NMU alumnus Russ Phillips (2000) knows the value of study-abroad experiences. He spent a year in Swansea, Wales, as an international studies major at NMU. Now he facilitates similar opportunities for college students nationwide as a senior manager at the Council on International Educational Exchange. Phillips recently returned to campus in his CIEE capacity to participate in the NMU study-abroad fair, providing information to students and faculty members.
“It’s becoming more common for students to gain some international experience during college,” he said. “Some of that’s because schools are investing more time and energy in promoting the value of study abroad. It’s also become more accessible for students to go places with so many options to choose from. For many, it could be their first time leaving the country, or even their state. It’s always eye-opening to see how other folks live and learn. It teaches you more about yourself and your own culture. Becoming inter-culturally competent is also important to employers because this is such a global society.”
Phillips said faculty-led study abroad programs, typically shorter in duration, can be particularly beneficial for students who lack the time or financial resources to commit to a full semester or year. They also foster greater faculty engagement with students and enhance learning by bringing classroom concepts to life through personal experience.
Because of the increased emphasis on international study, the industry has become more competitive in the last decade. CIEE is one of several NMU partners. Through its Global Scholars Program, it offers $10,000 scholarships that can be applied to a semester of study in one of three European cities. Phillips said CIEE strives to be innovative to remain at the forefront of the growing field. He said ecology-focused programs in Costa Rica and elsewhere tend to be more popular with NMU students because many have a strong appreciation for the outdoors.
“I was the same way—I loved the different seasons and the mass amount of snow here,” said the California native. “I had an incredible undergraduate experience at Northern and made amazing friends who I keep in touch with to this day. It’s nice to come back to a place that felt like home for a number of years and see how much it’s changed and grown.”
Phillips manages a sales and marketing team that promotes CIEE programs. He is based in Portland, Maine.