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From: Karin Fischer
Subject: Latitudes: Hey, first-gen students, this college wants to send you abroad
A new program helps first-gen students explore study abroad
When James Russell first got an email telling him about a University of Kentucky study-abroad program for first-generation students like him, he thought it might be some sort of scam. “You’ve got to admit, a fully paid study-abroad trip, that seems a little fishy,” he said.
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A new program helps first-generation students explore study abroad
When James Russell first got an email telling him about a University of Kentucky study-abroad program for first-generation-college students like him, he thought it might be some sort of scam. “You’ve got to admit, a fully paid study-abroad trip — that seems a little fishy,” he said.
Russell, now a sophomore computer-science major, decided to attend a study-abroad fair to make sure the message was legit. It checked out, and this past summer, he was one of 60 Kentucky students to spend three weeks in Dublin or London, part of a pilot program called Explore First, which combines academics, cultural activities, and career prep.
In addition to being the first in their families to go to college, nearly all the students were Pell Grant recipients, said Susan M. Roberts, the university’s associate provost for internationalization. Many were from rural communities, and the group was significantly more racially diverse than the university’s undergraduate population as a whole.
For Russell, studying abroad wasn’t even on his radar. “Where I’m from, it can be a big deal to go to other states, let alone other countries,” he said. “As a guy from eastern Kentucky, I never thought I’d have the opportunity to go abroad.”
The program — a collaboration between Roberts’s team and the university’s offices of first-generation student success and career services — is an effort to reach students often missing from education abroad. But its goal isn’t simply to expand horizons: Research shows that international study can improve academic outcomes, and those impacts can be outsize for students who are first gen, low income, or from underrepresented minority groups.
University of Kentucky researchers will track the academic performance of participants, including retention, grades, and graduation rates, against predictive models and their peers. Explore First is part of broader campus efforts to support the roughly one-third of the student body that is first generation, said Kirsten Turner, vice president for student success.
Niamh Larson, executive director of education abroad and exchanges, said she and her colleagues had been working to develop programming to reach broader groups of students, and with a career focus, which can appeal to students for whom the cultural aspects of studying overseas may not resonate. But Explore First got a jump-start thanks to a scholarship program approved by the state’s General Assembly to fund international exchange. The scholarship program also supports refugee and displaced students at colleges in the state, and institutions provide some matching funds.
The university covered most of the costs of the program, including travel and housing, with students paying only for meals and incidentals. That was important to Russell, who is on a full scholarship.
But finances often aren’t the factor holding first-gen and other underrepresented students back from studying abroad, and administrators tried to design the four-credit program with those hurdles in mind. The relatively short length meant that students could travel abroad while still holding summer jobs. London and Dublin are international cities but English speaking, “so we weren’t adding an additional layer of language difference on top of the cultural difference,” Larson said.
The students went abroad in small cohorts, of 15 students each, and got to know one another and their team leaders, from the first-gen and career offices, through weekly pre-departure sessions. The meetings prepared students culturally and logistically, such as helping them apply for passports.
“I had never really traveled — I had never been out of the country or on a plane before,” said Hallie Rice, a senior political-science major from Louisville. “This trip was a lot of firsts for me.”
The career focus was also a deliberate choice, giving the students, many of whom were freshmen or sophomores, an early start on career planning. “We want our students to be career ready and global ready,” Roberts said.
Each group visited eight or nine companies, like Accenture, Abbey Capital, and Diageo, many of which have offices both in Kentucky and Dublin or London. “It made the global to local tangible,” Turner said. Students learned about corporate culture, networked, and met with executives who were themselves first-generation students. One company tutored students on résumé writing; another held mock interviews.
During class sessions, students learned how to use LinkedIn and other social-networking sites, created “purpose” pitches, and studied strategies for winning internships and jobs. They also wrote reflection papers on their experience abroad.
For Rice, conversations with a career-services staff member on the London program gave her the confidence to start a nonprofit group focused on homelessness. And after visiting London’s University of Westminster, she is considering applying there for graduate school, to study international relations.
While Explore First is a pilot program, its organizers are optimistic that it will reach more students. Kentucky administrators “get it,” Roberts said.
Russell calls his experience “life changing.” He lived on the Trinity College Dublin campus, visited Belfast and Edinburgh, and ate Guinness stew and falafel for the first time. He hopes to do an internship or co-op overseas and would like to study abroad again, maybe in Italy. “I know it might sound cheesy,” he said, “but I have a new passion to learn about as many cultures as I can.”
New report focuses on health and safety in study abroad
Property loss and mental-health distress were among the most commonly reported health and safety incidents among students studying abroad, according to a pilot project on student risk overseas.
The new “Student Risk Report,” released by the Forum on Education Abroad, an international association for study-abroad professionals, is an effort to better track and report health and safety incidents. It replaces the group’s critical-incident database, which never fully gained traction in the study-abroad community, in part because of differing approaches to data collection among different colleges and providers.
The new project came about when a group of study-abroad organizations, which together serve more than half of Americans who go abroad, approached the forum about coming up with a new way to collect data about “significant” incidents overseas. Together, they hammered out common definitions of health and safety problems, as well as mechanisms to ensure data privacy.
The group also decided what not to measure, said Amelia J. Dietrich, senior director of research and publications for the forum. For example, they decided not to report whether alcohol or drug use were a contributing factor to incidents because such assessments were often based on conjecture.
While governments overseas do release local crime statistics, the data collection could highlight trends specific to students abroad, Dietrich said.
The initial pilot, which ran from January through June of this year, tracked seven study-abroad organizations serving about 34,000 students. It found that one in 56 students reported some sort of health or safety incident. Nearly half of the incidents involved property loss or theft.
