New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Integrating an international experience in undergraduate education is increasingly seen as an important component of high impact undergraduate activities. These usually take the form of student exchanges, internships, service learning experiences and short-term faculty led study abroad programs. Students in these programs have a very wide range of international exposure and local interaction. Despite increases in the number of American students going abroad to study, the participation by underrepresented minorities and persons in the STEM disciplines is still relatively low.
"Our program" at our institution has, since its inception in November 1992, been at the forefront of a concentrated effort to substantially increase the number of underrepresented minority students who pursue and graduate with Baccalaureate Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). In 2008 an approach was implemented to allow our Scholars to integrate an International Experience into their undergraduate studies. The multi-pronged approach consists of 1) collaborating with existing programs within the NSF and other federal agencies, 2) working collaboratively with a core of mentors/faculty who have international collaborations, 3) working closely with Departments, Institutes and Centers at our institution who have international agreements, significant international research focus, and 4) working collaboratively with other institutions, all of which have some developed program activities in international research.
In the summer of 2009, ten students participated in Cartagena, Colombia program. The model was designed to incorporate Spanish language, culture, research, and service learning in primarily Afro-Colombian communities. The students selected were from the science and engineering fields at the undergraduate and graduate level. Research focused on environmental monitoring using GIS/GPS tools in five communities that comprise La Boquilla. The students were taught basic research skills such as literature review, report writing, data analysis, poster presentation, field sampling, and time management. Four cohorts of students participated in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2015.
The original model (from Cartagena) was piloted for two years and then tested in two other locations in South America. In 2012 the model was then expanded to Cali, Colombia, Bahia, Brazil, and Quito, Ecuador. Assessment of the program was done to get student’s feedback on their weekly experience and structure of the program. The model can be customized and implemented in a wide variety of locations, institutional types, different levels of students and STEM disciplines.
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