An increasing number of Mason students are taking advantage of study abroad opportunities to develop their global competence, a crucial learning outcome in the 21st century. This year we are on track to send over 300 more students abroad than had traveled abroad last year. That’s more than a 30 percent increase. But much work remains to be done to reach our goal to send 3000 students or more abroad every year. Doing so will require the engagement of all faculty and departments.
Below is a guest blog post from Brian Gibson, Executive Director, Mason Global Education Office. Dr. Gibson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To be a global university, you must provide global experiences that foster in students the ability to connect and engage across cultures. Meeting that challenge at a comprehensive research university like Mason requires constant innovation. We’re serving an ever-increasing number of diverse students who could be studying anything from electrical engineering to fine art, living on campus or at home, focusing on their studies full-time or working while they attend school.
Just as our course offerings must meet the needs of students of varying backgrounds and lifestyles, so too must our study abroad opportunities to deliver a global education.
This past year, Mason and the Global Education Office (GEO) launched many innovative programs to support students interested in studying abroad. Below I highlight a few of them so that all members of our university community are aware of what we offer and how we continually seek new ways to provide global learning opportunities through study abroad.
Global Gateway exposes students to the world early in their time at Mason. After a full fall semester at Mason, which includes a specially designed preparatory course, students spend their spring semester at one of five pre-eminent institutions across the globe: University of Cape Town in South Africa, Universidad Carlos III of Madrid in Spain, Mason Korea, Curtain University in Australia, and Universidad de Los Andes in Chile. Students will follow a curriculum designed to allow them to satisfy many of their freshman core requirements. We plan to have 125 students participating in Global Gateway in Fall 2018.
Global Discovery is designed to appeal to Mason’s large commuter and working populations. It supports the development of short, immersive global experiences that allow students to go abroad as part of existing credit-bearing courses. Global Discovery’s goal is to expand access for Mason’s diverse student body by reducing costs to students for each program by half and by providing alternative ways for our students to engage in a global educational experience through connecting students’ classroom work with existing global issues and challenges. Currently, 99 students are enrolled in one of the six courses which received this grant for Spring 2018.
Recognizing the difficulty that many STEM students face in finding appropriate study abroad options, GEO has partnered with the College of Science, the Volgenau School of Engineering, and the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid to develop Global Academy-Mason Experiences in STEM, a four-week program offering three tracks (each track consisting of two courses): Data Science & Engineering, Applied Sciences & Computing, and Experimental Science. This program will be piloted during Summer 2018 and has a capacity of 90 students. We expect that the success of this program will provide a template for G.A.M.E programs in other disciplines.
Mason is fortunate to have a growing number of prestigious partner institutions that can bring new perspectives to areas where we excel and fill curricular gaps in other areas. Harnessing and ultimately leveraging such potential is the goal of Global Alliance, which pairs departments at Mason with their counterparts at our partner institutions to create specialized tracks, typically a semester in length, for cohorts of students at both institutions. What is unique about this type of programming is that academic units are intimately involved in the design and advising, and this ensures long-term sustainability. We are piloting a Global Alliance between Mason’s Politics, Philosophy and Economics Program and the John Stewart Mills College at the Free University of Amsterdam. We are also exploring programs in Tourism, Criminology, Global Health, and Film Making.
Because we are a global university with wide-ranging research being conducted all over the world, there is a real opportunity for students to connect to Mason’s research agenda. With that goal in mind, we have developed Global Praxis as a way for faculty to engage with students while pursuing research abroad. Faculty are encouraged to share opportunities with the GEO. The opportunities are posted and students with matching skills and interests are invited to apply. Finally, GEO provides partial funding for travel and living expenses to enable students to pursue these opportunities.
We continue to create a constellation of global learning programs that will align with the interests of our diverse student body. I look forward to keeping you updated at studyabroad.gmu.edu and Mason Global Education Office on Facebook and, more importantly, getting your feedback as we try to ensure the highest level of global engagement within our Mason community.