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Innovation Competition Past Winners

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The following recipients are the winners of past Innovation Competitions, presented during the Diversity Abroad Conference. Inspired by their stories? Next year’s competition will open in the fall of 2019. Sign up here to receive updates.


Past Winners

2019 Winners | 2018 Winners | 2017 Winners

2019 Innovation Competition Winners

Teens of Color Abroad — 1st Place Winner & People’s Choice Award
Lamar Shambley, Founder, Teens of Color Abroad

Teens of Color Abroad is a non-profit initiative whose mission is to cultivate the next generation of globally conscious youth of color through language immersion study abroad programs. There is extensive research on the long-lasting academic, social, and professional benefits of studying abroad, yet, students of color, especially Black students, have been excluded from this experience. Our aim is to confront this racial disparity in college study abroad participation earlier by providing high school students of color, who are enrolled in foreign language courses, with culturally immersive language training programs that enhance global competency skills and mindsets.

In a partnership with Centro MundoLengua, a private international language school and educational tour operator, TOCA facilitates programs in Seville, Spain for groups of U.S. high school students of color. The scholars will take 3 hours of small group daily language instruction, live with a local homestay family, and participate in engaging cultural activities such as visits to historic museums and palaces, salsa and flamenco dance lessons, kayaking the Guadalquivir River, paella cooking workshops, and much more. Part of our curriculum is centered around the PISA Global Competency Framework which will provide a foundation for intercultural conversations between our participants and their homestay families. Prior to departure and upon returning from our trip, students will organize and run a series of “Bingo!” nights for the Spanish-speaking members of the Carter Burden Network, a New York City-based nonprofit leading the way in aging services. Learning to participate in interconnected, complex, and diverse societies is a necessity in 21st-century education. Young people want to engage with the world, but lack the resources. TOCA provides a unique opportunity that gives underrepresented youth a globally informed perspective while bolstering their linguistic skills.

Indigenous Storytelling from the Amazon: Reimagining Diversity and Inclusion from the Grassroots  – 2nd Place Winner
Daniel Bryan, Executive Director, Pachasanya

Pachaysana is an Ecuadorian non-profit organization that creates intercultural education and study abroad programs with indigenous and other underrepresented communities of the Amazon and Andes. Over the years, we have learned that to truly break down barriers that systematically exclude marginalized communities, it is imperative to rethink diversity from the epistemological point of view. How we see and approach Diversity and Inclusion on our college campuses is shaped by a Eurocentric epistemology, excluding multiple ways of knowing and being that surely need to be integrated. This project reverses the dominant trajectory of the Diversity Abroad conversation. It grounds the center of knowledge creation in Amazon communities of Ecuador and then disseminates it to universities and study abroad organizations, encouraging them to rethink how they understand and operationalize diversity on their campuses or in their programs.

This project takes Pachaysana’s Team and students from the “Uni-Diversidades” office of the University San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) to two indigenous Amazon communities that have experience working with Pachaysana’s study abroad programming. During 2-week residencies in each community the team works to convert indigenous epistemologies into a performance and workshop. The community members then travel to Quito where they share with USFQ and other in-country study abroad programs with the goal of influencing their policies, curricula and pedagogies. The same workshop/performance will be offered at international student orientations, resulting in no less than 800 students, faculty and staff that will have access to the program during the academic year. Finally, Pachaysana and USFQ will create workshop videos and manuals in order to make the experience available to educational institutions abroad, especially USFQ’s 100+ international university partners around the world.

Rhode Island Global Education Project  – 3rd Place Winner

Becky Spritz, PhD – Professor of Psychology and Public Health, Roger Williams University  (RI)

Conor Largey – Student Youthworker St. Peters Immaculata Youth Club (Belfast, Northern Ireland)

Rev. Glenn Grayson – Executive Director, The Center that Cares (PA)

In Rhode Island, largely Latin X youth living in the Urban Core—Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, Woonsocket, and Newport—lack access to experiential education programs known to improve academic, social, and emotional outcomes. Our vision is to reduce the achievement gap in Rhode Island by creating a coalition of educators, philanthropists, and community leaders, and create a formal model to provide youth in the Urban Core unique opportunities for global youth education.

