Friday, January 30, 2009

Recruiting for Study Abroad

The economy may be in rough shape, but my colleagues at Simpson are still spreading the word about study abroad opportunities. Marilyn Mueller, a management professor who will take students to Argentina in May, spoke Jan. 29 at a panel discussion. Ryan Rehmeier, center, an assistant a professor of biology who will take students to the Galapagos Islands in May, and Jim Palmieri, an economics professor who's taken students to several nations, also participated.

Improving Short-Term Programs

Short-term internationl programs are increasing in popularity nationwide, the Forum for Education Abroad says, and now the organization has come up with standards of good practice in those programs.

FEA considers short-term programs to be those of eight weeks or less and says they represent the greatest single kind of study-abroad experience for American students. They're attractive to a variety of students who can't or won't consider full-semester programs for economic, personal or social reasons.

(Our three-week May Term program at Simpson remains the most popular option for students who wish to take their studies abroad, but we have invested considerable funding and effort to build semester programs in England, Spain, Germany, French Polynesia and Thailand.)

The FEA standards will be an item of discussion at the FEA "Being There: Teaching and Learning Abroad" conference in Portland, Ore., in February. (We'll be providing coverage of the conference at Smart Study Abroad.)

For now, the new FEA standards are that short-terms study abroad programs should:
  • Be related to the education abroad mission of the organization and has well-defined academic and/or experiential objectives.
  • Be reviewed in the light of its stated educational purpose for fostering student learning and development.
  • Be maintained by organizations with clearly stated and publicly available policies on academic and non-academic matters.
  • Provide pre-travel orientation and support for students that is consistent with the institution's mission.
  • Maintain, and make publicly accessible, a commitment to fair and appropriate policies regarding student selection and conduct.
  • Have adequate personnel and financial resources.
  • Establish and maintain effective health, safety, security and risk management policies, procedures and faculty/staff training.
  • Be organized with standards set out in FEA's Code of Ethics for Education Abroad, especially with regards to operations, staffing, cultural sensitivity, avoidance of conflicts of interest, law and marketing.
A full copy of the new FEA standards report is available here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Today's Video: Agnes Scott College Abroad

New video is just up from Agnes Scott College, a women's liberal arts college in Atlanta, with faculty and students discussing what study abroad opportunities mean to them.

International Education Awards

Awards season isn't limited to Hollywood this month — the Institute for International Education will be honoring several universities and community colleges for their study-abroad programs at the IIE conference in New York in March.

Clemson University and the University of Kansas have earned IIE honors for a joint Maymester study-abroad program they operate in Carpi, Italy.

The schools are the winners of the Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education for their joint program, in which students from Clemson, Kansas and other universities are immersed in Italian classrooms for four weeks. The goal is to give future teachers the global skills and dispositions that they'll need to operate in diverse classrooms.

“In short, the beneficial tension of living and learning in new environments heightens their potential in addressing the individual needs of each child in their future classrooms,” says Doris R. Helms, vice president for academic affairs and provost at Clemson, in a release from the Institute for International Education

Vanderbilt won honorable mention in the Heiskell competition for its Initiative in Scholarship and Global Engagement. The year-long program begins each January with an on-campus core course, followed by summer service or a field-based project abroad, and a research-intensive seminar in the fall semester when students return to Nashville.

In the community-college competition, Scottsdale Community College in Arizona is the winner for its program titled “Australia and New Zealand: Connecting Communities, Sharing Cultures.”

In the five years since the SCC program began, more than 40 students — half of them native Americans — have visited with and learned from indigenous communities in Australia and New Zealand. The students engage issues regarding racism, water and land rights, sacred site protection and rural-to-urban transitions learning.

“By focusing on learning objectives that include connecting our own communities as well as those overseas, this unique education abroad program has strengthened our partnership with the Salt River Pima-Maricopia Indian community,” says SCC President Jan L. Gehler in the IIE release.

Honorable mention among community colleges went to Chaffey College in California for its Study Near and Far program, in which students raise money to finance student travel to South Africa. IIE says the recognition is to honor Chaffey's "socially minded and fiscally practical" approach to study abroad.

Another honorable mention went to Salt Lake Community College for its Vietnam Study Abroad Program, in which nursing student connect what they've learned in the classroom with the needs of the Vietnamese.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More Than 'Show Me the Money'

Colleges and universities face a number of challenges in selling study-abroad programs to their students in the coming years. And the challenges aren't only financial in nature.

