CISABROAD BLOG · March 30, 2022 · 3 Min Read
Conference Conversations: Takeaways from Forum in Chicago

Kris Holloway, Dr. Jenn Engel, and Kent Moore recently attended The Forum on Education Abroad’s 18th annual conference. Seeing colleagues in real life after a few years was wonderful, and at times the conference felt like a family reunion! Conversations were buzzing and a number of themes emerged. Below you can read more about a few themes that struck us as important as we plan for the future.

1. The concept of “host communities.” 

Presenters Giselda Beaudin, Michael Woolf, and Keshia Abraham generated discussion around ideas such as “host communities don’t exist to educate our students” and “our students don’t exist to be guests hosted by communities abroad.” This is particularly of interest to our VP of Academic Affairs & Experiential learning Dr. Jennifer Engel, who wrote her dissertation on this topic a decade ago. So how does our work, then and now, affect the communities that “host” our students? Something to think about!

study abroad

2. How student competency development really differs by program model.

This goes deeper than the foundational intercultural learning that we know happens when students engage with those from other cultures. CIS Abroad has mapped program models to specific learning outcomes and aligned them with National Assocation of Colleges and Universities (NACE) competencies, then created a suite of micro-credentials based on demonstrated achievement of those competencies. Check out more on our website

3. JEDI practices for education abroad. 

A number of sessions addressed the concepts of diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and underrepresentation in education abroad. Everyone wants to move the needle on these topics, and thought-provoking conference sessions and lunchtime conversations helped us all understand a little better both the challenges and opportunities that exist to do this effectively moving forward.

4. Where EA fits into the (future) context of higher education.

With so many competing priorities on campus and within the international education field in general, being able to clearly articulate the value (and return on investment) of education abroad is even more essential as the higher education landscape evolves and faces new and continued challenges.

5. Parents are more involved than ever in the student’s experience and decision-making.

How does this 24/7 link impact the study abroad experience? Kris Holloway, Rich Kurtzman (BSAE) and Miko McFarland (University of Kentucky) had 150+ folks attend their Friday afternoon session called “When We Are TOO Globally Interconnected: (Dis)Engaging iParents and Students.” A key takeaway: we as educators must create a space to engage parents and be explicit about the ways study abroad outcomes align with their family’s values. Contact us if you want to learn more!

Curious how we engage with parents and guardians of our participants? View a recording of our recent Parent Webinar: Welcome to CIS Abroad: A Guide for Parents and Guardians

And last but not least! We gave partners a sneak peak info our new Local Life cultural co-curriculum. 

At the Forum Conference, we unveiled our new cultural co-curriculum, The Local Life, through a “Local Life Chicago” module.  Our Local Life programming helps students maximize their time overseas and ensure that they are getting the optimal cross-cultural experience. To better understand and appreciate the local culture, place, and people, they engage in cultural “deep dives” that connect online learning to in-person experiences.

Colleagues from a range of university partners joined us in a History as Culture “deep dive” – a Gangsters and Ghosts walking tour of Chicago’s famous Loop, led by a local historian. We then debriefed at the end of the tour, reflecting on the history of Chicago and its immigrant roots – at an Irish pub that is a favorite of the resident site director for the evening, Dr. Jenn Engel. Participants also viewed ahead of time a snapshot of the virtual modules CIS students engage in via our new Minerva online learning platform.

If you would like to preview our Local Life curriculum or discuss any of the themes above (or others that you noticed) please reach out to our VP of Academic Affairs & Experiential Learning, Jenn Engel, at 

On the CIS Abroad blog, we share student-written content and information for students, advisors, other study abroad professionals, and families of students studying abroad. Check out our Facebook and Instagram for more from us and our students!