often share many of the same challenges. This session showcased a comparative view of the presenters’ institutions and study abroad alumni organizations, including:  Wofford College’s “Global Ambassadors,” UNC Chapel Hill’s “Peer Advisors” and IES Abroad’s “Ambassadors”. The audience heard directly from students about their perspectives on and experiences with study abroad alumni organizations, and shared their own insights into working with these important student groups.                                       

Presented by:

  • Jerri Snyder, Study Abroad Advisor- Spain and Latin America - University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill
  • Kyle Keith, Study Abroad Coordinator - Wofford College
  • Kate Keeley Simmons, Ambassador Program Coordinator - IES Abroad
  • Haley Wilhelm, IES Abroad Ambassador of the Year, Freiburg Alumna, Academic Year 2014-15 - Scripps College
  • Cheyenne Freelove, IES Abroad Ambassador of the Year, Auckland Alumnus, Fall 2015 - University of Tulsa


Technology-Enhanced Resources for Study Abroad

To continue the conversation that began during the pre-conference workshop, this session explored how offices are utilizing technology in the various stages of the study abroad process. The presenters shared what they learned from discussions with attendees at the workshop, as well as how they are currently using technology in their offices in the application, predeparture, and while-abroad stages.

Presented by:

  • Sarah Spiegel, Education Abroad Adviser – The Pennsylvania State University
  • Elizabeth Shuman, Study Abroad Advisor – Indiana University
  • Kate Manni, Assistant Director for Faculty-Led Programs and Special Initiatives – The Pennsylvania State University


Study Abroad Diversity vs. Inclusivity: Understanding the Difference in an Era of Societal Divisions, at Home and Abroad

Despite the current trend of rising enrollment diversity in study abroad, obstacles persist when it comes to integrating students of diverse and underrepresented backgrounds into international academic programs and extracurricular activities. This session went beyond statistics and data in order to highlight why institutions of higher education often fall short of diversity goals. By focusing on predeparture content, on-site staff training, and student re-entry activities, attendees gained insight into the multifaceted process necessary to optimize inclusion in study abroad participation for the long term.

Presented by:

We are also thankful for our IES Internships alumni who shared about their experiences interning abroad on the following panel:

Helping Your Student Select the Best IES Internship Location

IES Internships’ Executive Director Dr. Keith Dipple moderated the panel of an IES Abroad Center Director and a recent Familiarization trip participant who spoke to how to properly advise students who are interested in interning abroad as well as manage their expectations and experiences once on site. The two IES Internships alumni shared their experiences from this past summer, including how things were different in their host cities as compared to home, how they adapted to living and working in a new city, and what type of student would be the best fit for their respective internship locations. 


  • Michele Cox, Director of Study Abroad at the University of Richmond
  • James Gao, Center Director at IES Abroad Shanghai
  • Emily Shekleton (Cape Town, Summer 2017 Intern | University of Illinois at Chicago)
  • Jennifer Cukrowicz (Santiago, Summer 2017 Intern | Indiana University - Indianapolis). 

Film Festival Finalists Revealed

The Conference closed with a final plenary session that included screenings of the three IES Abroad Study Abroad Film Festival Finalist films. From more than 90 submissions, which is nearly double the amount of submissions from the Film Festival’s first year in 2014, our jury of highly-esteemed IES Abroad alumni and staff in the film industry selected the 4th annual Film Festival finalists based on their ability to capture the spirit of study abroad, production quality, entertainment, and originality.

Conference attendees also had the chance to view short videos the finalists created to encourage people to vote for their film. Five tickets for the inaugural Film Festival Event were raffled off following the screenings.

Learn more about the Film Festival Finalists, how to vote, and the inaugural Film Festival Event on Wednesday, November 1st.

Welcoming New Faces

  • New Member Schools:
    • Bentley University
    • Simmons College
    • University of Tennessee – Knoxville
  • New IES Abroad Academic Council Members:
    • Christine Wintersteen – Bowdoin College
    • Leo Rowland – University of Redlands

Thank you to all of who have served on IES Abroad committees! We are grateful for your time and dedication.

Special Thanks to Our Annual Conference Sponsors


The Graphic Arts Studio, Inc.

STA Travel



Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI)

Savills Studley

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

And a special thank you to the Union League Club of Chicago for hosting our Annual Conference.

Check Out More Conference Highlights on Facebook

Browse our Annual Conference Facebook album for pictures from this year’s sessions, events, and more.

Save the Date

Next year’s Annual Conference is scheduled for October 10-12, 2018. Look for our call for proposals in early 2018.

Interested in volunteering to be on the 2018 Annual Conference Planning Committee? Contact Rich Bartecki at rbartecki@IESabroad.org.

See you then!

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Victoria Bruick

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