An Interview with one of the Gurus: Mary Dwyer

The research conducted by Mary Dwyer for IES Abroad was what inspired me to start this book/blog in the first place, so an interview with her is more than I could ever hope for! As the CEO of Institute for the International Education of Students (IES), she is serious about study

Mary Dwyer, CEO of IES Abrod

abroad. The 50 year study she did gave me so much information that I will be using in my book and is partially what my study is based off of. I was able to get in touch with her and send her some questions for an email interview. She graciously provided that for me and now I am giving it to you! I do have some follow up questions so hopefully she will be able to provide answers to those and you will get another dose of study abroad information! Here you go!

Why did you decide to focus on the benefits of study abroad? Was it a form of recruitment for IES?

IES Abroad has always been noted for its research and sophisticated evaluation system. It was the first study abroad organization to successfully complete the Quality Improvement Program review in category 2a, the most sophisticated form of assessment review. It has the most comprehensive and oldest program evaluation system in the field. Therefore, it’s simply part of our history to conduct research and assess the outcomes of our programs. The 50 year study is one of many research projects that IES Abroad has conducted over its 60 year study for the same reasons that colleges/universities conduct educational impact research. We are genuinely interested in knowing the long-term as well as the short-term benefits of studying abroad on an IES Abroad program so that we can continue our tradition of constantly improving our programs.

How did you decide what questions to focus on for the study?

We chose the questions for the survey based upon the historical elements of IES Abroad programming. We therefore wanted to ask a series of questions that sought feedback about every aspect of our programs—career impact, impact of internships, academic impact, personal growth and intercultural competence.

Do you think the answers and statistics would change if you looked at study abroad programs other that IES?

IES Abroad published in Frontiers the results of the study in terms of the differences in outcomes based upon our 2 dominant program models. In any body of literature, there will be differences in research results based upon research design, the population sampled, the types of programs attended, the types of statistical analyses employed, etc. So I would assume that if all or part of the list of these aspects of the research were changed, the results might change. Of course, that’s why more research is necessary because in any single research project there are features of the study anecdotal to the particular study.

Do you believe it is important for students to be informed on the benefits before they embark on studying abroad?

Yes, I do think it’s important for students to understand the benefits of studying abroad in order to make an informed decision a priori. Of course, students consider the benefits of attending a specific undergraduate college or a graduate program prior to choosing a program, also. This is highly advisable so that the student’s specific academic and cultural needs are met. There is a vast array of study abroad programs with differing purposes and students should be aware of the benefits of attending one program over another so that their needs are met.

What kind of orientation does IES have for its students before they go abroad?

Since our students originate from over 300 different colleges/universities, we orient them in advance through printed guides and various other materials that we send them. These are proprietary to IES Abroad since they represent decades of intellectual property and know how. The intense orientation occurs on site at each IES Abroad location as is indicated on our website and printed materials. The orientations include orienting students to the culture, the language, health and safety concerns, crisis management, course offerings at foreign universities, course advising, internship offerings, the city in which they are studying, etc.

Have you done any research on re-entry and students returning to their home campus?

We conduct re-entry programming on site in 34 locations. We have not conducted re-entry research per se.

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