Domestic Capacity Building Initiatives

Our Capacity Building Program for U.S. Study Abroad grants program is open to U.S. higher education institutions that have a broad range of capacity to administer study abroad programs. Institutions that currently have no or limited experience administering study abroad programs as well as those with established programs are eligible to apply for funding. The program seeks to engage the full diversity of U.S. higher education, including community colleges and Minority Serving Institutions.

The Capacity Building Program for U.S. Study Abroad is looking for creative and innovative project ideas to create, expand, and/or diversify study abroad programming at U.S. colleges and universities. For example, types of projects may include:

  • Create a faculty-led study abroad program,
  • Create a new study abroad position at higher education institutions,
  • Support minority student participation in study abroad,
  • Provide resources for students with disabilities to study abroad,
  • Create programming for students in underrepresented majors,
  • Form relationships with universities in a wide variety of international locations
  • Focus study abroad programs around theme areas such as cybersecurity, entrepreneurship, human rights, food security, public health, etc.


Studying and interning abroad helps students develop the critical skills they need to compete for jobs and further U.S. economic prosperity. A 2017 study by the Institute of International Education on the career impact of study abroad concluded that overseas educational experiences contribute to the development of transferable skills and positive employment gains. By creating study abroad programs, higher educational institutions are investing in the future by training global leaders, connecting with the world.

  • Shepherd University, West Virginia
    With the help of a Capacity Building grant, Shepherd University increased the number of students it sends abroad by 41 percent in just one year. The university first used its grant to establish a dedicated study abroad office and hire a full-time Director of Study Abroad. Within less than a year of the director’s onboarding, she signed exchange agreements with five institutions in five countries. The new study abroad office also hosted workshops for the university’s academic adviser and third party study abroad providers to raise the faculty’s awareness of international education opportunities Faculty members then led study abroad programs to five countries focused on five different subject areas the following year. The office also developed an outreach strategy, including launching a study abroad website with information on programs and a student blog, running social media promotions, and creating an on-campus Study Abroad club.
  • Windward Community College (WCC), Hawaii
    WCC is federally designated as an Asian American Native American/Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI) and Alaska native/Native Hawaiian Serving Institution (ANNH), with over 75% of students identifying as one of these ethnic groups. WCC’s community college structure makes it difficult for its students to participate in programs offered through the University of Hawaii system, and many students also face financial barriers that prevent them from enrolling in longer term programs. To address this, WCC used a Domestic Capacity Building grant to create its first study abroad center, launch two credit bearing short-term programs, and obtain external funding to support student scholarships. Within the first year, WCC sent 28 participants on a pilot study abroad program to New Zealand, exceeding the anticipated 14 students. Of these participants, 75 percent were Pell Grant eligible and 80 percent were of Native Hawaiian ancestry. WCC provided Gilman Scholarship advising and had one study abroad student selected. In addition, WCC secured approximately $70,500 in external funding for study abroad scholarships and support.


Establishing and maintaining strong international partnerships and programs helps U.S. higher education institutions expand their study abroad options and increase student participant. As students have more study abroad options available, they are more likely to find affordable options that fit their degree programs. By expanding their study abroad programs, institutions help increase study abroad participation and encourage a wider international exchange of research, ideas, and best practices.

  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska
    The University of Nebraska-Lincoln received a 2017 Domestic Capacity Building grant to establish a study abroad program titled “Computer Science across Cultures: Collaborative Algorithm Problem Solving” in Jordan. This new program will send 10-15 computer science students to Jordan for four weeks in the summer where they will take the title course with local peers and engage in joint projects together. Many computer science students are unable to study abroad due to strict degree requirements that provide little room for educational experiences abroad. By creating an international version of the algorithm course, a requirement for computer science majors, the university hopes to address this barrier and increase the number of students in this underrepresented discipline who study abroad.
  • Glenville State College, West Virginia
    Glenville State College serves many first-generation, low-income students who come from a homogenous background and have never left the state. A large number of these students would greatly benefit from an educational experience abroad, but lack of financial resources on both the students’ and school’s parts makes it difficult to enroll participants in study abroad program. To address this, Glenville State College received a grant to create new study abroad programming that targets its economically disadvantaged rural Appalachian students. The school will provide training to four faculty members from different departments on how to advise students on study abroad and help them integrate international experiences into their degree programs. Glenville representatives will then conduct four site visits and sign exchange agreements with foreign partners with the assistance of the Knowledge Exchange Institute. Through these efforts, the college aims to enroll several students in semester study abroad programs, which no students has done since 2008.


Some groups of students are underrepresented in study abroad and face additional hurdles in accessing international educational experiences. Regardless of a students’ economic background, race, disability, or major, they can benefit from the global awareness and skills gained while studying abroad. One goal of our Capacity Building Program for U.S. Study Abroad grants program is to diversify American student mobility, both in terms of the students taking part and the destinations where they travel. Recent examples of recent grants that have helped institutions increase and diversify both their student populations who study abroad and the destinations where they study include:

  • Highline College, Washington
    Highline College and its partner Tacoma Community College (TCC) serve a diverse community of students that include a significant concentration of immigrants, refugees, and young families with limited financial resources. Both schools struggled to enroll students in study abroad programs due both to students’ financial barriers and decreased institutional funding for study abroad initiatives. To address these two challenges, Highline and TCC used a Domestic Capacity Building grant to strengthen an existing partnership with Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) and pilot an affordable study abroad program catered to the academic and financial needs of the two community colleges’ unique populations. Within the first year, the universities sent four faculty to SJTU to discuss the partnership and logistics, developed training materials for faculty leading short-term study abroad programs, developed resources for students seeing financial aid for study abroad, and raised funds to provide study abroad scholarships.
  • Middlesex Community College, Massachusetts
    Middlesex Community College (MCC) is an open-access, Minority Serving Institution in Massachusetts that received a grant to establish its first study abroad program in North Africa. MCC signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding with two institutions in Rabat and collaborated with its partners to create a three-credit, two-week international business course in Morocco. Eighteen students participated in the pilot program in 2017, including first generation students, ethnic minorities, and students from low-income families. MCC offered scholarships to qualifying students as a way to help defray costs.

To learn more about past Capacity Building Grant Recipients, read about our 2017 grant recipients and 2016 grant recipients.

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