Some soon-to-be-published research from a team of University of Iowa researchers argues that, while many colleges and universities are looking for more funds to support study-abroad opportunities, access to money is only one of several factors that enter into students' intents to take their work outside the country.

Mark Salisbury, Paul Umbach, Michael Paulsen and Ernest Pascarella will publish the results of their work in the March 2009 edition of Research in Higher Education. A conference version of their paper is available here.

According to the researchers, finances aren't the primary concern of undergraduate students who might benefit from a study-abroad experience. Even bigger are questions of social and cultural capital among undergraduate students — their interest in learning about other cultures, their attitude toward literacy and education in whole, and their level of high school involvement — that are difficult to significantly alter once students pack off to university.

In other words, developing an interest in study abroad among undergraduates is more challenging for institutions after their students show up on campus. 

And that, according to researchers, is a serious impediment in reaching the Congressionally established Lincoln Commission's goal of sending 1 million undergraduates abroad (a more than 400 percent increase from current levels of participation) by 2017. The assumption among many policy makers and academic leaders has been that more money for study abroad programs would lead to more students abroad.

To be sure, social-economic status does play a role in developing a student's intent to study abroad, according to the researchers. Students from higher income backgrounds are more likely to have accumulated critical social and cultural capital before attending college. Those students frequently attend the kinds of private liberal arts colleges were study-abroad programs have had the greatest impact.

The research may offer some insights on previously reported disparities in study-abroad participation rates based on gender, race and class. The greatest disparities regard gender, where women are twice as likely as men to participate in an abroad program.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Today's Video: Clark Atlanta in Jamaica

Clark Atlanta University in Georgia has some new video uploaded on its 2008 Jamaica program for students. The program is housed in the university's Department of Mass Media Arts.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Today's Video: Wofford Student in Mexico

Just added in the past couple of days at YouTube is this video slide show of Wofford College student Krista Jones' studies in Mexico.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Simpson's National Ranking in Study Abroad

Simpson College finds itself ranked 36th in the nation among baccalaureate institutions sending students abroad in 2006-2007, according to the latest data handed down from the Institute for International Education.

According to IIE, Simpson sent 270 students abroad that year and granted 425 degrees, meaning 63.5 percent of the number of students graduating had gone abroad. (I know — potentially a misleading statistic, but we'll take the publicity.)

The top 10 baccalaureate institutions on the IIE list are: Austin, Hartwick, Minnesota-Morris, Centre, Wofford, Colorado College, Kalamazoo, Bates, Goucher and St. Olaf. One other Iowa school, Luther, ranks 20th on the list.

Among doctoral institutions, Yeshiva University in New York, sent 75.7 percent of its undergraduates abroad in 2006-2007 to lead that category. The leading master's institution was Arcadia University in Pennsylvania, which sent 126.1 percent of its graduates abroad that year.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Top Health and Safety Concerns

As the opportunities for study abroad have grown in recent years, so have the opportunities for trouble for student health and safety.

The Forum for Education Abroad's annual State of the Field study for 2008 reflects the concerns of faculty members and administrators. The top worries for 2008 are:
  • Student mental health.
  • Alcohol consumption and substance abuse.
  • Risky student behavior.
  • Need for risk management and emergency protocols.
  • Personal safety.
  • Sexual harassment and sexual assault.
  • Crime.
  • Access to appropriate medical care.
  • Travel-related saftey.
  • Terrorism.
  • Political uncertainty.
  • Pandemics.
While the top two concerns in 2008 are the same as they were at the time of the Forum's last study in 2006, terrorism and pandemics have slid far down the list during the past two years. Those were the third and fourth leading concerns then.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Study Abroad Preparation for Students

Today I begin prepping my nine France-bound students for our 15-day travel course to Paris, Bordeaux and Nice in April and May. It's a one-credit academic course designed to help our students appreciate the difference between our travel program as an academic experience and what they'd likely experience if they were simply tourists seeing the country EuroTrip style.

The preparation for study abroad is crucial, which most leaders know but I've learned the hard way. When I first led a study-abroad course, in 2001, the preparation was limited to meetings at which we watched a couple of videos, filled out forms, made copies of passports and distributed airline tickets. Now we're a bit more rigorous about it.

