International Education in the 21st Century: The Importance of Faculty in Developing Study Abroad Research Opportunities
United States institutions of higher education are under increasing pressure to “internationalize”, which entails expanding curricula to overseas contexts, accepting international students, and sending significant numbers of Americans to study abroad. Despite such initiatives, as well as its assumed value in the undergraduate curriculum, less than ten percent of U.S. students currently study abroad, with STEM participation traditionally lagging behind that of social sciences and humanities students. Unfortunately, study abroad enrollments have not expanded in the desired magnitude(s), despite the explosion of shorter-term programming. With this in mind, what kinds of programs might leverage STEM disciplinary research interests to facilitate growth in these majors? How would these programs distinguish themselves from traditional ones, which are usually course-based? And finally, how would they incorporate STEM faculty to ensure that they are sufficiently integrated into the curricula? This paper argues that a reimagining of study abroad programming may be necessary – one that begins and ends with local disciplinary faculty, especially those in the STEM (sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, to develop undergraduate study abroad research opportunities. In doing so, it asserts that STEM disciplinary interests towards internationalization are fundamentally different than faculty in the humanities and the social sciences, and it is necessary to leverage these distinctions to create high-quality undergraduate programs oriented towards research. The argument is supported with examples from several University of California campuses and some private universities.
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