The 2021 conference was held remotely between March 1-5 and included 60 sessions, with a theme centring on “Evolution and Revolution: Solutions in Action”. 

“The story is in the people… That’s a real education”

The Forum, which represents 800+ institutional members including US colleges and universities, overseas institutions, consortia, agencies, organisations, and foundations who are “committed to improving education abroad”, also celebrated its 20th anniversary during the event. 

Inaugural poet and author Richard Blanco kicked off the conference with an opening plenary exploring the question: “What is home?” 

Selected by president Obama as the fifth inaugural poet in US history, Blanco is the first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in the role.

“My life has been a study abroad program because I always looked at America like a foreign land,” he told delegates. 

He advised international educators to encourage students to make connections with local people during their study abroad experiences. 

“The story is in the people… That’s a real education. Have a chat, think about what their lives have been like. Connect with people as much as you can.”

During the conference, winners of three Forum awards were celebrated. The late J. Scott Van Der Meid was named the 2021 recipient of the Peter A. Wollitzer Advocacy Award and James M. Lucas of Michigan State University received the Award for Excellence in Education Abroad Curriculum Design

Mya Singleton (University of Virginia, nominated by IFE) and Calder Hollond (Pomona College, for work completed with SIT) presented their research that earned them the Award for Academic Achievement Abroad

As part of the event, speakers discussed the Forum’s re-opening guidelines post Covid, and new guidelines on Advancing the UN SDGs through Education Abroad

Other new, and upcoming publications which were announced, included Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad: Special Issue on Assessment as Pedagogy, Standards in Action: Deepening Impact through Inclusivity in Education Abroad by Nick Gozik & and Standards in Action: The Half Yet to Be Told: Study Abroad and HBCUs

“The panel spoke about the creation of the ‘five pillars’, as well as the development of the Standards of Good Practice”

Sessions were also held to discuss the organisation’s past and forecast what the next 5, 10 and 20 years may look like both for the Forum but also international education as a whole. 

During the “Looking Back: A Conversation with Forum Trailblazers” session, delegates learned about the founding of The Forum and key moments in the organisation’s history. 

The panel spoke about the creation of the “five pillars”, as well as the development of the Standards of Good Practice, the recognition of the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission as the Standards Development Organisation in the field of education abroad, and the expansion of membership and influence outside of the US. 

Delegates also heard about the creation of the Professional Certification in Education Abroad program.

On the last day of the conference closing plenary speaker and Emerson College Professor Jerald Walker read from his essay, “We Are Americans,” and from his memoir, Street Shadows: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Redemption

Speaking during a Q&A session, Jerald said that students going abroad should write every day.

“Write your thoughts, write your experiences, write your encounters. When you look back on those notes, you’ll really see how you grew from that experience,” he said. 

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