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### Broadening VCU’s Reach in Enhancing Global Education

“VCU is an incredibly diverse institution with a significant population of students who are underrepresented in national education abroad,” noted Stephanie Tignor, the director of global learning at the university. She emphasized that the office’s initiatives are all geared towards this priority.

One noteworthy program is the [program name], a series of events co-sponsored by [sponsor]. This student-centric program focuses on providing firsthand narratives of studying overseas. An upcoming event on Feb. 27 will feature a panel discussion delving into the complexities of global citizenship and international travel specifically tailored for Black students. Additionally, VCU offers $500 vouchers to incentivize students to explore study abroad opportunities.

“It is crucial to showcase representation as a means for Black students to envision themselves engaging in international study,” highlighted Tignor.

As part of this year’s program, Black international students will share their experiences of studying abroad in the U.S. Tignor pointed out the distinct experiences that a student from Africa versus an African American student might encounter while studying in this country.

The global learning department is actively fostering connections between VCU domestic and international students for mutual growth, viewing these interactions as a cornerstone of campus-based global education.

For instance, the Global Village at the Gladding Residence Center, a GEO-sponsored program-in-residence, serves as a platform that bridges cultures and communities. Various activities such as lectures and workshops throughout the semester highlight international students. An event like the sushi-making night on Feb. 19 at West Grace North featured students from Shimane University in Japan.

“These on-campus learning experiences bring students together to broaden their perspectives and cultivate a sense of community,” emphasized Tignor. “Interactions on a personal level provide an avenue for exploring different cultures and nurturing mutual understanding. This can spark curiosity and encourage further cross-cultural engagement, such as studying abroad, which offers a unique opportunity for students to delve into self-discovery, explore diverse cultures, and address global challenges as part of the solution.”

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In another collaboration, the GEO is teaming up with VCU’s federally funded [program name] to organize a trip to Las Canas in the Dominican Republic in early March. This partnership aims to support first-generation and low-income students as well as those with disabilities, ensuring their inclusion in such opportunities.

To make the March trip more accessible, organizers selected a destination with lower flight costs and designed a weeklong program instead of a semester-long one to accommodate students with job commitments or other responsibilities at home. By scheduling it during spring semester and aligning it with spring break, students can utilize existing financial aid.

“Financial constraints are often cited as a major obstacle to studying abroad,” Tignor acknowledged.

The GEO provides various financial aid options to facilitate study abroad, including the [specific program name] that utilizes university miles to support students. A recent addition is the [new program name], established in 2023 through a generous donation of approximately $2.5 million from an anonymous benefactor.

To streamline the process of obtaining a passport, the GEO now offers free passport photos to students and employees. Recognizing that many individuals lack passports and are unfamiliar with the application process, Tignor emphasized the importance of simplifying and demystifying this procedure.

Moreover, before or during their international travels, students can access resources that assist them in navigating various aspects of identity, from cultural norms to locating services like hair care.

By proactively addressing concerns and barriers faced by underrepresented students, the GEO aims to ensure that their study abroad participants authentically represent the diverse student body at VCU, as expressed by Tignor.

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Scheduled for the last Monday in February, Study Abroad Day builds on International Education Week, a collaborative effort between the State Department and Education Department typically held in the fall. For more information on studying abroad and available scholarship opportunities, visit VCU News.

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