by Pii-Tuulia Nikula and Karen McBride
The edited volume, Sustainable Education Abroad: Striving for Change, was published by The Forum on Education Abroad in March 2023 (McBride & Nikula, 2023). It belongs to the Standards in Action book series which highlights some of the challenges the field of education abroad is facing and proposes practical actions for the field to reinvent itself for the future. All of the books in this series address critical but under-explored perspectives, such as those associated with decolonization, inclusiveness, and the perspectives of HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) within the education abroad field (The Forum on Education Abroad, n.d.).
The fourth book in this series, Sustainable Education Abroad: Striving for Change, explores the intersection of education abroad and sustainability. Climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and other environmental issues need to be urgently addressed. For instance, the climate crisis is already causing and contributing to the loss of lives, livelihoods, and properties around the world, and we can expect the negative effects to become more destructive with the continued heating of the planet (IPCC, 2023). Nevertheless, the intersection of environmental problems and international education is still not a prominent topic, and something that is only rarely prioritized in international education design.
This book, Sustainable Education Abroad: Striving for Change, features scholars and practitioners from around the globe that analyze these issues. The editors are hoping to convey both urgency and a sense of hope and opportunity. We are aware of the many challenges that the field is facing, including the practical realities which often make environmental sustainability a niche issue or a ‘nice-to-have’ perspective. However, we can all contribute to and drive the change towards a more sustainable education abroad sector.
To our knowledge, this volume is the first of its kind on this critical topic. We see it as a way to accelerate the debate and help readers to lead change by providing insights into proven solutions. The book has five sections: Sustainability in Curriculum; Sustainability and the Student Perspective; Sustainability in Administration; Sustainability and Program Design; and Travel and Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Most of the chapters within these sections contribute to multiple themes, but the aforementioned section headings highlight the key aspects that the education abroad field should consider. The chapters deliver evidence-based analyses with clear practical applications and recommendations. Cultivating lasting change requires many actions. We need to be practical, but ambitious.
The book has its own limitations, and we invite others to continue the debate by offering new perspectives and issues not captured in this book. Our hope is to see more advanced contributions towards sustainable education abroad in the years to come.
We believe that our book encourages education abroad providers to go beyond approaches that are more superficial to critically evaluate all aspects of their education abroad operations using an environmental sustainability lens. We would like readers to consider ways to lead change within their own institutional contexts, whether it be at private or public organizations, or through teaching, research or administration focused roles.
The Forum on Education Abroad. (n.d.). Standards in Action Book Series. https://forumea.org/resources/publications/standards-in-action/
IPCC (2022). Synthesis Report of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report. https://report.ipcc.ch/ar6syr/pdf/IPCC_AR6_SYR_LongerReport.pdf
McBride, K. & Nikula, PT. (Eds.). (2023). Sustainable Education Abroad: Striving for Change. Carlisle, US: The Forum on Education Abroad. In Press.
About the Authors
Pii-Tuulia Nikula is a Principal Academic at Eastern Institute of Technology in New Zealand. Most of her research is focused on exploring sustainability issues within the field of international education. Pii-Tuulia is also one of the co-founders of CANIE (Climate Action Network for International Educators).
Karen McBride is a career international higher education professional with 18 years of experience cultivating international academic opportunities for American college students as well as visiting students and scholars from abroad to the U.S. She specializes in multi-faceted partnership development, education abroad programming and intercultural training. She is now focused on reconciling environmental sustainability, as well as issues around Climate Action and Climate Justice, with these endeavors, is the Past Chair of NAFSA’s Education Abroad Knowledge Community as well as a member of the Climate Reality Project Leadership Corps.