Forum Announces Recipients of the Award for Academic Achievement Abroad

In celebration of International Education Week, The Forum on Education Abroad is proud to announce the recipients of its 2016 Award for Academic Achievement Abroad:



Student: Shanna Law, Juniata College
Nominating member: BCA Study Abroad
Program: BCA Dunedin
Project: “Geology, evaporative salt accumulation and geoecology at Springvale historic gold mine, Central Otago, New Zealand”




Student: Jeb Polstein, Bowdoin College
Nominating member: South India Term Abroad (SITA)
Program: South India Term Abroad
Project: “Agrarian Freedom in Madurai’s Urban Agriculture”



The Forum’s Award for Academic Achievement Abroad (formerly known as the Undergraduate Research Award) recognizes excellence in academic work completed by students as part of an education abroad program. The students will present their work at a plenary session at The Forum’s 13th Annual Conference in Seattle on March 31, 2017. The students’ projects were judged by faculty from Forum member institutions and organizations.

Nominated students completed academic projects in a range of fields that also included architecture, psychology, political science, foreign languages and translation, and community health, exemplifying that education abroad informs many disciplines. The selection committee reviewed 43 nominations this year. Forum President and CEO Brian Whalen said of the selection process: “It was a difficult choice, because we received so many strong and interesting nominations. Ultimately, these winners demonstrate the high quality of academic achievement we want to see from our education abroad students.”

Jacob (Jeb) Polstein, a student at Bowdoin College, completed his project while participating in a program sponsored by South India Term Abroad (SITA) in Madurai, India. He wrote a paper investigating the rise of urban agriculture in Madurai, the third largest urban area in Tamil Nadu, based on ethnographic data collected from three sites around the city. His work explored how the capitalistic promotion of urban agricultural movements complicates traditional local and global agrarian ideologies in the region.

Jeb’s mentor on the project, Aaron Theodore Samuel, Resident Director at SITA, wrote: “Jeb’s [project] serves as an example of what I hope my current and future students can accomplish while conducting research abroad… Additionally, Jeb’s entire research process was highlighted by his creative, engaging means of gathering data and his high ethical standards. Through this research, Jeb has made the most of his experience abroad and serves as an example of the impact that experience abroad can have on brilliant young minds.”

When he learned he would be receiving this year’s award, Jeb wrote, “I am thrilled to see my project recognized by The Forum on Education Abroad. Conducting my research in South India was simultaneously eye-opening, exciting, and challenging. It forced me to grow as both a scholar and a human. Earning this award more than validates my efforts, and is a testament to the many people who made my research possible. More importantly, I am happy to shed light on Madurai’s urban agriculture. As development proceeds in Madurai and elsewhere, urban agriculture will continue to have crucial practical and ideological implications.”

Shanna Law is a recent graduate of Juniata College. While enrolled in the BCA Study Abroad program in Dunedin, New Zealand, Shanna conducted research investigating the ecological impacts of gold mining, which required collecting soil samples in the field and analyzing them in the lab, and creating hand-drawn and digital maps of the research site. Her research, which has been presented at an academic conference and published the New Zealand Journal of Geology & Geophysic, provides support for varying landscapes to increase biodiversity in mine rehabilitation.

Of Shanna’s work, her mentor Dave Craw, Professor of Geology at the University of Otago remarked, “[S]he was completely professional, with a keen eye for detail. I have never previously dealt with such a thorough, innovative, and dedicated undergraduate student. The final written report was excellent in construction, creativity and thoroughness. I think that Shanna is a highly productive and innovative researcher, and she certainly took advantage of her experience here [in New Zealand] to further her education.”

When told of winning the award, Shanna responded, “Doing undergraduate research while I studied abroad in New Zealand was instrumental to my development as a scientist, a professional, and a global citizen. I learned new skills, exercised my independence, and made connections with professionals who do the kind of work that I am interested in. This motivates me to pursue advanced academic degrees in Geology and Geochemistry. Being honored with The Forum on Education Abroad’s 2016 Award for Academic Achievement is highly rewarding. This indicates to me that my efforts to pursue scientific advancement and a global mindset are appreciated by others, and this encourages me to strive for continued international engagement in my future.”

For more information about the award, visit: