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Leading an Education Abroad Program – What Faculty Need to Know
June 24, 2011

The faculty developing and leading an education abroad program bring the most important element to any study abroad program – the academics. At USF, faculty are developing numerous study abroad models across a variety of fields and subjects. These models include embedding study abroad into a semester-long on-campus course, partnering with other institutions for programs that bring US and international students and faculty into the same classroom, creating a capstone experience for a degree major, or directing 1 to 10-week stand-alone study abroad programs for undergraduate, master’s or Ph.D. students.

The Education Abroad office assists faculty in developing programs, obtaining 3rd party providers who will assist faculty with safety and logistical support on the ground, providing significant support in the outreach and marketing of their program to students, and then works with students directly on registration, financial aid, pre-departure orientations and training.

Rene Sanchez, program coordinator at the office of Education Abroad says without the faculty, education abroad programs would lack academic content. Faculty play a key role in communicating the benefits of study abroad both from an educational and professional standpoint.  While the office of education abroad promotes a highly student friendly environment, interaction with students is limited and can only be compensated with the help of faculty members. “Students have a high level of interaction with faculty; they build a relationship with faculty.” He explains that this relationship is what gets students excited about doing education abroad. “When the faculty are excited about doing a program, student enrollment in education abroad programs automatically increase. They can convince students to take this international opportunity and turn it into something meaningful that will help them after graduation.”

Faculty participation isn’t nearly as high enough as education abroad would like it to be. “We want more faculty. We need more faculty to be excited about globalizing their own curriculum,” says Rene. Faculty research and tenure goals keep professors from taking the time out to find out more and engage in an education abroad program. Since education abroad does not weigh into acquiring tenure and can be rather time consuming, faculty members tend to steer clear of the deviation.

But this isn’t always the case. Dr. Rachel May, director of the USF Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean (ISLAC) has been taking students abroad since 2006 when she was a faculty member at the University of Washington. “If I could, I would make it a requirement,” says Dr. May. With education abroad, the benefits to students are limitless. Not only do they have the opportunity to improve their skills in language and better understand foreign cultures and practices, several students have also been hired right out of the program because of the practical experience they have gained.

As for the constraints keeping faculty away, Dr. May feels there’s always a way to work around these difficulties. “It’s possible to structure an education abroad program to meet both research and education abroad requirements,” she says. “I’ve done a lot of my research in Argentina.” Dr. May believes that professors can greatly benefit by engaging students in their research agenda.

Faculty from any of the USF System campuses can develop a USF Education Abroad program by first reading Developing a Faculty-Led Study Abroad Proposal and then meeting with a staff member of the Education Abroad Office to discuss the proposal process. Faculty Proposals should be submitted as soon as possible.  The deadline for 2011-12 program proposals is August 15, 2011 for Winter and Spring break programs, and October 1, 2011 for summer programs. For more information visit www.global.usf.edu/educationabroad.