Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pushing Study Abroad in STEM Fields

Study-abroad advocates have long faced a challenge in convincing more science, technology, engineering and mathematics students to take part, as many of those students have tightly sequenced and demanding programs that rarely permit the flexibility that a short-term or long-term abroad program demands.

Now the Institute on International Education is offering ideas on expanding participation by STEM students in a new white paper that explores models that have worked in some institutions.

Only 16 percent of 241,000 U.S. students who go abroad come from the STEM fields, according to IIE’s most recent Open Doors report. That compares with 23 percent of all students who study in one of those disciplines.

The irony is that a much larger portion— 40 percent — of 624,000 international students who come to the United States to learn are in the STEM fields. And 70 percent of all the international scholars who are in the country come from those fields.

But the IIE report points to several programs that could serve as models for improving study abroad in several of the STEM fields:
  • The Global Engineering Education Exchange is a consortium of more than 80 institutions around the world. During the past year, more than 200 students — more than half of them American engineering students — have taken part. IIE says the program has been particularly successful at encouraging American female engineering students to study abroad, even though they represent only about 20 percent of all U.S. engineering students.
  • IIE also has been managing a Central European Summer Research Institute with National Science Foundation support since 2005. The program helps science and engineering student pursue research internships in several European countries. Evaluation of the program is just getting underway.
  • Private programs, such as the Whittaker Foundation and the Winston Churchill Foundation, also have been providing scholarship monies for STEM students to pursue international education.
  • Research Internships in Science and Engineering in a 2-year-old program for American undergraduates to work in labs with German doctoral students during the summer months. The RISE students needn’t be proficient in German, as the primary language in German labs is English. And the American students get to participate in the creation of basic knowledge in their field of choices while also being immersed in the local culture.

1 comment:

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