Building on previous scalable global education innovations from Belfast, Northern Ireland and Pittsburgh, PA, Amizade will partner with Highlander Charter School to pilot a project for young people to engage and learn from the world. The first project will involve a small group of Rhode Island youth taking part in a full semester of pre-activities for high school students (mentored by university professors), followed by a brief summer immersion to Northern Ireland, and completed with a social action community project that the young people will create and implement in Providence on return, with actual project funding.

The power and innovation in this model is in transforming global education from being viewed as a luxury, to being viewed as a necessary experience in all young people’s education. The main goal, therefore, is to ensure that like math and science, global education gets a place in policymakers minds for being part of the building blocks of creating the next generation of Americans. At every turn of this pilot project, Rhode Island political and education leaders will be hearing stories and being exposed to the research. The end game is a formalization of innovative global education practices and more equitable opportunities in high schools not only in Rhode Island, but all over the country.

2018 Innovation Competition Winners

The Amandla Project – 1st Place
The Amandla Project is an internship/experiential learning and leadership development fellowship program that aims to increase participation of disabled students in the pursuit of educational opportunities abroad. All fellows spend eight weeks interning in Cape Town for organizations which in some way serve disabled South Africans, but the program relies on a vast network to find each fellow a placement that aligns with their professional goals (from architecture to teaching to film). 

Retention and Leadership Through Diversity Innovation (Dom McShan, Dr. Virgina Hosono, and Kimber Guinn; University of Louisville) – 2nd Place
The Retention and Leadership Through Diversity Innovation course includes an embedded international experience to the Dominican Republic. Ten to fifteen students from the African American Male Initiative (AAMI) cohort at the University of Louisville (UofL) will participate in a 3 credit hour course with a two week in-country service-learning component. The course facilitates students in the critical examination and articulation of their personal strengths, social identities, leadership capacity, and understanding of global citizenship. 

Finding your EDGEs: Engineering, Diversity, Global Experiences & Service (Tojan Rahhal, PhD and Miguel Ayllon, PhD, University of Missouri) – 3rd Place
Finding your EDGEs is an academic program that combines a social science and engineering curricula to provide students with hands on leadership, diversity, and project management skills in a global context. This study abroad course was designed to be an affordable opportunity for students to participate in a hands-on, global experience while learning about the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the engineering field. Students gained project design skills through their participation in an Engineers Without Borders water pipeline service project in Panama, which was added as a technical, hands-on service component of the course.

Macalester College was awarded $500 as an honorable mention for their proposal to connect people of color of different backgrounds, ages, and identities​to share their experiences living abroad through a webinar series.

2017 Innovation Competition Winners

Building Skills, Empathy and a Vision for the Future: At-risk Youth and Study Abroad (Carol Reyes, Miami Dade College)- 1st Place  

Educate Tomorrow Abroad is a groundbreaking initiative focused on reducing barriers to global education for one of the most marginalized groups of college students, homeless and foster students. The initiative will send three homeless students abroad in summer 2017 with plans for annual scholarships for future generations. The program’s holistic model focuses on academic support, professional development, mentorship, relationship building and leadership skills and is the result of a partnership between Miami Dade College’s Office of International Education and Educate Tomorrow, a non-profit focused on helping homeless and foster students. 

Diversifying the Disability Perspective: Exploring Inclusive Practices in Japan and the U.S. (Drs. Michael Schwartz & Louis Berends, Syracuse University) –  2nd Place 

Syracuse University Abroad is interested in creating a credit-bearing, faculty-led program in Japan for students of color and for students with disabilities, two core populations that are underrepresented in U.S. education abroad. This comparative international education abroad program seeks to examine two nations’ approach to disability law, policy and practice, and an opportunity for U.S. students to meet Japanese people with disabilities. 

Global Access Initiative Challenge (Neal McKinney, DePauw University) 3rd Place 

DePauw University proposes to create a scholarship/year-long mentorship program for first-generation students of color, called the Global Access Initiative Challenge (GAIC). The GAIC will offer five DePauw students of color with a $2,000 donor-funded scholarship to subsidize a short-term, faculty-led course through DePauw University – if these students also commit to a full semester abroad. Students will receive structured mentoring opportunities from a faculty member of the student’s choosing, and be paired with a returned alumni peer mentor of color, as well as expected to participate in monthly workshops to prepare them for their study abroad experience.