Published October 6, 2021
The travel bug first hit Adam Rubin at age 11 when he spent six months in the South Pacific while accompanying his father on sabbatical.
In the years since, he has visited more than 70 countries around the world, including Japan, where he lived for 10 years.
Now, Rubin — who started at UB in September as assistant vice provost and director of education abroad — is ready to help students discover the world for themselves.
“There are so many perceived or real barriers to study abroad and my goal is to help students overcome those barriers — and to find a program that meets their needs,” he says.
The first task for Rubin, who has 25 years of experience in the field of international education, is to get study abroad up and running again at UB after the pandemic grounded the program for this fall and the entirety of the 2020-21 academic year.
“There was a formal, education-abroad relaunch plan that the SUNY campuses put together and that was submitted to the governor’s office over the summer,” Rubin says. “We are still waiting for a response to that relaunch plan so technically, right now, things are still suspended.”
He hopes a full complement of study-abroad programs can return for the spring semester.
“The pandemic is still here,” Rubin says. “We have to monitor conditions and make sure that we’re doing our due diligence to keep students, faculty and staff as safe as possible. We also want to be transparent with students about the need for patience and flexibility.”
A native of Walla Walla, Wash., Rubin graduated from Whitman College, where his father was a psychology professor.
Instead of pursuing a career in his majors — economics and pre-med — Rubin chose his affection for international travel and left for Japan, where he had his first study-abroad experience as a teenager. This time, he stayed for a couple years teaching at a high school as part of a teaching exchange program.
Rubin returned to the U.S. and earned a graduate degree in East Asian studies from Stanford University before going back to Japan. Inevitably, he landed a job there with the Council on International Educational Exchange, a not-for-profit that operates study-abroad programs for colleges and universities all over the world.
Rubin would spend the next 20 years at the organization, starting as a program director in Tokyo before rising to executive director of program development and evaluation responsible for all of the non-profit’s study-abroad programs.
“It gave me a really nice, broad view of the world and to see destinations not just as a pin on the map, but as a new opportunity for students,” he says.
Most recently, Rubin was director of Institutional Relations and Enrollment Management in the College of Global Studies at Arcadia University in suburban Philadelphia.
At UB, roughly 500 to 600 students typically go abroad each year on academic, credit-bearing programs, while another 200 to 300 travel abroad on non-credit programs, usually through individual schools and departments, Rubin says.
In 2018-19, prior to the pandemic, UB students traveled abroad to some 50 different countries, from Jamaica to Japan, Ireland to India, Turkey to Tanzania.
Rubin says the combination of his arrival and the pandemic pause is a natural opportunity to assess the university’s study-abroad program — what’s working and what’s not.
“My basic goal is to position UB education abroad as inclusive, academically rewarding, culturally engaging and offering diverse opportunities,” he says. “I also want to stress that I’m eager to engage more with faculty on the development of new programs and student options.”
Ultimately, Rubin wants to help more UB students get the opportunity to study abroad by addressing the barriers — both real and perceived.
Rubin calls them the three Cs.
“The first is cost,” he says.
Institutions recognize college is expensive and are doing more to make study abroad financially possible by keeping fees low, working out agreements with overseas universities and adding scholarship money.
Curriculum is the second barrier for those concerned about course sequencing and graduating on time. There’s also the reality that a lot of academic disciplines haven’t been represented in study abroad.
“In the past, study abroad was usually about going abroad for a semester or year to study a foreign language,” Rubin says. “Now, the trend is not only toward shorter programs, but also toward programs that incorporate credit-bearing internships, research and service learning.”
The third barrier is culture. In many cases, this includes historically underrepresented students who never thought of traveling abroad because it’s never been part of their culture. Rubin stresses the importance of ensuring UB’s study-abroad programs are accessible and inclusive.
“Even if you’re a first-generation student, even if you’ve never traveled abroad, even if you don’t come from a family with a lot of money, there are many different study-abroad options for you,” he says.
“The phrase I use a lot is, ‘meeting the student where they are.’ That’s something that we really need to do.”
Rubin relocated from Maine. He is an outdoor enthusiast and avid photographer who enjoys tennis, soccer and downhill skiing. He has two children, Alex, who attends Georgetown University, and Amelie, a freshman at Williamsville North High School.
As for his next adventure, he’s looking forward to exploring Western New York.