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Study Abroad at the UW is a High-Impact Practice

UW students at the Colosseum


High-impact practices offer significant educational benefits for students who participate in them – especially those from demographic groups historically underserved by higher education (Kuh, 2008). Based on evidence, these teaching and learning practices make it more likely for students to stay in college and graduate. High-impact practices include study abroad, service learning and internships.

Recent Findings

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Assessing Impact of Study Abroad on Graduation Rates of Underrepresented Students

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Gathering evidence that highlights how study abroad is a high-impact practice can be complicated. The reason for this is something called selection bias: many students who go on study abroad and complete their degree might have graduated even without having studied abroad. However, according to recent findings (Brundage et al, 2023) that sought to account for this bias, study abroad may enhance student success, particularly for historically underserved students. The study used enrollment and student academic records from first-time, first-year and fully matriculated students at the University of Washington during the academic years 2012, 2013 and 2014. That’s a total of over 15,000 records.

The study, published in the Journal of College Student Development, was led by Tory L. Brundage, Doctoral Candidate in the College of Education, and Dr. Gayle Christensen, Interim Vice Provost for Global Affairs and Affiliate Assistant Professor in the College of Education, at the University of Washington. The findings, controlling for selection bias, suggest Black, Latinx, Native American and/or Pacific Islander students at the University of Washington who studied abroad were over 8% more likely to graduate in 4 years, and almost 12% more likely to graduate in 5-6 years. That’s a significant effect. It underscores that study abroad is a high-impact practice for students least likely to study abroad.

The message is clear

Enabling historically underserved students to study abroad is likely to have a highly positive impact on their chances of completing their degrees at the UW. Study abroad at the UW is a high-impact practice.

Further Considerations

Given these findings, the next question to consider is how to encourage more students to study abroad who might not otherwise have seen themselves participating. At the University of Washington, administrators have tried to reduce barriers by increasing the amount of scholarships provided to students for study abroad. Other promising areas that have been explored include cohort-based programs and strategic partnerships.

UW students in Italy

One such partnership at the University of Washington is with The Brotherhood Initiative, which serves young men of color on campus and began to offer the Education Rome program in 2018 through a partnership with the Office of Global Affairs. Education Rome is a three-week study abroad program that focuses on gender, multiculturalism and education in Italy. Across the four years the program has run, the number of Black, Latinx, Native American and Pacific Islander students per cohort increased from 6 to 20.

Through word of mouth and the natural community building that is innate to a cohort-based program like the Brotherhood Initiative, not only does participating in study abroad become more accessible to men of color or other targeted student populations, but they are likely to have a bigger support network and known learning community while productively navigating the potentially stressful moments of international education.


I was stressing about being so far from my family at first given some of the things I was experiencing [but] realized I had some brothers with me right there! It’s just like on campus, we can get through anything together.

Second-Year Brotherhood Initiative Student

To learn more about study abroad at the UW, please visit