IPSL Global Engagement

IPSL Global Engagement at Westminster University

Why choose IPSL Global Engagement at Westminster University?

IPSL engages students, educators, and grassroots organizations around the world in hands-on service to promote equitable relationships, social justice, sustainable change, and a commitment to our shared humanity.

IPSL offers fully accredited graduate programs and credit bearing, custom service-learning and language learning programs in nations across the globe. IPSL invests over 83% of their revenues directly back into the communities where they serve. IPSL, the founder of Service-Learning, is a global education institute within Westminster University (https://westminsteru.edu). Westminster University and IPSL are dedicated to social justice, equity, and respect as fundamental components their mission and core values. In keeping with their tradition as educational pioneers, IPSL launched the Community Organizing and Social Activism (COSA) curriculum in 2017.



IPSL Global Engagement Grant

IPSL Global Engagement offers an automatic $5,500 grant for Graduate degree programs in International Development and Service (IDS MA) and the Community Organizing and Social Activism Degree (COSA MA) to any AmeriCorps Alum, Peace Corps returnee or Veteran. They accept all Segal Education Award(s)!

Diversity & Inclusion

BIPOC Support

IPSL is in solidarity with all summoned to action by the senseless murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many other black brothers and sisters. IPSL wants to be of service to you and communities around the world to bring justice and healing and further advance the goals we all share. ​We believe in the power of service to unite and strengthen communities.

LGBTQIA+ Support

IPSL admits and does not discriminate against students of any sex or sexual orientation. IPSL is proud to support social justice movements around the world through our Service, Scholarship, and Love. Then, as now, we are called to resist and speak out for what is right. LGBTQ+ Rights are Human Rights

Neurodivergent Support

IPSL provides equal access to our programs for academically qualified students with physical, learning, or psychiatric disabilities.

Accessibility Support

IPSL admits students of any disability and makes available all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students. It does not discriminate on the basis of disability in administration of its educational policies and programs, admission policies, merit scholarships or other organizations-administered programs.



IPSL works to lessen its carbon footprint on our increasingly fragile planet. Since study abroad can only take place by boarding a plane, IPSL contributes to sustainable projects in several countries whose efforts help mitigate the harmful effects of pollution and waste that result from traveling. In one academic year, IPSL can contribute funding to environmental organizations to offset close to 600,000 air miles flown by our students, staff, and faculty. In concrete terms, we remit funds to help plant trees around the world; those trees then absorb some of the harmful effects that result from our decisions.

Ethical Impact

Since 1981, IPSL has facilitated over 471,000 volunteer hours in our partner communities, supported the work of hundreds of nonprofits and NGOs around the world, vigorously (and unapologetically) promoted social-racial-economic justice through service-based programming, research and publishing, scholarships/funding, and on social media. Recently, our organization launched new initiatives that will sustain our service-based mission into the future. At home, we maintain the same mindful practices by supporting local organizations that support the most vulnerable people. Large and small, every decision we make is about giving back and making our world a better and more just place.


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No, I don't recommend this program

BEWARE- Program has some good qualities, but needs to be greatly improved

PLEASE READ. An email I sent to IPSL when they requested a summary of my experience of the program in Cartagena:

Goal: Create and implement a project focused on women's issues in La Boquilla

Specified goal: help FAMB give classes on sexual health and reproduction to the youth to lower the rates of unwanted pregnancies

• Challenges: A lot of misinformation on the IPSL side and the FAMB side about the effectiveness and capabilities of FAMB.

• Opportunities: There are good team members at FAMB that I see as valuable and capable of getting tasks done

• Suggestions:

o FAMB- There needs to be more organization in FAMB, and tasks need to be delegated. For example, the vice president should learn to delegate tasks to other members and volunteers. He seems to hold many different jobs outside of FAMB, cannot complete tasks on time, and is unable to give direct orders.

o IPSL- One of my main issues was the excursions. I paid money believing that three excursions were included and mandatory to attend, and although I asked several members from IPSL, it was still difficult to understand how the excursions should have been handled. The excursions were not done until the last minute. I suggest the excursions be spread out throughout the internship so the student/intern can apply what they learned about the culture to the project, instead of excursions at the end of the program, which do not add much value.

• Critiques: Did you get the support that you needed? - I would say in the case of a severe issue, I was attended to, but even then, I do not feel like I had substantial support in La Boquilla. My on-site provider was constantly busy or applied to messages very late, or never responded at all. Even though he suggested to take us around La Boquilla, we never got to know the area. There should be someone if not him to give a proper tour of La Boquilla, explain the ins and outs, etc. There was enough information provided about the possibility of danger, I just feel like there should have been more to know about the area.

