As part of the Next Generation Initiative, a strategy for launching talented underserved students, Franklin & Marshall College’s Office of International Programs has created new efforts focused on increasing access and opportunity to study abroad.
Recent initiatives include expanded options for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), a diverse slate of summer travel courses and awards, and a streamlined course-credit approval process.
“I want to help ensure that all students have access to these intercultural experiences, that all students think study abroad is something that they can do,” said Ali Janicek, assistant dean for International and Off-Campus Study.
The work already bears fruit. Today, between 50 and 55 percent of students now study abroad at some point during their academic careers at F&M, compared to roughly 40 percent in 2011.
In one of the most popular options, F&M professors design summer travel courses in subjects and locations that interest them, a process now facilitated by the staff for International and Off-Campus Study. The College supports funding that allows classes to travel to places like South Africa, Cuba, Denmark, England, China and India, where students study law, culture, psychology, human rights and other topics.
For independent, personalized studies abroad, the Office of International Programs offers a selection of summer travel awards to support individual, off-campus projects. Last fall, a record number of students applied for the grants – among those selected are a classics major who will travel to the United Kingdom to study archaeology and a public health major planning to study undocumented immigrants in Dublin.
The latest additions to the summer portfolio open new opportunities to STEM majors, who study abroad in lower numbers than other students on campus. These programs include IFSA-Butler’s "Revolutions in Biomedicine" at Imperial College London, and Arcadia University’s STEM Summer Research Programs for sciences, from biomedical to environmental, in Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Ireland and Spain.
Students who return from abroad are not left out either. In February, the Office of International Programs sponsored F&M’s first Digital Storytelling Workshop, designed to help returners use storytelling to process their experiences abroad and communicate them to family, friends and potential employers.
Sue Mennicke, associate dean for International Programs, said study abroad is important to the liberal arts experience. “Whether improving language skills, delving into new approaches to the major, or learning to make informed choices in an unfamiliar environment, off-campus study offers much to the truly engaged student,” she said.