What position do you hold at IES Abroad and what has been your career path?
Michael: I am the Associate Vice President for College Relations. I knew I wanted to work in the field of study abroad from the day I returned from my first study abroad experience. It took me a few years to get into the field. I started out working in college admissions and enjoyed that. Eventually I did some international admissions work, then went to grad school at the Monterey Institute. Right out of grad school, I worked in business development for IIE in their San Francisco office. All of this led to my work with IES Abroad and I’ve been here nearly 11 years.
Did YOU study abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?
Michael: I spent my junior year at Aberdeen University in Scotland on a program through the Great Lakes Colleges Association. It was a direct enrollment program that required you to be there for a full year. I truly loved it. I don’t think one particular thing inspired me to go.
As a kid I was always fascinated by far away things, starting with the kids on the other side of town. That fascination grew to make me want to know about people on the other side of the planet. My family heritage goes back to Scotland so I targeted it as my first international experience. I had a second study abroad experience in graduate school where I spent a summer studying and working in Russia.
What is a setback for students, and how can they overcome it?
Michael: Money seems to be the biggest challenge for students. I think that can in some ways be overcome when they select an undergraduate institution. They should carefully explore study abroad options and try to understand the financial support a school will provide when they study abroad. Many schools have generous financial aid policies that really incentivize going abroad.
Describe a situation where you felt proud to be a part of the IES team.
Michael: The folks at IES Abroad are all thoughtful and hard-working people. They are truly student focused and our decision making is based on high academic standards and a commitment to the health and well-being of students. One of the things I am most proud of about working here is the way we handle crisis. I am a member of the crisis management team and over the years we have been tested by international events such as earthquakes, flu viruses, and nuclear accidents. When called on – the team responds with thoughtful decision making and execution of our plan that always puts students’ safety and well-being first, along with constant communication to parents and to schools. This is a result of good preparation and communication.
What is the biggest struggle facing the study abroad industry today?
Michael: I think study abroad faces the same struggle that higher education in general faces – the cost of attendance. The cost of higher education has grown faster than the rate of inflation for years and that is a problem for our society. IES Abroad has worked hard to be able to provide high quality, academically rigorous, study abroad programming at a cost that delivers value to students and the schools that send them on our programming. We’ve also developed customized programming for schools that want to provide shorter term programming in order to make study abroad accessible to a broad range of students.