The idea for a peer-reviewed research journal focused on the field of study abroad was born at Boston University in 1994 when Brian Whalen proposed it to Timothy Perkins, who was then Assistant Vice President for International Programs. Noting that there was a need for more research-based and provocative writing about study abroad, they saw an opportunity to shape the future of the field by elevating the discourse about it.
Perkins became Executive Editor and Whalen Editor of this new venture, and they invited a group of colleagues to come together to discuss the project. The group met in the fall of 1994 at the home of Judy Tilson, then Director of Study Abroad at the University of North Carolina, and spent the weekend in collegial and invigorating conversation about the new journal. Besides Perkins, Tilson, and Whalen, those attending, with their institutional affiliation at the time, included: Rhoda Borcherding, Pomona College; Michael Monahan, Macalester College; Ned Quigley, Boston University; Thomas Ricks, Villanova University; and Barbara Rowe, Bucknell University. After this meeting, the journal was launched as Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad (name proposed by Thomas Ricks) and the first volume appeared in the fall of 1995.
From 1995 to 1998 Frontiers published three volumes. Many of the articles were commissioned, although some were unsolicited and offered a glimpse of the type of rigorous and useful research that would fill the pages of the journal in the coming years. For example, Twombly’s “Piropos and Friendship: Gender and Culture Clash in Study Abroad,” which appeared in the first volume, is to this day one of the most oft-cited articles to have appeared in Frontiers.
During this time Frontiers was owned and published by Boston University. However, in 1997 the editorial seat transitioned to Marist College when Whalen left Boston University to become Director of International Education there. In 1998, Boston University turned the rights of the journal over to Whalen, who incorporated Frontiers as a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization and formed a consortium of colleges and universities that supported the journal. The initial consortium included the following institutions: Binghamton University, Bucknell University, Drexel University, Macalester College, Marist College, Pomona College, University of Southern California, and Villanova University. Later, additional institutions joined the consortium and supported the journal over the years. These institutions included: Arcadia University, Beloit College, Butler University, Central College, Dickinson College, Georgetown University, Grinnell College, Harvard University, James Madison University, Kalamazoo College, Middlebury College, Missouri Southern State University, New York University, Partnership for Global Education of Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Union College, Rutgers University, School for International Training, The Pennsylvania State University, Tufts University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Richmond, University of Texas at Austin, University of Tulsa, and Yale University.
In late 1999 the editorial seat of Frontiers moved to Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania when Whalen became Associate Dean and Director of Global Education there. In 2002 Frontiers became a strategic partner of The Forum on Education Abroad. As part of this partnership Frontiers provided complimentary subscriptions to all Forum member institutions.
From 2005-2008 Frontiers and The Forum collaborated in publishing three Special Issues containing undergraduate research from the top students selected in The Forum’s Undergraduate Research Award competition. These Special Issues, funded by a grant from the IFSA Foundation, showcased a wide range of high quality undergraduate research conducted as part of students’ education abroad programs.
Another Forum-Frontiers collaboration was the publication in 2007 of the first book produced by Frontiers: A History of US Study Abroad: Beginnings to 1965 by William W. Hoffa, a project also funded by the IFSA Foundation. Frontiers then published a follow-up book, A History of US Study Abroad: 1965-Present edited by Stephen C. DePaul and William W. Hoffa, in 2010.Together, these two books provide the field with the first and only comprehensive history of U.S. study abroad.
Frontiers began to publish the first of several Special Issues on different education abroad themes and topics in 1997. These volumes were overseen by Guest Editors and included articles by invited authors as well as articles selected through a call for manuscripts. These Special Issues included: The Sciences and Education Abroad (1997); Language Learning in a Study Abroad Context (1998); Perspectives on Area Studies and Study Abroad (2000); Experiential Education and Study Abroad (2002); Assessment of Study Abroad Learning (2004); Study Abroad and the City (2011). These Special Issues were very well received and mark key developments in education abroad.
The Frontiers editorial board decided to become an exclusively online journal in 2013 as a way to reduce both labor and costs and to promote its free and open access. Following the transition to open access, manuscripts are still subjected to the same double-blind peer review process to ensure quality. Approximately 25% of manuscripts are accepted for publication.
In 2015 the Frontiers editorial board proposed to turn the journal over to The Forum on Education Abroad and presented this idea to The Forum Board of Directors. The Board unanimously accepted the proposal and on July 1, 2015 The Forum assumed the ownership and management of Frontiers.
For the past 20 years the success of Frontiers has depended on the dedication of many colleagues and institutions. These have included the editorial board members, manuscript reviewers, host institutions, sponsoring institutions, Brian Whalen, the editor, Annmarie Whalen, managing editor, and Colin Ireland, associate editor/copyeditor. Under the ownership and management of The Forum, the future of Frontiers will be even brighter than its first 20 years.