Closing the Study Abroad Divide: Part II

Back in January, we featured three guest posts from Bradley Feuling, Chairman and CEO of The Asia Institute, based in Shanghai, China. As their work with US colleges and universities expands, Brad is delving deeper into the reasons some university succeed with their short-term programs and others do not. His article below puts forth an interesting and thought-provoking hypothesis.

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Closing the Study Abroad Divide: How Faculty-Led Programs are Influencing Leaders and Laggards in the Development of Global Citizens  Part II: The Goal – Does your campus prioritize global initiatives? by Bradley A. Feuling, Chairman and CEO, The Asia Institute

In Part I of this series, we asked the question “are the reasons behind failed faculty-led programs realistic?” To explore the topic, we looked specifically at two common reasons for low enrollment on faculty-led programs, which were “our students cannot afford the program” or “our campus does not have a culture of study abroad”. In both cases, the data indicates that these issues are not entirely accurate. There may be other reasons deterring students from joining faculty-led programs. To continue, we’ll now look at one of these reasons, and a key one, which is: Does your campus prioritize and promote global initiatives?

Can you imagine a line of students at your office at 7:00am, waiting until you arrive, to sign up for their first choice of faculty-led program options? Every year, Florida Southern College faces this scenario. As a small private college, with roughly 2500 students, how do they do it? The answer is Junior Journey. As noted on the Florida Southern College website, “Every new full-time undergraduate student is guaranteed a domestic or foreign travel experience after the completion of at least four full semesters — often at no additional cost beyond your usual FSC tuition.” Importantly, all Junior Journey programs are short-term faculty-led programs, not full semester or yearlong study abroad.

Florida Southern is on the cutting edge of creating global citizens and faculty-led program involvement, all because the college prioritizes the importance of “engaged learning”. First, Junior Journey fees are included in the tuition; therefore students often do not pay extra for their global faculty-led programs. Second, Junior Journey is not just a requirement, but rather an expectation that students prepare for. Lastly, Florida Southern promotes globalization across their website, and this is important. When reviewing the main page of the college, “Zoe in London” is the Top News story. So how do other universities and colleges compare with this type of prioritization and promotion?

To assess whether a notable difference exists among campuses in the prioritization of global initiatives and faculty-led programs, we analyzed data from the 2013/14 Open Doors survey along with a comparative list of U.S. universities and colleges. Both data sets included 120 universities and colleges. We reviewed the main web page and mission statement of each of the 120 institutions.

Of the 120 leading universities and colleges for study abroad listed in the 2013/14 Open Doors survey, roughly two out of three provide some reference to internationalization or global related content on their main web page. Examples include a news story, other international content, or a direct link to study abroad or international education. A few websites feature a more prominent menu item for “Global Initiatives”. In addition, we reviewed the mission statements for the same 120 universities and colleges. 44 percent (53 institutions) include a reference to internationalization, globalization, or making an impact in the world.

As a comparison to the leading institutions in Open Doors, we analyzed 120 other universities and college websites and mission statements. In general, this list included universities and colleges that have fewer established faculty-led program options. The comparative group comprised of a diverse range of institutions including baccalaureate, Master’s and Doctoral universities, similar to those found in Open Doors. From this list, one in three provide a reference to internationalization or global-related content on their main website. Only 25 percent include a reference to internationalization, globalization, or making an impact in the world, in their mission statement.

You might ask, why is this comparison important and how do the mission statements and web pages offer a window into the institutions commitment to internationalization? A mission statement is “an organization’s fundamental reason for existence” (Jim Collins, Aligning Action and Value, June 2000). An institution’s website is the primary message and brand they are promising to their students. Therefore, for a university or college to have active participation in faculty-led programs, or to create a “culture of study abroad”, prioritizing global awareness and engagement is critical. Yet this goes beyond simply promoting study abroad on campus. The mission and message of the institution must also be aligned with its priorities and must be consistent. By doing so, the entire university or college community will understand that internationalization and global learning are central to both the curriculum and foundations of the institution in an increasingly interconnected world. Those who lead in this alignment of priorities are also those leading in study abroad numbers, and hence in the development of global citizens.

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