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Tackling the “T” in STEM…Increasing Technology Participation in Study Abroad

Posted By Administration, Monday, April 25, 2016
Updated: Friday, December 30, 2016

Submitted by Diversity Abroad 2015/2016 Task Force on STEM Disciplines: Ahaji Schreffler, Drexel University; Kate Moore, Academic Internship Council; Kristy Saerbry, Wake Forest University.

As study abroad professionals tackle the barriers of increasing participation of students in science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine, one STEM discipline presents particularly unique challenges: Technology.

A critical step in any STEM study abroad strategy is eliciting buy‐in from faculty so students are encouraged and supported. The advantages of study abroad can seem more straightforward to convey for disciplines such as engineering and medicine given the increasingly multicultural population, global collaboration on research, and international workforce.  Faculty and students in these fields may be more inclined to see the value of study abroad as a platform for international research, collaboration, and learning from practitioners in existing and expanding networks around the globe.

When it comes to technology, on the other hand, it can be a harder sell. It means convincing faculty in fields like informatics and computing that study abroad has equal benefit for their students who are preparing for a virtual work environment within which travel is nearly irrelevant. Students will often comment that the most relevant advances in technology are within the States. Beyond the intrinsic value of experiencing other cultures and landscapes, what exactly are the advantages of study abroad for students in technology and how can study abroad professionals effectively cultivate faculty buy‐in beyond the virtual world? Which existing models can provide guidance? How can program administrators link existing models with faculty cultivation and student participation?

Coursework Identification

In order to gain support of faculty members, study abroad professionals should first start by identifying programs that offer technology and computing courses that complement their own university’s curriculum. As technology‐based majors increase on campuses across the US, more programs are offering courses that provide this population of students opportunities to study abroad. For example, programs such as DIS Copenhagen have added technology‐based tracks and courses to their offerings. AIT Budapest has an entire program dedicated to Computer Science and Engineering. There are also several universities abroad, such as Cardiff University in Wales or the University of Melbourne in Australia, that accept visiting students and offer an abundance of technology‐based courses.

Campus Collaboration

Additionally, it is important that study abroad professionals build positive relationships with the technology and computing departments on their campus. This can be done through a variety of ways:

● Work with faculty on curriculum and abroad program approval

● Invite members of the faculty to study abroad committee/staff meetings

● Offer opportunities for faculty to participate in program site visits

● Encourage faculty members to lead their own programs abroad

● Provide incentives for faculty to incorporate international components into their courses each semester

By engaging faculty members with the study abroad process, they will gain insight into the many benefits of study abroad and the impact an international experience can have on their students.

Career Motivation

In response to economic trends and student populations, the need to demonstrate relevance of experiences to employability has never been greater. This is particularly true with technology students, who are often balancing the opportunity cost of paid experiences at home with additional financial commitment to study abroad.   

While general data has begun to illustrate the return on investment for study abroad, as amalgamated through UC Merced (http://studyabroad.ucmerced.edu/study-abroad-statistics/statistics-study-abroad), specific studies for technology students are yet to be realized.

However, there are some strong correlations between skills employers are emphasizing in recruitment or retention and the aptitudes that students gain through study abroad. Notably among these are dealing with ambiguity, showing initiative, and excelling on global or virtual teams. Students are advised to select programs that allow them to build these skills. In addition, students and faculty are urged to provide frameworks for students to articulate their study abroad experience as it relates to future academic endeavors and career development. Sample resources include – but are far from limited to – the following:  Student guidance from University of Virginia School of Commerce (https://www.commerce.virginia.edu/career-services/marketing-your-study-abroad) and program administrator research and recommendations from Michigan State University (http://studyabroad.isp.msu.edu/research/Gardner_Gross_The%20Lorax%20Moment.pdf)

By tackling the unique challenges of technology in a systematic way, study abroad professionals will be able to create approaches for increasing participation of students in all STEM disciplines but most importantly work towards increased collaboration across campus and expanded conversation related to the relevance of experiences abroad.

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Straddling Two Worlds

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Updated: Friday, December 30, 2016

Guest Blogger: Myla Harris 

I belong to a small (but growing) group of people around the world who can call themselves expatriates.  I’ve often lingered over the term, wondering if it suits my particular journey. After all, I have never rejected my country of origin, quite the contrary in fact.  I’m probably more American now than when my family left in 1999 for Germany.  Yet, leave the US my family and I did: experience has shown most people can’t (or maybe even, won’t) understand the reasons behind our choice. Truth be told, we had momentary crisis of faith in our personal experiment, only achieving validation some 17 years later.

           My husband and I were proud parents of one beautiful two and a half year old.  While he garnered unwanted attention almost everywhere we went, his true beauty was/is always in his spirit.  From the moment he would awake until the time he collapsed into bed, he had a question on his tongue.  Books were already his best friends and when he smiled, the whole world smiled with him.  His birth coincided with disturbing reports and statistics about African-American boys.  Could he REALLY grow up and not be defined by race?  He had already entered the world surrounded by people with opinions about whether or not his parents should even be together.  After recovering from giving birth, my obstetric nurse actually refused to come to my aid and made it clear all patients in her eyes were not considered equal.  My husband and I got our first lesson in what awaited for us in our new identity as a family.  We lived in a fairly diverse, yet segregated North Eastern section of the US.  During daily outings, we were either the main attraction at what felt like the zoo or made to endure a grand inquisition of inappropriate questions:

“How did your son get BLUE eyes?!”

“Is he yours?”

“What nationality is his mother?” (when I was not present)

“Does his father have blue eyes too?” (when my husband wasn’t present)

“My friend has a colored child, don’t they look really cute?”

We increasingly wondered how one very small boy would be able to grow and even thrive under the weight of the importance placed on all things related to race in America.  We wanted our son to grow into whomever he chose to be without having to check a box or choose one aspect of his ethnicity over the other.  We didn’t want his potential stunted or his opportunities reduced and above all, we knew we had the option to make life affirming changes not necessarily available to everyone else.  When the opportunity to move to Europe arose, we jumped.

           Our son is now 19 years old and has an 8 year old sister who has joined us on this amazing journey.  For the last 14 years, we have lived in the South of France.   Neither he nor his sister have ever  had to check a box indicating their race; they enjoy a position of privilege that comes with being dual French /American nationals.  They’ve been raised speaking three languages: French, German (my husband’s first language) and English.  Every chance we get, we travel within France and Europe to expose them to different cultures and ways of life.  We can do this fairly easily, even with modest means, given the proximity of other European countries.

           The choices to be here were difficult and involved many sacrifices on all of our parts.  We first arrived with only suitcases and have had to carve out new lives for ourselves.  Having an ocean separate us from friends and family has meant we missed weddings, births, and even funerals.  We often struggle with having a coherent sense of place and struggle with how to best define ourselves.

We haven’t outrun racism or discrimination and ignorance can be found in equal abundance but some things have changed.  Our children entered a world of privilege the moment we left the US.  We are no longer identified uniquely by our race but are now AMERICAN first.  When our children speak French (better than their parents by the way), they are simply viewed as being French.  Leaving the US has provided them with opportunities they could never have attained had we remained within the United States.

Our son entered University last year and returned to the US for the first time without his parents in toe.  While he has thrived academically and even enjoyed learning his fourth language while studying in Italy for a semester, he has had a harder time adapting to the racial climate in the United States.  Our weekly chats are often full of stories trying to understand segregation on campus or the awkward encounters with fellow students who simply ignore him.  I’m afraid our talks regarding how to conduct himself as an African-American young man in the community and if stopped by the police may have instilled some fear. We haven’t had a need for those talks in France, though racism exists, it inhabits a very different space in the collective French consciousness.  Our son has recently revealed he understands the decisions we made more than ever and validated those choices.  It was a bittersweet moment.

While we have been fortunate in having the opportunity to call two countries our home, this journey really started through two people exposed to international education opportunities.  I met my husband in high school when he moved to the US from Germany.  I fell in love with all things French as a French immersion student in primary school and study abroad alumni.  After all this time abroad, raising my children, navigating different cultures and academic systems, I can think of no other way to empower students, especially students who are of color, than the opportunity to step outside of our American context and challenge the status quo.  My children have gotten a chance to experience what it means not to be defined by their race.

 

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Diversity Network Member Highlight: University of Connecticut

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Updated: Friday, December 30, 2016

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Institution Name

University of Connecticut

Location

Storrs, Connecticut

Institutional Profile

Large (over 15,000)

How long has your organization/institution been a member?

3 years

What Diversity Network resource has been most useful for you and your colleagues in advancing diversity & inclusive excellence in global education?

The annual conference has been extremely helpful, bringing different constituents at the university together at the conference.

How has membership with the Diversity Network helped your institution make global education more accessible to students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds?

While serving on the Diversity Abroad Board and in his position as Vice Provost for Diversity, Professor Jeff Ogbar brought focus on first generation college students to the greater UConn community. He was also able to use his position to help disseminate important data concerning high graduation rates among SSS students who studied abroad. During the last two years, the work of the Diversity Network has provided resources that support and inform ongoing endeavors on campus. We are also sending two undergraduate students to the Leadership Conference in Atlanta .

Please describe any innovative initiatives related to diversity and inclusion in global education that your institution is currently undertaking. 

We are building new study abroad components into several initiatives and grants that target first generation college students, under represented and/or low income students. We will be sharing information about some of these initiatives at the 2016 Diversity Abroad Conference.


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Diversity Network Member Highlight: San Diego State University

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Updated: Friday, December 30, 2016

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Institution Name

San Diego State University

Location

San Diego, California

Institutional Profile

Large (over 15,000); Hispanic-serving Institution (HSI)

Why did your institution join the Diversity Abroad Network?

The Diversity Abroad Network continues to provide excellent opportunities to examine best practices for diversity and equity in international education. The Network has helped our university move forward in developing an inclusive hub for valuable dialogue, action and cross-campus collaboration.

How long has your organization/institution been a member?

N/A

What Diversity Network resource has been most useful for you and your colleagues in advancing diversity & inclusive excellence in global education?

The conferences have been the most valuable resource. They provide an excellent space for various professionals from across our campus to learn and plan strategically. We realize that it takes the effort of our entire campus to make a difference. Although some of the participants from our campus may not work in our Study Abroad Office, their commitment to making a difference in our strategic efforts is embraced across campus.

How has membership with the Diversity Network helped your institution make global education more accessible to students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds?

The Diversity Network has helped our campus community to better understand the needs of diverse and historically underrepresented student populations. By highlighting the unique need of various populations of students, the Network has helped us to prioritize our goals and focus our resources. The results has been positive for students, faculty and staff. Beyond simply increasing the numbers, we have moved into an inclusive excellence model for study abroad where the diverse perspectives of students are valued as an asset in the learning of all participants.

Please describe any innovative initiatives related to diversity and inclusion in global education that your institution is currently undertaking. 

We have created a short term summer study abroad program titled Leadership Identity and Diversity. The course is held in the Dominican Republic. The curriculum focuses on the unique needs of first generation, and historically underrepresented students. The cost of the program is affordable for most students. Additional scholarship support is provided. The activities and course material validate the identities of the program participants before, during and after their study abroad.

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Study Abroad for Student Athletes

Posted By Administration, Monday, February 29, 2016
Updated: Friday, December 30, 2016

Contributed by: Devin Walker - University of Texas, Austin (on behalf of the Task Force on Male Students)

While Black male student-athletes are only a small percentage of the overall student body at institutions of higher education (IHEs), they are often the faces that represent their respective school, locally and nationally, through their over-representation in the televised and revenue-producing sports of college football and basketball. While these IHEs benefit a great deal from the physical exploits of their male student-athletes, researchers and practitioners have questioned if these athletes are getting a fair deal. In his book, The New Plantation, Hawkins (2013) argues the current structure of college athletics leads to the institutional and ideological control of Black student-athletes. Black bodies produce a product, however, they do not get paid for their work. Instead, the money goes to figurative ‘overseers,’ who are coaches, athletic directors and departments, colleges, universities, and the NCAA. With millions at stake annually, researchers and practitioners must continuously examine institutional practices that lead to the exploitation of Black male student-athletes for the financial gain of such ‘overseers.’


Colleges and universities have initiated support programs that emphasize the development of alternative, salient identities to being a student-athlete, however, most programs have not been able to consistently enrich student-athletes academic outcomes and personal development (Harrison and Comeaux, 2011). Instead, many student-athletes suffer from identity foreclosure as they fail to develop other aspects of their identity due to their over-identification with their athlete role (Brewer et al, 1993; Beamon, 2012). Athletic identity foreclosure is especially problematic among Black student-athletes, as the role of athlete “may dominate their alternative social and personal identities” (Bimper and Harrison, 2011, p. 278). A critically important step in developing the student-athlete holistically is providing them with diverse psychosocial experiences to explore and learn about other aspects of themselves (Henry & Closson, 2012), which is often challenging in the high-stakes world of collegiate athletics.


Thus, if student-athletes were offered study abroad scholarships and opportunities as part of their collegiate experience like so many other students, would they take advantage of the opportunity? Studying abroad has been widely regarded as a collegiate experience that positively impacts identity development and negotiation (Wick, 2011), academic self-concept (Paige et al., 2009), career readiness and maturity (Preston, 2012), and critical consciousness (Wick, 2011), all of these aforementioned characteristics counteract athletic identity foreclosure. However, it appears that these opportunities are not readily available to student-athletes. In fact, some argue that student-athletes are discouraged and intimidated from participating in study abroad activities from athletic departments and influential university personnel. Why are the most valuable assets to so many universities (Black male student-athletes) denied some of the most valuable opportunities (studying abroad) in college? Even more, the potential benefits of studying abroad suggest an interruption in the process of athletic identity foreclosure.


Studying abroad offers an intervention into the prevalent athletic identity foreclosure that affects so many Black male student-athletes which commences as early as the teenage years but becomes particularly apparent on collegiate campuses. Additionally, studying abroad provides students with a global mindset necessary to be competitive in the 21st century global market.


International educational programs rooted in a critical pragmatic approach, would challenge students to re-negotiate their identities and subjectivities as they relate to: race, nationhood, Americanness, oppressor, privileged and oppressed. Education abroad can impact student-athletes personal, academic, and professional development all while helping student’s gain a greater critical consciousness of the world in which they live.

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