• Do you think the project will be sustainable with the community? - I can say that I do not think the project is organized enough to be considered a project at this time. A lot of work needs to be done to accomplish such a project, starting with the foundation's internal organization. They should learn about program development and member roles before taking on any projects in the future.

• What did you learn about working in this environment and/or with this population, and anything else you want to share?

o My on-site provider was not attentive to my needs. He responded late to messages or did not respond at all for days. When I made suggestions about the program, he considered what I said but ultimately made his own decision. When I asked for his assistance with something at the apartment or elsewhere, he may or may not show up. If he shows up, he may show up hours late. But, when he asks that I get ready to go out, not only does he not ask my permission or if I have the time, but he also orders me to hurry up, which continued throughout my time in La Boquilla. He only seemed to want to set up meetings to develop new ideas for the project but did not do any actual work or research outside of the meetings, so each meeting was just a recap of the last meeting and suggested additional ideas with no plausible supporting evidence. This misogynistic behavior significantly interfered with my time in La Boquilla, and although I brought attention to it, nothing was done about it. (Example: my roommate had a faulty electric outlet that started to smoke and burn the rubber insolation due to a makeshift air conditioning placed by the on-site provider). I immediately texted the on-site provider to let him know. Not only did he say he would come over the next morning instead of at that moment, he never showed up the next day and did not ask about the situation until he happened to stop by days later.)

o The coordinator explained to me from the beginning that there would be challenges based on culture and religion, so I was expecting to face some difficulty completing the project. However, I feel as though I was made to believe that the people in La Boquilla were determined individuals who wanted to get things done. Being that the coordinator is Colombian himself, I believe he and IPSL knew the customs and behavior of the people in La Boquilla and somehow tried to convince me otherwise. I think they are good people, but they do not show enough enthusiasm to get things done. The coordinator asked me what he believed the problem was, and I found it difficult to believe that he did not already know the situation since he had been working with this community for some time.

o The coordinator tried to state that I had all the reign in the project and that I did not have to attend excursions if I did not want to. I wanted to be in charge of this project, but I expected more direction and a better knowledge base about program management, a topic I only learned about through my Spanish classes. I also was the one to make initial contact 90% of the time to receive an update or a next step.

• Positives: I can say that my Spanish classes at Nueva Lengua were the best thing about this internship. I learned so much about Spanish and the history of Colombia, and my teacher was intelligent and kind. I had a great time, and I would recommend this Spanish school to others

Overall, I would not recommend or participate in future programs with IPSL. I do not think that this internship was worth my time or money. I believe I was fooled into thinking I would be a great person for this project 1) because I am a veteran like the person who helped onboard me and 2) because the company wanted money. I feel as though I was promised a lot of things that I did not acquire out of this internship. I am not sure if my experience was due to this program being "made for me," but I believe the biggest issue is the lack of coordination and organization from both IPSL and FAMB. There is never any clarification about how the money is being spent and each individual seems to have a different set of ideas about how things are run. I understand this was an internship "experience," and I tried to make the best out of this experience. I learned as much as I could and tried my best to apply my skills to help FAMB develop their women's project and learn new skills along the way.

Thank you for your time and patience. I hope this email answers all your questions, and I hope this information helps improve future programs for IPSL and the future interns who partake in these programs

  • Spanish classes were great
  • Food on the coast is delicious!
  • Colombians are super friendly and helpful
  • Lack of organization in the program so much that I had no idea what was going on
  • Lack of proper communcation, everyone on the team constantly had different ideas about how to approach the project and gave me differeent information every time I spoke to a member of the them
  • Over priced for this experience ($9000 out of pocket), no real skills learned, an exaggeration of how the time would be spent
Response from IPSL Global Engagement at Westminster University

IPSL appreciates the feedback and the opportunity to respond. We hope that this talented individual has the same opportunity to provide such feedback to their home university and, in particular, to their home university’s advising team.

IPSL is familiar with this participant's feedback. With every participant, we request an evaluation upon completion. We received these comments in writing a few months after the request and shared these in a meeting with our team. So, while the content of this review is familiar to us and was/is being addressed, we appreciate that this participant is sharing her ideas more broadly and for the opportunity for IPSL to respond.

As with all under-resourced organizations (and our partner in La Boquilla is one of those), priorities can, and do, shift daily. Our partner has limited human resources to accomplish their mission. The members all have full-time jobs and other obligations to sustain their lives. This is the nature of nonprofit/NGO/grassroots work across the globe and provides an excellent training ground for individuals interested in entering the field of nonprofit work. That said, the organization where they did their service was somewhat new to IPSL and there were/are kinks to iron out. All that said, our partners reported that the student, on more than one occasion, did not show up to pre-scheduled meetings; that is likely part of the reason there was increased room for ‘misinformation’.

The observation that the organization has a ‘leadership’ issue is excellent and accurate. We have encouraged them to work on this which we all believe could potentially help them accomplish more of their mission.

