Georgia Gwinnett College professors win Department of State grant to expand study abroad programs

Dr. Neville Forlemu visits an elephant sanctuary in Thailand.
Dr. Neville Forlemu visits an elephant sanctuary in Thailand.

Georgia Gwinnett College is one of 34 U.S. colleges and universities to be awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Increase and Diversify Education Abroad for U.S. Students (IDEAS) Program, which aims to develop and expand study abroad programs worldwide.

Dr. Neville Forlemu, associate professor of chemistry, and Dr. Boyko Gyurov, professor of mathematics, created the winning proposal. GGC will receive $35,000.

Forlemu, who spent a month in Thailand with 23 GGC students this summer, said the money will be used to help reach two essential goals: expand GGC’s learning abroad program to other continents and get more minority students involved in the program, especially African American males who historically don’t take advantage of study abroad programs.

“Six of the 23 students we took to Thailand this summer had never set foot outside the U.S.,” said Forlemu. “It was amazing. They had multiple academic and cultural experiences they would never have had otherwise. On top of that, they built connections between themselves through the excitement and adventure of traveling and developed long-lasting connections with students in Thailand. Our program really encourages those interactions. More students need to take advantage of these opportunities.”

Currently, GGC’s study abroad opportunities are mostly limited to Europe, Asia and South America. Forlemu said the first goal with the IDEAS grant money will be to expand to Cameroon, a central African country whose residents speak both English and French.

Dr. Neville Forlemu and GGC’s study abroad students visit the Wat Rong Suea Ten, which is the Temple of the Dancing Tiger, located in Thailand.
Dr. Neville Forlemu and GGC’s study abroad students visit the Wat Rong Suea Ten, which is the Temple of the Dancing Tiger, located in Thailand.

“To do that, we need to develop a system that consistently helps with the exposure of these opportunities and how our students can take advantage,” said Forlemu. “With the IDEAS grant, we’re hoping to build relationships with programs in Cameroon in such a way that it’s sustainable. Having strong academic and logistical connections on the other end will help us with both – the academic and cultural aspects of the GGC Cameroonian program. We plan to create networks, serve as collaborators and create virtual exchanges to expand the opportunity to as much of our student population as possible.”

The IDEAS Program contributes to the State Department’s diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility efforts in engaging the American people in foreign policy. Since 2016, the program has awarded 179 grants to 173 U.S. colleges and universities in 49 states and territories to create, expand and diversify their U.S. study abroad programs in 71 countries across all world regions. In addition to the IDEAS grants, the program also offers opportunities for international educators at U.S. colleges and universities to participate in free virtual and in-person study abroad capacity-building activities.

“Increasing and diversifying U.S. students going abroad for educational opportunities, as well as diversifying the places where they study, is a State Department priority,” said Lee Satterfield, assistant U.S. secretary of state for Educational and Cultural Affairs. “This year’s recipients reflect the true greatness of America – our diversity – as almost 25 percent represent two-year institutions, 40 percent represent minority-serving institutions and 25 percent represent rural-serving institutions.”

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