New Report by CMSI and CIEE on Training Faculty at Minority Serving Institutions to Design and Lead Study Abroad Programs

Faculty members are essential in the internationalization of institutions and curricula, however, they are often not encouraged to lead study abroad programs. A new report illuminates the significance of faculty-led study abroad using research from the Project Passport International Faculty Development Seminar (IFDS), a joint program by the Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) and the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE).
 
Project Passport IFDS is a week-long seminar that provides Minority Serving Institution (MSI) faculty with the skills and confidence necessary to establish short-term, faculty-led study abroad programs on their respective campuses. The program, developed specifically with MSI faculty in mind, offers participants best practices for crafting a framework for intercultural learning, integrating global learning experiences in academic curricula, and identifying strategies for study abroad recruitment.
 
For the past three years, Project Passport IFDS has been held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, a location purposefully chosen due to the country’s history and rich cultural heritage along with its proximity to the U.S. While in Santo Domingo, MSI faculty learn about the core competencies for intercultural development: knowing themselves, knowing others, managing emotions, and bridging through hands-on activities and excursions that allow participants to immerse themselves in the Dominican culture. They also learn how to integrate global concepts into their curricula.
 
“When faculty have the opportunity to engage in their own study abroad experience, their eyes are opened to all the ways an international context can drive innovation in teaching and learning,” said James P. Pellow, President and CEO of CIEE. “They are inspired to explore internationalization of course curricula and syllabi, and brainstorm ideas for creating unique study abroad experiences related to their field of study.”
 
The report also includes data from participant interviews. Participants shared how the program has led them to incorporate more international perspectives in their courses and to adopt some of the pedagogical practices that were modeled by the seminar’s facilitators. Participants also shared some of the obstacles they faced upon developing their own study abroad programs. These obstacles fell into two categories: institutional and student-related. Institutional obstacles included garnering buy-in from institutional leadership and peers as well as a lack of infrastructure to facilitate study abroad. Student-related obstacles included cost and culture, namely the cost for students in terms of both travel expenses and missing employment opportunities, and the fact that some students come from communities where various factors discourage them from traveling far from home.
 
“Efforts to increase the participation of MSIs in study abroad must be nuanced and explicitly address their unique institutional and demographic contexts,” noted Daniel Blake, the report’s lead author and a research associate at CMSI. “MSIs must approach obstacles strategically to increase their competitiveness and prepare students for an increasingly globalized world.”
 
The report urges MSI administrators interested in tapping into the wealth of study abroad benefits to begin by educating their faculty on the value of study abroad. Gaining the faculty support can be done by reducing the challenges that impede faculty involvement such as workload, time constraints, and resources required to participate. The report provides recommendations that can help administrators better support faculty members, including creating more flexible requirements for faculty members to ease the workload, especially for those working toward tenure and promotion, and lessening the financial burden of study abroad by exercising financial creativity to ensure faculty are not overburdened by the study abroad experience.
 
The report also provides recommendations on how faculty can be resourceful in planning study abroad. These recommendations include exploring collaborations with faculty within and outside of their institutions, considering short-term programs as a point of entry for MSI student participation, and partnering with study abroad providers to alleviate safety and lack of knowledge concerns. The report concludes with a list of grant opportunities available for MSI faculty and students.
 
The report can be found here.

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