About a year ago, before I had secured a position in the Honors College, while I was just a professor doing too much service work while on sabbatical (more on that later), I was on a committee in the English department for International study. Our idea was to meet one of our university’s strategic goals (global engagement) with a series of initiatives designed to expose our students (often poorly traveled) to a much broader range of global culture: study abroad, curricular initiatives, faculty partnerships, etc. The results of that committee have been modestly positive in a year’s time, with potential for more robust results over a longer span.
The initiative I took on was one originally intended to be specific to the English department, but eventually became clearly better suited at the college level, at which point I became the point person for a Global Engagement certificate for the entire College of Arts and Sciences. Today I’m going to a committee meeting for the Office of International Programs to defend the proposal, the last line of approvals before the AVP for Undergraduate Studies.
What I like about this process is that while I was hardly the person most qualified to push this program through, it’s a good program, and it really only took a little extra work to get it up and running. The result, I think, will be an incentive and a credential for students who really build in a global component to a degree from an institution not typically regarded as particularly cosmopolitan.
The takeaway? You can get things done, people. Most of the coolest things that happen at a university happen because someone decided to do more than just say, someone should do that. They decided to be that someone. In this case, I decided to be (or really, was tasked with being) that someone, and soon the College will have a nifty little bell-and-whistle to add to its offerings.
The other takeaway? Students need to get abroad, yo. One of my tasks in honors is now to get students abroad as part of their honors curriculum, whether than be through full semesters, or short-term faculty-led initiatives. The studies really do show that studying abroad has positive effects on student performance, even when controlling for the fact that higher achieving students tend to self-select study abroad. More on that in the future of this blog, but suffice it to say that I’m pretty proud of the potential impact here.