Eleven percent of incidents involved mental-health distress, which the report defines as a “mental-health event serious enough that it involved ER support, suicide risk, and/or report of mental-health distress that results in death, program departure, or hospitalization.”
Although mental-health incidents were the third most commonly reported, behind property loss and illness, they were the most likely to result in students leaving their study-abroad programs — two-thirds of students who experienced mental-health distress withdrew from their programs.
Over all, 85 percent of students who had some sort of health or safety incident continued with their study-abroad programs.
Now that the pilot study is complete, the forum hopes to open up data collection to other study-abroad providers and to colleges. One of the challenges in expanding the project is making sure that incidents don’t get counted twice when students take part in programs run by education-abroad organizations, by the organizations and by the students’ home campuses.
Dietrich said she was hesitant to draw too many conclusions based on a six-month pilot. But more-robust data could help colleges better prepare students before they go abroad, as well as train faculty and staff members on site. For example, frequent incidents of theft could lead colleges and providers to spend more time during pre-departure orientations warning students about pick pocketing.
“The foremost benefit of the report,” said Melissa Torres, the forum’s president, “is to keep students as safe and healthy as we can.”
Israeli presidents call on U.S. college leaders to condemn terrorism
University presidents in Israel took the unusual step of calling on college leaders in the United States and around the world to denounce the Hamas attacks on Israel.
The joint letter from the Association of University Heads, Israel, made up of the presidents of the country’s nine major research universities, notes that some student and faculty groups have supported the Palestinian group responsible for killing and kidnapping Israeli civilians.
“As the guardians of higher education and academia, actively pursuing knowledge for the benefit of humanity, as role models for and teachers of the leadership of tomorrow, we all share the responsibility to educate our communities,” they write.
The letter rejects some colleges’ more middle-of-the-road statements on the war: “Let’s be clear,” the presidents write. “This is not ‘war as usual’ or just another chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are not ‘good people on both sides.’”
Separately, several current and former administrators of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, one of the signatories to the joint statement, sent letters to the presidents and other leaders of Harvard and Stanford Universities criticizing their “minimal standards of moral leadership, courage, and commitment to truth” and failure to directly condemn violence by Hamas in their original statements. (Both institutions have since released subsequent statements denouncing terrorism.)
I asked Asher Cohen, Hebrew University’s president, why he wrote the letter. “I could not not speak out,” he said. When I interviewed Daniel A. Chamovitz, president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the closest Israeli institution to the Gaza border, he had just come from sitting shiva, or mourning, for one of the 50 students or employees of his university who had been killed in the violence. “Who would have ever thought that’s what I’d have to do as a university president?” he said.
You can read more about how higher education is trying to find the right words to respond to the violence and bloodshed in an article scheduled to be published on The Chronicle‘s website later today.
In other news related to the conflict, Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, called for any international student who expresses support for Hamas to be deported. In a letter to Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of homeland security, Cotton urged the U.S. government “to immediately deport any foreign national — including and especially any alien on a student visa — that has expressed support for Hamas and its murderous attacks on Israel. These fifth-columnists have no place in the United States.”
And NAFSA: Association of International Educators released a statement condemning the violence: “Acts of war and dehumanization are in direct opposition to our values as international educators.”
Around the globe
International enrollment in graduate programs increased by 10 percent in the 2022 academic year, helping to make up for a decline in Americans attending graduate school. More than one in five graduate students is from overseas, according to a new report from the Council of Graduate Schools.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a second case challenging judicial deference to federal agencies’ authority to interpret laws and create programs. While the court declined to take up a case that questioned the legality of Optional Practical Training, the two cases it will hear could be relevant to the government’s power to establish and expand the work program for international graduates of American colleges.
AIRC: The Association of International Enrollment Management has named a new executive director. Clay Harmon, director of international enrollment strategy and admissions at the University of Colorado at Denver and a longtime member of the international-enrollment group, will take the helm on January 1.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, a Democrat, has signed legislation that could allow some Mexican students to pay in-state tuition at a handful of community colleges in the state.
But several hundred American students cross the border in the opposite direction. CETYS University, or Centro de Enseñanza Técnica y Superior, has sought to attract California residents, in part by getting U.S. regional accreditation.
A homecoming message from Northwestern University’s President Michael Schill has been criticized by some international students who told The Daily Northwestern that it glossed over the lack of support they get from the college, particularly during international orientation.
Quebec will sharply increase tuition for international students and those from elsewhere in Canada who attend its English-language universities. The provincial government framed the higher fees as a way to stop subsidizing students from outside Quebec.
Nicaragua’s government has shut down or taken over nearly half of its universities in the past two years.
Some 370,000 international students were enrolled in German universities in the spring of 2023, a 5-percent increase over the previous year, and a new record.
Russian universities admitted 8,500 veterans of the war with Ukraine or their children this academic year.
About 5,000 international students will graduate from American colleges this year in semiconductor-related computer-science and engineering fields, yet the sector may not be able to hire enough skilled workers because immigration rules prevent many of these foreign graduates from staying in the United States, a new report says.
And finally …
Europe’s oldest student newspaper, The Student, at the University of Edinburgh, has escaped closure after it raised nearly £5,000 in an emergency campaign.
The financially independent newspaper faced shutting down after the university’s student association pulled its advertising. The free paper was started in 1887 by Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped, who served as its first arts editor. Other prominent alumni include Gordon Brown, a former British prime minister.
Fund raising “allows us to remain editorially independent,” Lucy Jackson, the newspaper’s president, told The Guardian. “A lot of our reporting focuses on the university and on how bad they’re doing, really, so it’s really important that we do have that independence.”
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