IDEAS grant supports development of USC Annenberg’s first-of-its-kind study abroad program in Latin America

IDEAS Grant Supports USC Annenberg's Global Reach

Led by Professor of Professional Practice Amara Aguilar, USC Annenberg has been awarded a 2022 IDEAS (Increase and Diversify Education Abroad for U.S. Students) grant through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ USA Study Abroad branch, and its implementing partner, World Learning.

With the support of the IDEAS grant, Aguilar will design, develop and launch “MESA: Mexico Experiential Storytelling Abroad,” a dual-language, semester-long study abroad course in Mexico. The program will enable USC Annenberg to continue to expand and diversify the school’s undergraduate student participation in study abroad and its capacity to engage with more diverse destinations abroad.

Aguilar said her aim is to create a model for a global education program that is accessible in the face of academic, social and economic barriers. In addition, she hopes to meet the needs of students who are historically underrepresented in study abroad, including Latinx/Hispanic, first-generation and low-income students.

The course’s hybrid design will allow students based in Los Angeles to engage in virtual international activities such as reporting for international media in Mexico, and to make field visits to Mexico City, Tijuana and Mérida for immersion activities. The curriculum will include intercultural storytelling, fact-based reporting, in-depth explorations of the themes of journalism and civil society, international context, and collaborations with international media and educational partners.

“I am really proud to be given this opportunity to establish this first-of-its-kind international study option in Latin America for USC Annenberg students,” Aguilar said. “Mexico is one of the most important media markets to U.S. interests, given its population, proximity, trade relationship, migration, and security significance. Our hybrid study abroad program will enable our students and faculty to gain greater insight into the deep cultural and economic ties between the two countries, and ultimately contribute to a stronger civil society.”

USC Annenberg anticipates enrolling the first cohort of students in the “Mexico Experiential Storytelling Abroad” program in Fall 2023. Prior to that, Aguilar, together with Professor of Professional Practice and Associate Dean for Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Access Laura Castaneda, will investigate possible barriers to study abroad for Hispanic/Latinx, first-generation and low income students at the school to help inform the course’s design. Aguilar will work closely with Angela McCracken, director of USC’s Mexico office, and Georgia Stahl, senior assistant director international programs at USC Annenberg, to initiate partnership development and to determine field visits.

“My hope is that USC Annenberg can develop a replicable model for flexible, economical and accessible study abroad that can be adopted more broadly at USC and other universities to build their own study abroad capacity,” Aguilar said.

The Mexico Experiential Storytelling Abroad project was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.

BY USC Annenberg