What does the Tipping Point have to do with Study Abroad?

(Apologizing in advance for this stream of consciousness post – thanks for sticking with me anyway :-).)

I’m not really sure where this idea came from (thanks God!), but one day something told me to check to see if our library had Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. Now, I have started reading this book before – but it was one of those popular books that every one was reading and I’m like yeah, I get it but I never felt compelled to finish it. Until now.

Title of this post doesn’t tell the full story. The real title should be “What does The Tipping Pointhave to do with underrepresentation in study abroad?” And the answer to that – is everything. As I was sitting with a blank Microsoft Word document in front of me last week (some people call this brainstorming? Planning? The calm before the storm?), I couldn’t decide where I should start when it comes to developing the strategic plan to diversify Education Abroad at the University of Maryland. I know we can put on all of these programs, we can do recruitment, develop partnerships – there are tons of activities that we can do but that doesn’t really get to the root of why students of color aren’t studying abroad.

There has to be a shift.

There has to be a shift in the mindset of our students. And that shift isn’t going to come from me talking to a room full of students at the cultural center. It has to be organic. It has to be widespread. It has to be phenomenal. It’s a social change. Right now our students don’t look at study abroad as something that’s for them. But that can change.

My ultimate goal is to normalize study abroad for students of color. And I believe The Tipping Point can shed some light as to why it occurs, how I can initiate that change, and where our tipping point resides here on campus. I do feel like there’s a shift that’s already started, but I don’t think we’re going about it in the most effective way.

As Malcolm Gladwell says in the introduction, “Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.”

Who’s ready for study abroad to go viral? *raises both hands. then puts them down to get to work.*


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