Our History

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In September 1950, 23 American students boarded the SS Volendam to journey to Vienna, where they would spend the next year living and studying in the Austrian capital through the first IES Abroad program (formerly known as the Institute of European Studies). Paul Koutny, an idealistic Austrian student who envisioned the project while living in the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship, met the students at the ship and escorted them to Vienna.

Among those wide-eyed, eager students who believed that studying abroad would enrich their lives and give them a deeper understanding of another culture were Clarence and Alberta Giese, young newlyweds from Chicago. The Gieses were so inspired by their Viennese adventure that upon returning home, they sold everything they owned and helped Mr. Koutny bring another group of students to Vienna – and then another and another.

Today, more than 65 years later, the study abroad experience still elicits the same response from students—that it irrevocably changed their lives.

1950 – First program is offered in Vienna
1951 – The Institute of European Studies (as it was called then) is founded; the Gieses begin recruiting students out of their Chicago home
1954 – Customized Programs begin to be offered, the first in the industry
1957 – First official affiliation established with a University abroad, the University of Vienna
1961 – First study abroad scholarship is awarded
1961 – Second Center opened in Paris, France.
1965 – The Academic Consortium of college and university partners is established
1965 – First Annual Conference for study abroad professionals is hosted
1976 – First program review is conducted, making IES Abroad the first provider to formalize its review process
1982 – First center outside of Europe is opened in Mexico City
1986 – Expansion into Asia with opening of Nagoya and Singapore Centers
1990 – Annual enrollment exceeds 1,000 students
1991 – Largest number of Centers open simultaneously, with new programs in Adelaide, Australia; Dijon, France; Kiev, Ukraine; Moscow, Russia; and Salamanca, Spain
1999 – A Dean of Students is hired, the first in the field
1999 – The IES Model Assessment Practice (MAP), initiated by President and CEO Dr. Mary Dwyer, is established; it’s the first educational tool to design and evaluate study abroad programs
2001 – President and CEO Dr. Mary Dwyer is one of the founders of the Forum on Education Abroad
2002 – Completion of a 50-year longitudinal study of alumni, the first in the industry
2002 – Most popular Center, Barcelona, opens
2005 – President and CEO Dr. Mary Dwyer is appointed to the bi-partisan Lincoln Commission to increase study abroad opportunities
2006 – President and CEO Dr. Mary Dwyer is elected Forum Board Chair in 2006, serving until 2012
2007 – Diversity Initiative is launched, first in the industry
2009 – CORE (Comprehensive Orientation and Re-entry Experience) launches, helping students cope with new cultures and reverse culture shock
2010 – Completion of the Forum on Education Abroad’s Category 2A Quality Improvement Program (QUIP) review, first in the industry
2011 - Publication of IES Abroad MAP for Language & Intercultural Communication, a tool designed to codify our holistic approach to language instruction that provides guidelines for students and teachers at each stage of a student’s development
2013 - Publication of IES Abroad MAP for Student Health, Safety & Crisis Management, a set of guidelines for addressing student safety and crisis management in study abroad programs
2013 - IES Internships unit launches

2014 - IES Abroad enrolls its 100,000th student
2015 - Approval of The Forum on Education Abroad's Quality Improvement Program (QUIP) Interim Report