Donation to help fund study abroad programs
JSOM recently received a donation to support more study abroad experiences in developing countries.
The Ann and Jack Graves Charitable Foundation gifted the school a $2 million endowment, which amounts to around $80,000 annually in perpetuity, Doug Anderson, JSOM assistant dean for development and alumni relations, said. These funds will be used immediately to support study abroad programs focused on sustainable, global business.
Currently, only 1.6% of UTD’s students study abroad, said Juan Gonzalez, the associate dean of graduate education who oversees the International Center for the provost’s office.
“A university of our size should be sending 7-8% of students abroad,” Gonzalez said. “We need to do some work there. We need to revamp some of the programs we have.”
Gonzalez said the three main opportunities for increasing study abroad opportunities include providing scholarships to students, developing more relationships with exchange institutions and creating more faculty-led trips.
Faculty-led trips, which consist of a professor taking around 20 students abroad for a UTD-specific course, is currently the way that most people study abroad at UTD, representatives for the International Center said. Last summer, there were only 13 faculty-led trips offered at UTD; Gonzalez said this is an opportunity for growth.
“We want students to demand education abroad. We want to change the culture,” Gonzalez said. “Studying abroad should be part of the education of the student. There is a lot of work we need to do in here. This donation is going to help.”
Of the small percentage of UTD students who study abroad, Gonzalez said 80% are JSOM students. He said this is partially because students on the global business track are required to study abroad.
“JSOMs are naturals. They’re business people. They’re outward oriented, but we need to be offering courses on a consistent basis,” Gonzalez said.
The endowment provides funds to support programs and partnerships in developing countries, Anderson said. The plan for the first year is for Clinical Professor Habte Woldu to lead a trip to Ethiopia.
The Ann and Jack Graves Charitable Foundation historically has donated to church mission trips and ministries, Anderson said. This donation is an attempt at focusing on sustainability and long-term business models.
“What happens a lot with mission trips is that someone will come and paint a schoolhouse or build a medical clinic and then leave,” Anderson said. “How can we make them more sustainable? What can be done to help these communities grow?”
Last summer, Woldu led a cohort of five students to Ethiopia. There, the students worked with local parties to empower women and prevent rotting produce by developing a business for dehydrating fruits.
Matthew Kelly, an international major master’s student in the cohort said he was lucky to have connected with this opportunity last year. He said that he hopes the consistency of the endowment will make a larger impact.
“Returning to Ethiopia makes sense,” Kelly said. “You can build on things, test things out and customize it to build lasting connections.”
Currently, few UTD students study abroad in African countries. Andrez Diaz, the Assistant Director of Education Abroad, said over the past four years, there have been only four different faculty-led trips to African nations, amounting to less than 50 students.
“We’ve had 44 students doing independent programs,” Diaz said. “So, we do have some interest in students wanting to go to Africa.”
Anderson said the endowment sets the stage for long-term impact.
“It is really great to have someone who chooses to give money back to benefit the lives of others,” Anderson said. “(Graves) wants to not just impact one person’s life, but if you think about the business model, it can help hundreds or thousands of people. And this gift is going to go on every single year forever and ever.”
Kelly said the endowment will support university research on the United Nation’s sustainable development goals, a conference this coming April focused on sustainability on UTD’s campus and continued study abroad experiences.
“This donation was visionary,” Gonzalez said. “Africa is a place of growth. Encouraging our students and our faculty to go to Africa will help open doors. It makes me excited that we’re going into that market.”