Regarding excursions, ideally, they are spread out throughout a program – or during the period a course is being taught. That said, IPSL never promises when excursions will happen and, in fact, we mention explicitly that excursions can change due to circumstances beyond our control (closures, roads washing out in rainy seasons, etc.). But we always replace a cancelled excursion with another, complementary one. We have spoken with the leadership at our partner in La Boquilla and we addressed issues around communication and the Orientation Tour. But as mentioned above, ‘no-shows’ on the part of students/participants send a message that the participant is uninterested.

IPSL does an excellent job of preparing students/participants for the differences in cultures, including gender and race relations in different program locations. What a participant interprets as misogynistic may, indeed, be misogynistic through their own cultural lens, but it may also be a cultural issue or, again, a function of not having the capacity/time to address an issue in the moment. IPSL’s community-based organizations abroad are routinely some of the most resource-scarce groups addressing the most pressing needs in their communities. There is plenty of opportunity to observe, assess, design interventions/programs, present findings, and/or simply bear witness and serve. It is the participant’s particular framework through which they view the situation that contributes – or not – to the support of the organization’s
mission. We are not sure how the air conditioner issue is an example of misogynistic behavior, but we do know that the AC issue was addressed to the satisfaction of the roommate.

Any successful project and/or placement in an IPSL partner requires that all three legs of the three-legged stool do their part. IPSL never promised a formal course on project management. Indeed, the course/fieldwork was the sole responsibility of the participant’s home university.

The participant was approved and selected for this placement precisely due to their military background in managing people and projects. A key piece of what was missing from this participant’s academic experience was the home university advisor who was completely missing-in-action from the student’s entire fieldwork placement experience. There was no support from the very individuals responsible for the required outcomes. IPSL did not (and cannot) assume the role of a participant’s home university advisor in such situations. Yes, there were issues with some of the on-the-ground experiences that were IPSL’s responsibility, and we did what we could to address those issues as soon as humanly possible. What IPSL cannot do – and won’t take responsibility for – is a home institution’s lack of support for their own student.

The participant’s statement that IPSL as a company only wanted their money and fooled them into their participation is sadly untrue. The participant was approved and selected, for this placement, precisely due to their military background in managing people and projects. All the necessary preparations were made in advance and when the inevitable issues arose (as they always do), IPSL did what it could to address them. IPSL is pleased that the participant acknowledges the contributions of our Veteran staff member; we appreciate this. Lastly, IPSL is a nonprofit organization; we are not a company and over 80% of our revenues are reinvested in the various communities we serve.

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Yes, I recommend this program

The Grassroots Study Abroad Program that Changed My Life!

I cannot speak highly enough of my experience with IPSL Global Institute and the positive impact it has had on the trajectory of my life since participating in their study abroad program in the Fall of 2019.

My circumstances were rather non-traditional, working full-time in Chicago with one semester left of my master's degree. Despite the many obstacles that presented themselves (one being that I was the very first graduate student at my university to study abroad, so we literally had to pave the way), IPSL was there every step of the way; to answer all of my questions and cater a program *perfect* for me!

Finishing my master's degree in Greece with IPSL was the experience of a lifetime. My program director and professor there guided me throughout my trip and made me feel like family. I had opportunities to explore outside of the city including Mount Olympus and was connected with local organizations serving vulnerable populations. Through them, I coordinated and taught Trauma Recovery Yoga classes to children experiencing homelessness and refugees in a camp outside of the city.

Besides being incredibly responsive, intuitive and knowledgeable, the staff at IPSL took the time to get to know me and what I truly hoped to get out of this experience. I've since learned the extent to which they connect with their community partners and genuinely care for invest in the communities their participants are serving.

It was genuinely one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life, and it wouldn't have been possible without the staff at IPSL genuinely striving to "make my dreams come true," as they do for each student that joins their programs.

If you're ready to make the world your classroom and gain life skills in expansive, thrilling ways, IPSL is the grassroots organization that can help you do just that!

What was your funniest moment?
There were many (!) joyous moments of connection and discovery whilst teaching English classes to unaccompanied minors in a refugee camp outside the city. Additionally, while teaching Trauma Recovery Yoga to children in a homeless shelter, the kids never ceased to do and say the funniest things!
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Yes, I recommend this program

IPSL Semester Thessaloniki

This was the first time the program was run independently from any school and it was a bit disorganized.
My service site (the main reason I did this program) was an 2:30 hrs away from where I lived and getting there was pretty expensive. The program director gave me 100€ to pay for the transportation but it only covered one of the three months I was there. I found my own service in the city and volunteered there as well. The program was only two students and this made socializing hard. Overall, it was a good experience but there was still some things that need to be taken care of if they want to have a very successful program. My host family was great, the food was always excellent and Thessaloniki is a fun city to live in. I wish I had spoken Greek and had more Greek classes.

