100,000 Strong in the Americas: Developing a Winning Proposal for an Innovation Grant

100k Strong in the AmericasPresident Obama launched 100,000 Strong in the Americas to increase educational exchanges in the Western Hemisphere and strengthen U.S. relations with the countries of the Americas through student mobility. The goal of 100,000 Strong in the Americas is to ensure that we are preparing youth throughout the Western Hemisphere with the cross-cultural skills necessary in the 21st century economy and a generation of leaders who can reach across borders.

To accomplish this goal, the U.S. Department of State, Partners of the Americas, and NAFSA launched the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund to mobilize resources and distribute challenge grants to colleges and universities to exponentially grow study abroad. We believe students are key to this connected future. Only by studying, learning, and working together can we take advantage of the growing opportunities in our Hemisphere and prosper together. This bold vision is only possible through your partnership.

Join the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Network to be notified of all upcoming grant opportunities.

Find out more about past grant recipients and NAFSA's role in the initiative.

Think Beyond the Money. Create a Multiplier Effect.

Dear colleague,

As study abroad professionals know all too well, program champions, student interests, and faculty support for study abroad can ebb and flow.  That’s why strategies and sources of support that have a sustaining effect on programs are vitally important. They make it possible for study abroad to become fully embedded in the culture, the curriculum, and the future of an institution, able to serve more and more students in innovative ways.

This is the purpose for which the Innovation Grants were created. We hope the examples and ideas on this page, taken from the experience of previous grant awardees, will inspire you to develop and implement bold, creative approaches to help make study abroad part of the fabric of your campus.  We have seen our grant recipients do amazing things with their funding. The biggest lesson we would like to share with you as you develop your grant proposal is this: Think beyond the money. Funding for travel and program costs is necessary, of course. But these schools have shown that a modest amount of seed money, leveraged well, can go a long way.  Best of luck to you, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to our program staff if you want to discuss ideas or have questions.

Stephen M. Ferst, Ed
Vice President for Public Policy
NAFSA: Association of International Educators

100,000 Strong Innovation Grants: Vision and Inspiration

Our grants are different. Far from being earmarked for certain types of programs or expense line items, they are meant to encourage universities and colleges to leverage the promise of some funding in order to get more funding, to change institutional practices and culture, and to increase support and momentum. These grants are the best way to secure your study abroad program’s future, and its impact. Seed grants of this kind open the door to non-traditional sources of further funds and support that have a multiplier effect over time.  Many successful applicants have found that the original seed grants are able to propel a virtuous circle that takes on a “life of its own” when a few key ingredients are present.

Some of the most powerful approaches for leveraging institutional seed funding for study abroad include the examples below, which are drawn from grant competitions for programs in the Americas and China.

Securing Additional On-Campus Funding

At the University of North Alabama (UNA), the office of the president and the business school contributed additional significant financial resources to augment what the institution received through its 100,000 Strong China Innovation Grant. The director of UNA’s honors program also chipped in, promising a small scholarship for every one of their students who went on the institution’s China study abroad program.

Once momentum gets going on a campus, various stakeholders get interested in being part of the effort, often engaging in a friendly competition to be included as part of the initiative. The cumulative impact of these relatively small contributions can be significant.

Securing Additional Community and Corporate Funding

North Carolina State University leveraged its 100,000 Strong in the Americas grant to establish a partnership with Chiquita Brands to support a study abroad program in Costa Rica focused on crop science. Chiquita was interested in helping to fund NCSU’s program because of both its corporate social responsibility goals and its interest in supporting the development of a source of qualified future employees for the company.

Similarly, at the University of Arizona, an Innovation Grant supported the development of a partnership between the university and local industry for a team of international students to work on a year-long real-life engineering challenge.

At UNA, the president’s support and outside-the-box thinking led to success in securing financial support from several state legislators’ offices.

Supporting Study Abroad Infrastructure

Seed grants can often provide programs with a much-needed boost in infrastructure and strategic planning. Several grantees have used funds to gain the support of their fundraising offices on campus, successfully advocating for more attention to be placed on fundraising specifically for study abroad. Other programs, such as at the University of Arkansas, have been able to receive more staff support from the campus to help put their grant to best use.

UNA allocated some of its grant to provide training to staff from the financial aid, housing, and other student services offices, as well as faculty from their short-term study abroad programs, on how to help nudge students to study abroad.

And at Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania, 100,000 Strong funds helped the program take a much-needed step back and focus on fundamentals such as streamlining requirements, codifying policies, beefing up evaluation systems, and making it easier for faculty to propose new study abroad courses. These kinds of improvements can do much to clear the way for study abroad to grow and flourish, with staff and overhead resources put to the best use.

Other Force Multipliers: Campus Awareness & A Culture of Study Abroad

Properly leveraged, seed grants can begin to change the entire campus, right to its core:  the curriculum. At UNA, a growing China program resulted in the addition of courses in Chinese culture and language, and UNA’s partner institution in China has been a source of students, from China, for its Spanish language program.

Successful leveraging efforts can spread the benefits of the original grant in many other ways. Some grant recipients have instituted structured ways for study abroad returnees to share their experiences, in some cases even requiring them to spend some time speaking on and off campus about how study abroad has impacted their lives and studies as a condition of receiving scholarships.

Increasing buzz about study abroad, and evidence of its impact, can also prompt individual departments and colleges to weave study abroad into their curriculum and dedicate some of their own budgets – or fundraising efforts – toward those activities.  Students, for their part, begin to see that study abroad is not only possible but well-supported and integrated across the campus, and are more likely to participate.