Bridgewater College was among five Virginia colleges and universities awarded the 2021 GoAbroad Innovation Award for Innovation in Diversity for the virtual Black+Abroad program.
Black+Abroad aims to curate a space for Black students to share their thoughts, questions and reservations about travel and study abroad by engaging in conversation and storytelling with experienced travelers, study abroad alumni of color and education abroad advisers.
“I am so proud that our work had such an impact and received this recognition,” said Anne Marsh, Bridgewater College’s Director of Study Abroad. “Study abroad increases students’ self-awareness and confidence and benefits students academically and professionally. Our goal is for every student to feel like it’s an accessible experience for them.”
First launched as an annual in-person event in 2016 at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., Black+Abroad was originally organized by study abroad alumni students of color as a way to share Black student experiences. It has evolved into a Black-focused series in collaboration with Virginia higher education institutions with the mission of closing the gap between being a student of color and going abroad.
This year’s virtual Black+Abroad was organized by education abroad staff at BC, VCU, Shenandoah University, Randolph-Macon College and Hollins University.
“When VCU announced they wanted to do a collaborative virtual event, I jumped at the chance,” Marsh said. “I’m always looking for new ways to communicate the value of study abroad to our students, especially to students who are traditionally underrepresented in study abroad.”
Marsh chaired the session entitled, “‘Here’s Why I Don’t Go Abroad’: A Candid Conversation,” which allowed for student-to-student conversation on common and personal barriers to study abroad and how Black students overcame them. BC alumna Alexus Carter ’19 served as a panelist for that session, as well as another session on securing funding for study abroad. Carter studied abroad in Thailand for a semester while at Bridgewater and is now pursuing her master’s in social work at Boston College.
Black+Abroad was a free event in March 2021 with attendees from various countries, including 724 international education professionals and 258 students. The event website, blackabroadva.wixsite.com/black-abroad, now serves as a tangible resource to students of color by providing recordings of the sessions and additional resources for support and guidance.