Some institutions have detailed preparation processes for students. My own institution has but a part-time international education coordinator who is doing a great job of trying to systematize our study-abroad programs and introduce standards for what constitutes acceptable study-abroad opportunities.

The prep course increases in important when, as in my case, the instructor is leading a course on his or her own without the aid of a travel-course vender such as EF Tours or ACIS. I'll update the blog as we go through the process over the next several weeks, leading to our departure on April 27.

For now, it appears to me that preparation experiences need to focus broadly on the following themes:
  • Systems and procedures of travel courses: Getting the forms and passports in, explaining the rules, etc.
  • Defining culture broadly and the cultural ideals of the students' destinations.
  • Specific content of the course. In our case, our course is designed to expose students — most of whom speak little French at all — to the differing values and ways of life of Americans and the French.
There'll no doubt be much more than this. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mideast War Puts Brakes on Students

Israel's invasion of Gaza is forcing several colleges and universities to re-evaluate their study abroad programs in the Mideast, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports in this morning's editions.

Both the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University have pulled back on plans to send students to the region this coming term. Penn has held back five nursing students who were planning to study in Israel, and the school will likely suspend the program for the entire term. Rutgers has withdrawn support of nine students who planned to go to Israel, though six are planning to study on their own there.

That said, several institutions — Cornell, Swarthmore, Muhlenberg and Drexel — either will continue to send students to israel this spring or continue developing programs there.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Today's Video: Study Abroad in Italy

The Net generation is not only pretty good at studying abroad, but pretty darn good as well at putting together slick video on their experiences. Here's some just-posted video from Horologii:

Growing Abroad Interest in US — For Now

The Forum on Education Abroad is out today with its State of the Field Survey for 2008, and it's a good-and-bad news release.

As we've reported here earlier, the ballooning worldwide economic crisis could wipe out many of the gains we've seen in study abroad over the past decade. But U.S. colleges and universities appear to not be willing to let their programs wither without a fight.

Despite the worsening financial picture, 75 percent of the institutions in the FEA study say they're actively pushing for more students to go abroad. The push had at least limited impact on study abroad, with 53 percent of institutions saying their study-abroad numbers are up at least 11 percent over the past five years, and 87 percent say they've had at least a 1 percent increase in numbers of students studying abroad.

The economic pressure on study abroad will no doubt increase in 2009, and — as reported earlier here — we're already seeing some significant reluctance on the part of our students at Simpson to go abroad. As one of my students told me a few weeks ago: "My parents wouldn't support me going across the street for an off-campus program right now."

The full FEA report is online here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Economy and Study Abroad

Study abroad advocates are worrying whether the sliding world economy will have a significant impact on study abroad programs at U.S. universities. At Simpson, it appears to be putting the brakes on student willingness to spend time outside of the country as part of their studies.

The Institute of International Education says the past 10 years have seen phenomenal growth in study abroad among college students — from about 100,000 in 1996-97 to 241,791 in 2006-2007. We've seen similar growth at Simpson during that decade, but since then the question here is whether the numbers are going to hold out.

The initial figures aren't looking positive. Our popular May Term program has seen a precipitous drop in international travel over the past couple of years. Nearly 280 of our 1,500 students went abroad in May Term 2007, but that number fell to 197 last year and looks to be around 170 for this coming term.

We've had to cancel several trips for this spring due to low enrollment, and it appears that the only May Term excursions with guaranteed high interest among our students are those going to the United Kingdom or exotic warm-weather locales (such as a course that will travel this spring to the Galapagos Islands).

I've taught four study-abroad courses in Europe since 2001. Until this year, these all drew between 31-37 students. This year's course to France has only 9, a number secured only with intensive recruiting and budget cutting from our original plans. 

To be fair, we've beefed up semester study-abroad opportunities. In addition to our long-running programs in London and Germany, we've started or about to start programs in Thailand, French Polynesia and Spain. But my sense is that not enough students are flocking to those opportunities to offset the drop in May Term travel interest.

