Requiring a Provider

The world of faculty-led programs is growing–and changing as it grows. As internationalization flourishes across campuses, more faculty are turning to short-term programs abroad as a means to internationalize their teaching and learning. For those of us working on faculty-led programs, the growth is exciting.

However,  when change and growth happen simultaneously, there can also be collisions. More faculty and universities are offering faculty-led programs, while at the same time, offering them in an environment with reduced resources for education abroad offices and in an environment vastly different from the past when it was more accepted for faculty to develop, organize and administer their own courses independently of the education abroad office.

But times are changing. Best practices have matured and tolerance for risk in education abroad has decreased.

Using a provider for faculty-led programs is becoming more common and even required on some campuses. This can have positive aspects for the field and for all involved.  But it can also have down sides, as it changes the relationship among education abroad office staff, providers, and faculty.

Here are some thoughts from my experiences on how to navigate what can sometimes become a minefield:

  • Are your faculty amenable to being required to work with a provider?  Many who have been making their own arrangements in the past may not be, and others simply may not like being told how to run “their” program. Can you entice them with the benefits? Can you give them some choices within the requirement?
  • What is your university requiring, regarding risk management or making payments abroad? Can you introduce providers as a way to ensure these needs are met? Can you pitch the requirements as ways to take some of the administrative burden from faculty leaders?
  • Does your provider understand the delicate situation EA offices might be finding themselves in with a new requirement? You will want your provider(s) to understand your office’s relationship with faculty leaders and be working with you in the process.
  • Is your dean or the faculty’s dean aware of the requirement and its implications? More importantly, does he or she openly support the policy and help you work with the faculty? I have met education abroad staff abandoned by deans and provosts, left to use what leverage they can muster to implement best practices and new policies. Faculty don’t answer to many people, but they do answer to their deans. Mostly.
  • Have you enlisted the support of your providers? Many of them work with multiple institutions and so will have knowledge of various and diverse policies and ways of responding to or implementing them. Providers can be partners in the growth and change.

Have you implemented a “required provider” policy at your institution? Do you have insights or experiences to pass on to others?

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