UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Forum on Education Abroad held its annual conference March 27-29 in Denver, Colorado. The organization, which is the largest solely dedicated to the field of study abroad, is the designated “standards-setting organization” for best practices in the field.
The theme of the conference — “Broadening the Circle” — focused on diversity, inclusion and access, the central themes of Penn State’s “All In” initiative.
“The conference’s focus on broadening access to education abroad is something we’re very focused on here in Global Programs, in line with the president’s vision,” said Brian Brubaker, director of education abroad in Penn State Global Programs.
Brubaker and Wendy Coduti, assistant professor of education (rehabilitation and human services) at Penn State, held a session at the conference titled “Education Abroad for All: Communicating, Preparing, and Supporting Students with disabilities.” The session examined best practices in recruiting, preparing and supporting students with disabilities in education abroad.
“I was able to share, from the perspective of a faculty member who leads study abroad programs, what I’ve done to recruit more students with disabilities,” said Coduti. “My overall message was, ‘if I can do it, anyone can do it.’”
Coduti, an expert in rehabilitation services and an advocate for study abroad, is no stranger to the field. She is the creator of the faculty-led study abroad program Ireland: Culture and Disability, which won the GoAbroad.com most innovative new study abroad program in 2016.
“Disability is a part of diversity,” said Coduti. “When we talk about ‘improving diversity’ in study abroad, we need to remember that. Somewhere between 15 to 20 percent of people in the world have a disability — it’s the largest minority group in the world.”
“It was really valuable to have Wendy’s perspective and experience reminding us that oftentimes students have invisible disabilities, and that we need to be aware of that and plan our programs accordingly,” said Brubaker.
In the Ireland study-abroad program, Coduti takes steps to make sure all students feel included. The program talks about medications and self-care during pre-departure orientation, and during the program participants all meet for a Sunday “dinner” each week to check-in so the program leaders can ensure they are getting enough rest, eating well, and feeling emotionally healthy.
“We already have students with disabilities who attend our study abroad programs and we don’t even know it — nor do we really even need to,” said Coduti. “I would challenge study abroad providers to really re-examine the question of, ‘What is a true limitation vs. What is a societal stigma or bias?’”
For more information on the Forum on Education Abroad, visit https://forumea.org.
For more information on Coduti’s work, contact her at email@example.com.