JMU study abroad program receives national recognition at Forum Awards

Katie Sensabaugh, Director of JMU Study Abroad, accepts the Forum Award for Excellence in Curriculum Design on behalf of Drs. Sturm and Staton at the Forum's 20th Annual Conference in Boston, MA in March, 2024.

The Center for Global Engagement is pleased to announce that a JMU study abroad program received the award for Excellence in Curriculum Design presented by The Forum on Education Abroad, a national study abroad organization. Dr. Debbie Sturm and Dr. Renee Staton were announced as the 2023 winners of the award during the Forum’s annual conference in March, and were selected based on their innovative study abroad program called “Nature, Creativity & Well-Being Across the Lifespan in Scotland” that ran during summer 2023. Drs. Sturm and Staton were chosen winners over finalists from Colorado State University, Purdue University, and University of California, Irvine. The program was awarded for providing an academically rigorous program of study, fostering student development, enriching the classroom experience through the use of the location, and setting a precedent for its exceptional approach to student learning.

240405_forumawardphotos-1007.jpgBoth Dr. Sturm and Dr. Staton are pioneers in their field, and found incredible ways to create ties between psychological theories, well-being, nature, education and cross-cultural learning. The study abroad course also incorporated themes based on the relationship between the natural world and mental health, creativity, and resilience. Students not only learned from local experts, but they had the opportunity to plant trees with retirees and learn about community-inspired nature preservation programs; forage with a local naturist and discuss the impact of tourism on nature and community wellness; and work with children at a nature-based kindergarten. Students on the program received advanced training and were challenged to consider how they would use their experience abroad to positively influence JMU and the surrounding community.

Dr. Staton shared her thoughts with the Forum: “Both of us have had multiple experiences and learning opportunities, and I believe we both see, time and again, how powerful these experiences are for our students and building self-awareness, cultural humility, and fluency and a greater sense of meaning, worth and overall connection,” expressed Dr. Staton. “This particular program was especially important to us as mental health professionals and both licensed professionals, in addition to being faculty members, and this was important because of potential it offered to connect the wellness with nature and involvement with the natural world.”

The Forum on Education Abroad is a national organization “recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission as the Standards Development Organization for the field of education abroad.”

Please join the Center for Global Engagement in congratulating Drs. Sturm and Staton!


Back to Top

by Katie Sensabaugh

Published: Friday, April 5, 2024

Last Updated: Monday, April 8, 2024

Related Articles