Globalizing the First-gen Experience

Annise Richard M.Ed., Kansas University / The Center / January 31, 2020


Kansas University FF

At the University of Kansas (KU) we have committed to increasing the number of first-generation students that participate in experiential learning opportunities including study abroad, internships, undergraduate research, service learning, and fellowships. In doing our work, we found that cost is often a prohibitive factor for students. One of the ways we have worked to reduce the financial barriers associated with experiential learning is through creating funding opportunities to help off-set costs. In the fall of 2019, KU hosted the Passport Caravan, an event co-sponsored with the Council of International Educational Exchange (CIEE) and campus partners to offer free passports to KU students that identify as first-generation, low income, or a student of color.

What is Passport Caravan?

Passport Caravan is a one-time, grant funded, event sponsored by the CIEE as part of its participation in the national Generation Study Abroad™ initiative. This grant pledged funding to cover the passport fee for up to 100 students. The stipulations were that students had to be first-time passport recipients, full-time undergraduate students and should come from an underrepresented population in study abroad. The KU Study Abroad and Global Engagement office was able to pledge the funding to cover the $35 processing fee and KU International Affairs, which happens to house a passport processing office, agreed to provide free passport photos. The willingness of campus partners to offer services and funding for fees in combination with the CIEE grant resulted in eligible students receiving a completely FREE passport.

How did the event work?

Kansas University Students 1
KU and the CIEE hosted the Passport Caravan in late September 2019. Recognizing that a passport application requires each student to provide specific documentation, a coordinated effort was made to contact eligible students via email prior to the start of the academic year and leading up to the event, informing them of the Passport Caravan opportunity.

Students were asked to complete the passport application and gather all necessary documents for review by our campus passport office prior to the Passport Caravan event. Once students completed the document review process, they signed up for a time to submit their application on the day of the event. All of this pre-work meant that all the students had to do the day of the event was formally submit their application to the passport agent. We also held a mini-study abroad fair for students to browse through various study abroad and cultural experiences offered through the university.

What’s next?

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In total, 144 students participated in the Passport Caravan event. Although the grant only covered the first 100 students, campus partners came together to provide the additional support needed to fully fund the extra students. KU faculty and staff were thrilled with the success of the event, and have prioritized building off the momentum created by the event to establish and expand opportunities for student engagement in global experiences. Our TRIO Student Support Services office has created a Developing Global Perspective course that allows students to study abroad for a week in Costa Rica over the summer.

TRIO is able to offer tuition fee waivers and administrative support to help make the course and trip affordable for students. Other programs have set aside specific funding that students can access to help offset costs of experiential learning experiences. KU Undergraduate Studies has added a passport matching fund to this year’s crowdfunding event One Day, One KU, in hopes of receiving donations to establish a passport fund for underrepresented student populations in study abroad.

The success of the Passport Caravan event has energized and strengthened campus partnerships that will ultimately benefit KU students, and we are excited for what the future holds.

To learn more about KU's success initiatives click here.