Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The University of Iowa Study Abroad office is committed to diversity and inclusion in our programming, especially as spending time abroad provides an excellent opportunity to consider one's personal identity in a new cultural context.

The UI Study Abroad office has worked to attract and make study abroad available to student populations typically underrepresented in study abroad environments. To date, this has been accomplished through outreach efforts to the UI Cultural Centers, students participating in the Iowa Edge program, and a variety of student organizations/groups, including TRiO classes, the Multicultural Greek Council, the Delta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and WISE – Women in Science & Engineering. 

Study Abroad also provides scholarships for students from groups traditionally underrepresented in study abroad through their Diversity Ambassador Scholarship. They also maintain a resources site tailored to a variety of student identities so no matter what student is interested in studying abroad, they can see themselves being included in this high impact opportunity.

“One branch of our efforts to increase diversity among the UI students heading abroad is providing plenty of experiential learning opportunities,” said Monica Ernberger, senior advisor and program coordinator for UI Study Abroad. “These experiences are especially appealing to families and communities supporting students because they have a clear path to their career goals and future employment. Programs like summer international internships allow students to go abroad for a shorter time but still have a very immersive and impactful experience.”

Students studying abroad, or completing international internships abroad, are eligible for various scholarship opportunities to support their programs. Ernberger serves as a Gilman Advisor Ambassador, working to raise awareness of the ability to make international experiences happen for underrepresented students through pairing experiential opportunities abroad and impactful scholarships. 

“Recently, we had a student who could only have gone abroad with substantial support,” shared Ernberger. “Through their diligent pursuit of scholarships, including our Diversity Ambassador Scholarship, they covered almost all of their study abroad and internship expenses. Important scholarships, like the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, can be very beneficial. University of Iowa students who successfully submit the Gilman application are also eligible to receive the A. Morse Gilman Applicant Scholarship of $1,000. These awards can add up.” 

The UI Diversity Ambassador Scholarship provides up to ten, $1,000 awards to study abroad for a summer session, semester-long program, or an academic year. 

“As study abroad travel began again post-pandemic, we have worked to create a diversity ambassador community amongst those who are awarded the scholarship,” said Kristine Djerf, senior advisor and program coordinator for UI Study Abroad. “The community is in its early stages, but the hope is to have ambassadors who have returned from study abroad serve as mentors to outbound students, have events where they can interact with and answer questions of prospective study abroad students and in general, create a space where students can freely share their international experiences with others.”

First awarded in summer 2010, the diversity ambassador scholarship program has provided awards to over 230 Diversity Abroad Scholarship recipients totaling $145,000. 

In addition to the diversity ambassador community, ambassadors are invited to share their experiences with prospective students from underrepresented groups on campus through outreach events and open letters published on the International Programs Accents news site. See below for highlights of past Diversity Ambassador letters.

For more information about the university’s efforts to create a welcoming climate for students from communities underrepresented in higher education, visit the Diversity at Iowa website. 


International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.