Stephanie Pleasants Attends Advocacy Day in Support of International Student Scholars

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Stephanie Pleasants is a study abroad advisor in JWU Global and has worked at JWU for three and a half years. She attended Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., last month. This Week at JWU spoke with her about her experience. 

What is Advocacy Day?
Advocacy Day is an annual two-day event sponsored by NAFSA: the Association of International Educators. It allows educators from all over the nation the chance to meet with their state and district representatives (or their staffers) in Washington, D.C. to advocate for their international students scholars, as well as more study abroad opportunities for students. This year’s focus was two-fold.

  • To inform our representatives of the benefits of having international students and scholars on our campuses and in our communities

  • To re-introduce the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act

Who attends this event?
International educators from all over the country attend Advocacy Day. They include staff and faculty from various institutions as well as students, particularly international students and scholars.

How does this connect to what you do at JWU?
One thing JWU Global does very well is support each other’s roles and our students. International Student Services has welcomed thousands of degree-seeking international students and scholars, and Study Abroad sends about 550-600 students abroad every year. I often hear from alumni that their one regret is not studying abroad. As a result, I am constantly learning about ways in which we can reach more students so that they may have the most successful and meaningful overall experience at JWU.

At this year’s Advocacy Day, we asked our congressional representatives to re-introduce the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act. Its goals include:

  1. increasing study abroad participation to one million within the next ten years

  2. diversifying participants to reflect the U.S. undergraduate population

  3. expanding study abroad to non-traditional destinations

  4. encouraging higher education institutions to make study abroad a critical component of quality higher education

Our work at JWU is in alignment with the goals of the Simon Act. We also wish to increase study abroad participation, reach a broader range of the student population, open up our portfolio to other regions and cultures, and demonstrate that study abroad enriches a student’s experience in higher education.

What did you take away from this experience?
I returned to JWU with many ideas from this event. First, I was reminded how our state and local representatives strongly support our international students and scholars, and study abroad. I also learned that in 2016-2017, Rhode Island was one of the highest ranked states in the country for study abroad participation by total fall enrollment in degree granting institutions, and in 2017, Rhode Island saw a 0.6% decline in new international student enrollment, much lower than the national average of 6.6%.

Despite this relatively good news, the day was not just about numbers. We all gathered in Washington, D.C. because we understand the value of international education. We have witnessed, and in most cases, lived those experiences ourselves and have illustrated in our own lives and work how the benefits outweigh the costs every time.