We'll be investigating what other colleges and universities are reporting  for their international education programs. For what it's worth, IIE says that in 2006-2007 (a year, remember, when terms such "mortgage meltdown" and "credit default swaps" and "economic bailouts" weren't in common usage):
  • The number of students studying abroad was up 8 percent from the year before. But Iowa students, who tend to be more frugal with college education, actually went abroad in slightly fewer numbers than in 2005-2006.
  • Nontraditional study abroad locations were rising in popularity. The big gainers among destinations in 2006-2007 were Ecuador, South Africa, Argentina, China and India.
  • The biggest losers among destinations were Australia, Mexico and Costa Rica.
  • The United Kingdom remains, by far, the most popular study abroad destination, followed by Italy, Spain and France. Almost half of all U.S. students who went abroad in 2006-2007 wound up studying in one of those countries.
One standout statistic that deserves greater attention is IIE's finding that 65 percent of those going abroad are women. Why isn't study abroad more popular among men?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Requiring Study Abroad

Here's a twist on the study abroad experience: New York University's Stern School of Business actually requires study abroad of its undergraduate students — and not just once, but several times over the course of the traditional four-year undergraduate experience.

Sally Blount-Lyon, dean of the Stern school, says her students spend part of sophomore year studying in London, part of junior year in Shanghai, and time after that in India and other developing markets.

Here's Blount-Lyon talking about the program and its goals:

Sounds great, but there is the fact that schools such as NYU (with tuition and fees of $38,683 per year before living expenses are factored in) are much better equipped to put on and require such programs. NYU is one of the nation's wealthiest universities, and no doubt a good share of the students attending the university are less financially stressed about study abroad than would be students at, say, my institution.

Blount-Lyon recognizes this, but she says there are ways that colleges can better integrate international perspectives into their curricula:
I would argue that moving undergraduate education in this direction is a social imperative. Given the ever-increasing connectedness of our complex world, students need to understand how political tensions, conflicting attitudes about globalization and religion, and the ever-expanding reach of free markets will impact worldwide security and the future of the global marketplace. And the best way to make that happen is to send them packing — inspired and determined to understand the wonders of the world around them.
It's not just business students who'd benefit, but nearly every student. The issue, of course, is money, but demographics also play a part. The student population in the United States is getting older, and more students have multiple responsibilities with work and family commitments.

Still, we could get more serious about study abroad — at least in terms of exposing students to a small taste of it. Some of my colleagues at Simpson and I have dreamed of a first-year program that would include an "introduction to study abroad" component that would have our new students spending just a few days in an international locale — Paris, Berlin, Kuala Lumpur, Buenos Aires, Bangkok, wherever. We'd love to find a way to build such study into tuition and fees for first-year students with an eye toward "hooking" them on travel courses and encouraging them to go back sometime during their time with us.

Yes, there are lots of pitfalls to such a plan. But if the idea is to get students to get out of the country, this is a good first idea to kick around.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

How Do You Study Abroad?

Let's get right to the multimedia...

Georgia Perimiter College sent "28 students, 3 professors and 1 video camera" to Peru in November 2008 for a study-abroad opportunity. The trip even warranted a story in the Chronicle of Higher Education. (Subscription required.) The video embedded here shows the ups and downs of study abroad, but it also shows the ups are well worth all the downs.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Smart Study Abroad

Here goes with a new blog: Smart Study Abroad, and I'll be using it to help document my attempts to put together a study-abroad course on my own. It's the first time I've tried such a thing.

I'm no stranger to travel abroad. As a professor at Simpson College in Iowa, a liberal arts school that puts a focus on study-abroad programs, I've led study groups to various European destinations three times over the past eights years. I've also participated in a faculty exchange with Curtin University in Perth, Australia.

But this year is different: Due to escalating costs and the declining economy, I'm taking on the task this year of planning and leading a travel course on my own, taking 9 Simpson students and an assistant with me on a 15-day excursion to Paris, Bordeaux and Nice in France in April and May.

This is a bit of stretch for me in that my skills in the French language are, well, minimal. But I'm game for about any challenge, and I'm very much looking forward to taking students to see what I've always considered to be a warm and welcoming nation and people.

I'm also a professor of journalism at my college, trying to embrace the multimedia revolution. I'm fortunate enough to be on sabbatical this term — which provides me with plenty of time to put together this study course. But I'm also using the sabbatical to create, promote and maintain this site in hopes of creating a community of college and high school faculty who believe in the benefits of study abroad but also need help in putting it all together.

I'm coming to find that it can be done, as the Beatles said, with a little help from our friends. So let's get to it!
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