API Badge Program | API Study Abroad

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Interview with Joan Solaún.

API Institutional Relations team member, Emily Nagle had the opportunity to interview API’s Director of Caribbean and Latin American Programming, Joan Solaún. Joan was recently honored with the NAFSA International Education Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Field in honor of Marita Houlihan.  “Given Joan Solaún’s warm, vibrant character, it is no surprise that her passion for [...]

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The needs of program participants continue to evolve and educational trends shift to meet the demands of the modern student. At Academic Programs International (API), we are committed to incorporating high-impact educational practices into our program models. We believe that persistent dedication to educational innovation allows us to better engage this generation of students.

We know our students seek competency and skill-based learning opportunities. There has been published research and anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of the gamification of student learning. To build upon this trend, and expand upon the learning management systems (LMS) already in place to support student learning, the API Learning and Engagement Badge Program was born in August 2016. Through this innovative new program, API seeks to promote goals central to our work as a field with our program participants: intercultural learning, purposeful community engagement, professional skill and career development, global leadership, and mindful travel.

API Learning and Engagement Badge Program


The API Learning and Engagement Badge Program allows API to engage participants in the important work of aligning WHAT they do with WHY they do it — promoting skill development and reflection with each learning opportunity (e.g., conducting cultural research during the pre-departure phase, participating in a cultural event on-site, committing to a volunteer activity.) Participants in the API Learning and Engagement Badge Program will earn portable, digital badges for use on résumés, e-portfolios, LinkedIn profiles, personal branding, and websites.  By clicking on the electronic badge icons, viewers will be linked to a detailed explanation of the learning goals behind each badge and the intentional activities the participant completed to earn it.

The API Learning and Engagement Badge Program is wide-ranging, allowing participants the opportunity to participate and earn learning badges before, during, and after their education abroad experience.  We value the significant learning that happens during each phase of the participant’s experience and have worked to select badge activities that support this specialized learning.


As an organization, API believe that the following goals are central to our work and seeks to maximize the impact the experience of studying, interning, or volunteering abroad has on each participant.  The learning goals of the API Learning and Engagement Badge Program are reflected in the five API Badges, which include:

Career Development:

The learner who earns this badge will display dedicated action toward integrating their international experience into their future career and professional trajectory.  The learner will be familiar with their individual outcomes of international experience and how those outcomes strengthen their career preparedness and complement their skill set.



Community Engagement:

The learner who earns this badge will display commitment toward proactive and meaningful engagement with their immediate community, whether at home or abroad.



Intercultural Learning:

The learner who earns this badge will display an active interest in learning about the host culture and international environment in diverse ways.  The learner will apply cultural knowledge to more successfully navigate international environments.




The learner who earns this badge will display the core tenets of successful leadership, including the ability to successfully connect, collaborate, advocate, and integrate their international experience and newfound intercultural knowledge into their personal leadership philosophy.



Mindful Travel:

The learner who earns this badge will display an intentional approach to international travel, including an awareness of safe travel practices, budgeting and financial implications of travel, and the responsibility of sustainable travel.




The API Learning and Engagement Badge Program will be managed by a cross-divisional team at API and will utilize existing digital platforms and the API learning management system (LMS.)

The API Learning and Engagement Badge Program debuts in Fall 2017 with an initial cohort of participants in three study abroad locations with an additional site in Spring 2018.  Following assessment and evaluation, API has a goal of offering participation in the badge program to API participants in all sites.


As an organization, API has continually evaluated student learning needs and provided support to help students achieve their education abroad goals. API’s transition to online support materials in 2003 marked an opportunity to embrace new technology and offer students access to critical information on their own timeline. In 2005, the API Toolbox debuted as a centralized support system for student preparation pre-departure, success on-site, and support during re-entry. Since 2005, API has embraced new technologies and management systems to keep pace with changing student needs and digital learning fluency. Online orientation materials, peer-to-peer advising management, video and media campaigns to highlight student voices, and myriad other learning-focused online and in-person trainings and campaigns demonstrate API’s commitment to meeting students where they are, keeping them fulfilled and thriving.