Arts and Sciences Receives State Department Award to Develop New Study Abroad Advising Program

From the June 2019 Desktop News | For many students, the opportunity to study abroad during their undergraduate career is something that, while exciting and fun, can be hard to navigate. The College of Arts and Science is seeking to ease this process with a new program immersing academic advisers in study abroad, funded by a $35,000 Capacity Building in Study Abroad award from the U.S. Department of State.

The program, which is the first of its kind, will allow a select group of UA advisers the opportunity to learn first-hand what it’s like to study abroad. Participating advisers will attend monthly meetings and lectures about the study abroad experience. Once they have gone through the training program, the advisers will go on their own study abroad trip. The hope is that, after taking this trip, advisers will be better prepared to answer questions and concerns about studying abroad.

“The advisers will essentially become cheerleaders and advocates for study abroad,” said Dr. Lisa Pawloski, associate dean of international programs for UA’s College of Arts and Sciences. “We want advisers to be able to calm some of the concerns, fears, and challenges, and help the students and their parents understand how to get through some of those things so we can get more students studying abroad.”

Dr. Pamela Young, the director of outreach programs and initiatives, worked with Dr. Pawloski, Mr. Wingard, and the Capstone International Center to develop the program to not only increase the number of students, but diversify the types of students who participate in study abroad.

“We’re interested in providing guidance for students who might not traditionally participate in study abroad programs,” Young said. “We find that there are certain groups of students, like first generation students, minority students, students with disabilities, and students from lower socioeconomic background who are not as represented in study abroad program. So we’re hoping to give our advisers the tools they need to encourage these students to study abroad.”

The idea is that, while guiding students through their courses and career paths, advisers can suggest certain study abroad programs that would not only help students academically, but create culturally-aware, globally-minded individuals.

“A lot of students come here to have a different cultural experience,” said John Wingard, assistant dean and director of student affairs. “Alabama is radically different than other parts of the country. Students come here to have that cultural change and experience a different part of the country. So we want to push them to have that cultural exchange on another level, an international level, as well.”

This year’s program will specifically focus on the African continent.  It will culminate with a specially designed trip for the fellows to South Africa.

“In Johannesburg, we’re focusing on two specific areas,” Young said. “One is linked to a foreign policy goal, such as democratic engagement and human rights, and the second area is natural resources in the environment. We chose those areas because they build off of some of the work that we do in the College of Arts and Sciences, and where we know there is student interest.”

The program begins in the fall, and the team is excited to see what results.

“For the advisers to go through this experience, to be able to articulate what their insecurities were and be able to relate better to students, they’re going to have better language to share with students and encourage them,” Wingard said. “They’ll be able to tell students how this can help their academic and professional advancement, as well as how these experiences are going to help them live a better life now, a happier life now, and be more successful in the future.”