What would you improve about this program?
There needs to be more organization with the program, especially academically.
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Yes, I recommend this program

My Tanzania Experience

The study abroad program and service learning provided by IPSL was an amazing experience that will last a lifetime. The classes I took were Swahili and a class about the community, which met three days a week. These taught me a lot about the community and its culture as well as the basics of the local language. Not many people in the U.S. can say that they have taken a Swahili class in their life before. I also loved the service incorporation part, I volunteered in a small, private clinic four days a week and absolutely loved it. In my future, I would like to be a doctor, so this exposed me to what this is like, not only the field but in another country, which is a priceless experience.
My program director made my experience even better. He would take me on excursions on Fridays, he provided me with different places to go for food, excursions, and shopping, and he gave me advice for when I was feeling homesick. I was the only student in the program at the time, so there was a lot of one-on-one time, which was very helpful when he was teaching me Swahili and about the community if I had any questions.

What would you improve about this program?
Providing more information to students about their host family and living situation as well as the neighborhood would be nice to know.
Yes, I recommend this program

Life Changing Experience

Traveling to Peru with IPSL changed my life. Everyone says that happens when they study abroad but for me it is true. When I decided to go abroad with IPSL I was looking for a program that could help me increase my Spanish language skills, was academically rigorous and had service-learning so that I could learn to become a better activist and engage in the community. I did not want to be another tourist abroad. IPSL checked all these boxes for me. What it also did was help me change my life path through their eye-opening and engaging volunteer placements. Not only did I build skills that has allowed me to become the activist I am today but my volunteer placement working at an animal sanctuary helped me realize that I wanted to work with animals, something I never thought I would be engaged with. My experience with IPSL was so profound that I changed colleges and went on another IPSL program to Greece! There are many choices that you can make in your life but one choice you will never regret is studying abroad with IPSL.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

Study abroad, or you will always regret it. College is the perfect time in your life to spend a few months in another country. It's such a transformational experience. Not only will you immerse yourself in another culture and maybe language, but you will gain so much confidence and independence by being on your own.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Take advantage of every opportunity presented! Also, see my review for all kinds of detailed tips.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

There was a huge traffic jam that last over 24 hours on the tiny mountain road on the way to the rainforest, where we had planned to stay a few days. Which seems like it would be a terrible experience. But we made friends with people from all over the world that were on the many buses surrounding us. We talked and played card games in a sheep farmer's field. The sheep became annoyed with us and started head butting us. We were laughing so hard as we ran away from the creatures we once thought of as adorable and harmless. We found another spot and continued talking with folks from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Israel, Argentina, and Canada. That hiccup in our trip turned out be a great experience. And of course, the two days we stayed in the beautiful rainforest were incredible.

What is the best way to prepare yourself mentally for the experience?

Go in without any expectations, good or bad. For me, it was much better to take things as they came. This way, you won't be disappointed or surprised. I'm a Type A person, but just taking it easy and enjoying and absorbing every moment turned out to be the right approach.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Dana Johnson

Job Title
Lead Management and Director of Faculty Led Programs

Dana worked for 20+ years in the wine business. Her final position was with an Australian wine company, which she represented in five US states. The wine business treated her well (& she still loves wine) but she was looking for something more meaningful and found that in IPSL. She is grateful to be working with the awesome people at IPSL as well as loving her interaction with students, faculty and site directors around the world!

What is your favorite travel memory?

I have had the good fortune to do a lot of traveling in my life. I have loved every trip that I’ve taken but perhaps my first, as a foreign exchange student to Turkey, has left the biggest imprint on my heart. It opened my eyes to our world and taught me a lot, including things about myself. I believe that it helped me become the person that I am today. While it wasn’t always a perfect situation, the frustrations, fears (& tears) and confusion, that I experienced, are never the memories that come to mind today.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I have definitely been made more aware of the stresses that students are under (from school, family, general societal expectations) which has made me even more dedicated to helping them have the best study abroad experience possible.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Any time a student relays that an IPSL program has “changed their life”, “meant so much”, “opened them up for change”, “inspired them”, etc. and have continued to lead their life with service to others foremost in their minds…those are the best stories. And I’ve heard that a lot!!!

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of many of IPSL’s programs around the world! And, I’ve enjoyed every single one of them. Each has its own highlights but it would be impossible to choose just one so I will say that Thessaloniki Greece, Cusco Peru & Cartagena Colombia hold a very special place in my heart. Our partners abroad are so awesome…I have always felt that I have not only departed a country with new insight and knowledge, I have departed having gained new friends.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

Diversity in experience but commonality of beliefs & goals.

Professional Associations

The Forum on Education Abroad Logo
Institute of International Education Logo