From day one, USAC has been for students and about students. It has been creating original and meaningful international education opportunities — authentic, affordable, academically and culturally high quality — for four decades. It was born from a spark of creativity, courage, and ingenuity, and as we celebrate our 40th anniversary, USAC still functions with those same defining characteristics.
A Strong Foundation
Over the course of his tenure, USAC founder Carmelo Urza often told the story of how the organization first operated out of the trunk of a car in the 1980s. It was a trunk full of textbooks and the beginnings of what would become a worldwide network of partner institutions serving several thousand students per year through global experience.
Carmelo’s goal had been to create a viable, ongoing program with origins in the Basque Country — a goal at which he succeeded.
USAC was founded in collaboration with a few small, but mighty, partners at UNR and Boise State. Large and small institutions such as Fresno State, University of Idaho, UNLV, and more, soon joined the spunky group of planners and academics. Over the years, the consortium grew in scope, style, and diversity to number 35 affiliate institutions and hundreds of dedicated partner schools across the now expansive USAC network.
Former UNR President Marc Johnson said at the time of Carmelo’s 2017 retirement that the founders helped create an excellent vehicle to broaden students’ perspectives through their introduction to foreign lands and cultures.
We are here today, 40 years later, because of that group’s vision, courage, and foresight.
“Congratulations to all the colleagues who have trailblazed a new and successful study abroad model. Together we created an organization that has served, and continues to serve, students and colleges exceptionally well and of which we can all be proud.“
– Former USAC President and CEO Carmelo Urza, October 3, 2022
The Future of Study Abroad
True to our history of tenacity and accomplishment, the USAC organization has kept growing steadily and never looked back. Since its inception in 1982, USAC has supported the educational journey of more than 65,000 students, countless faculty, and colleagues around the globe. We’ve grown from our first flagship program in San Sebastian, Spain, onward to Pau, France; Torino, Italy; Santiago, Chile, and ultimately more than 50 programs in almost 30 countries. Our newest additions have been established in Khon Kaen, Thailand and Lisbon, Portugal. And more are on the way!
We believe in quality, in connection, in relatively small group sizes so that students are well-cared for, and staff and students grow to know each other well. Instead of following the crowd, our programs are most often based in unique, small- to midsize cities, authentic and off the beaten tourist path. As a result, they’re more aligned to a student’s budget. Our students learn, live, and speak with locals. And in the end, ideally, they become a local.
Our foundation is in being transparent, doing what’s right and best, and reflecting on our mission as we move forward. As a nonprofit, USAC doesn’t charge students unnecessary or inflated fees. Over the years, we’ve grown to know what it takes to operate an international program of integrity — and we continue to expand those opportunities for students every year.
More of Everything
The next 18 months will reveal new USAC programs and new initiatives, and you’re invited to be a part of that growth and excitement. A few examples:
- To honor our 40th anniversary, USAC is awarding 40 $1,000 flight vouchers to students for their 2023 travel.
- We’re increasing our scholarship funds, which have traditionally surpassed a distribution of $2 million per year. And we have created new scholarships in honor of two recently retired veteran Resident Directors, Alvaro Carredano and Patricia O’Connor.
- We will unveil new partnerships, program sites and sessions in several regions and continents of the world.
- We’ll also continue to grow our network of partners and friends across the U.S., at higher education institutions of all kinds, sizes, and locations.
Most importantly, we’re actively listening to the needs and preferences of our students, staff, and partner institutions. We’re more attuned to mental health and wellness, including increased training and support for students and staff. And we’re giving back to the community through our 40-hour volunteer program for USAC staff.
Refreshed Curriculum and Real-World Experience
Our curriculum has refreshed to include more courses and activities in social justice, gender, race and identity; health and STEM; practical and professional skills such as business Chinese, Spanish and Italian; Spanish, French and Italian for health professions; meditation and mindfulness, and more Coursework, volunteering, and service-learning related to timely topics of climate and sustainability are increasing and include sustainable tourism in France, environmental courses in India and Germany, and water conservation in Costa Rica.
Internships — both in person and virtual — continue to play an important role, providing students hands-on experience and exposure to fields like marketing, engineering, communication, arts, hospitality, and more. Health and sport courses like yoga, Tai Chi, Muay Thai, surfing, windsurfing, and dance round out cultural electives. And this is just a glimpse of what’s ahead for USAC students in the coming months and years.
Advancing our Mission
When I became CEO and President of USAC after 17 years with the organization, the baton was passed, but the mission remained the same: to care for students, to facilitate their meaningful learning and personal growth, and to help them engage as citizens of the world. Never more than now does the world need opportunities surrounding integrity, hope, and positive change.
We’ve always been a tightly connected organization of worldwide staff, partners, and friends, with relationships based on trust, respect, dedication, and support. Forty years after that first trunk of books was opened, USAC still embodies those qualities — and under my watch, USAC will continue to do so far into the future. Discord and inequity have no place in the USAC community.
As the world re-emerges from COVID, and study abroad reawakens, USAC is here, even more prepared and motivated by the lessons we’ve learned over these turbulent years. We’re ready to open the world to our students.
Your future begins now. With USAC, you can explore the world, pursue your dreams, make new friends, build your skills, and become whoever you want to be. Visit usac.edu to discover a world of opportunities.