By Jennifer Acosta, General Manager of ISA
ISA has just received recognition from the Forum on Education Abroad for meeting the Standards of Good Practice. While we celebrate this satisfying conclusion to a years-long QUIP process, the much more important work of incorporating the invaluable feedback from our peers in the education abroad field lies ahead of us. In the midst of perhaps the most difficult period for our field in a generation, it is work that I wholeheartedly look forward to doing.
ISA has a long history with the QUIP. In 2009, we became one of the first organizations to receive QUIP recognition after a thorough review of our Granada, Spain program. At the time, the QUIP was an evaluation of individual study abroad programs, rather than the institutional review that it is now. While our experience more than a decade ago was helpful, this more recent review was far more comprehensive and valuable for us as an organization. After completing comprehensive self-studies, multiple site visits and interviews conducted by peer reviewers, and reflection and response to those recommendations by our peers, I can honestly say that no stone was left unturned.
The nature of being a private study abroad provider means that there is a scrutiny of everything that we do. We see this as a positive because it helps us continue to grow and improve as we aspire to meet the high standard that’s rightfully expected of us. There were so many highlights revealed through the QUIP process about the good work we’re doing, but of course, we’re not perfect! No matter how proud you are of the work that you do, there’s always the anxiety that someone will shine a light on all your faults, or even worse, misunderstand or misrepresent the work that you do.
And while the QUIP is certainly a bright spotlight, it shows your flaws and excellence equally. Each of our peer reviewers had their own perspectives, opinions, and areas of focus, but all are experienced education abroad professionals, well-versed in the Standards of Good Practice. It is clear that they approached this monumental task with open minds, considering each aspect of ISA as an organization in relation to the Standards. This resulted in high praise and hard questions, and the more we opened ourselves up and became comfortable with the process and the reviewers themselves, the more value we gained from their examination. My sincere thanks go out to these consummate professionals for their thoughtful approach to a complicated process.
In the time that it took to complete the QUIP, both ISA and the Forum have undergone remarkable change. And now, our field and perhaps all of higher education is changing as well. Managing change and adapting to unprecedented circumstances takes a lot of resources, resources that are often in short supply. But truthfully, if we want to come out of this transition better than we were (and aspire for the same for our field), how can that be possible without deep introspection and outside perspectives?
Doubling down on that premise, we recently completed another self-study, completely separate from the QUIP, based on the new 6th edition of the Standards of Good Practice. This new edition incorporates a critical focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, among other positive changes. Combining this with the feedback we received from the QUIP, I feel that we are now incredibly well-equipped to uniquely contribute to the field and benefit the students we serve. Make no mistake, these efforts take an incredible amount of time from everyone in the organization, but they are all worthwhile, perhaps now more than ever.
ISA is honored to be recognized by the Forum on their QUIP Recognition page, but much more than that, we are grateful to be a part of a field that values such honest review and critical engagement on sensitive topics. The future of education abroad is in embracing difficult conversations in all forms, and that requires making ourselves a little vulnerable and being more open. The QUIP and the events of this year have affirmed this for me and my colleagues at ISA, and we are all looking forward to turning these lessons into action and being a part of this next evolution of study abroad.