Academic Senate discusses study abroad

At their Nov. 1 meeting, the Academic Senate supported a set of 14 recommendations from their International Education Committee that represent over a year’s worth of deliberation.

The recommendations address policies and procedures for faculty-led study abroad programs and the recruitment of international students, with specific attention to supporting the Office of International Education. During deliberations, senators praised the committee for providing this set of recommendations, which follow the Senate’s support of a letter of concern the Senate received from the International Education Committee last year.

The Senate recognized that the COVID-19 interruption of both study abroad activities and international student recruitment offered an opportunity to review and improve upon previous practices. These recommendations are a result of that reflection. The goal is for Ferris to enhance global engagement that benefits students, faculty and the community.

The policies and procedures in the recommendations promise to ensure the safety and security of students and faculty when they travel abroad. Senate President Dr. Sandra Alspach wants to see the study abroad trips return to the full extent.

Grap

“As a faculty member who has led numerous study abroad trips, I was especially encouraged to see the strong Senate support for these recommendations,” Alspach said. “My husband and I still connect from time to time with students we traveled with, and we can testify that those experiences were life-changing for many of them.”

Alspach has worked with different groups of people as well as her students to find people wanting to try the study abroad trips.

“I continue to work with the [OIE] to connect international students on campus with students in my COMM 365 Intercultural Communication class,” Alspach said. “These kinds of connections have also been reported as life-changing by some of my students.”

In spring of 2022, the International Education Committee presented a letter of concern to the Academic Senate on the direction of international education at Ferris.

The Senate discussed the impact of the elimination of the OIE’s Education Abroad Coordinator position, offering study abroad in 2022-2023 cycle and not using educational agencies for recruiting international students. The letter was endorsed by the Academic Senate with an overwhelming majority. The position elimination decision was not reconsidered, and the university has not yet resumed using educational agencies for recruiting.

The Senate continues to have significant concerns about the university’s commitment to and investment in international education. With the change in university leadership, the Senate believes there is a significant opportunity to reinvest in international education. The Senate discussed recommendations they could give moving forward with the discussion, and split them into two sections.

Recommendations for reengaging study abroad at Ferris

The first recommendation the Senate provided was to implement an 18-month study abroad cycle for faculty-led study abroad, as currently proposed in the draft study abroad procedures document, “to [finally] bring the university in line with industry best practices, as our peer institutions have been doing for years.”

The Senate recognizes that they need to create a plan for something as big as sending students abroad, so they want to develop, approve and adopt a comprehensive study abroad procedures document.

The Senate had also talked about hiring a study abroad coordinator or creating one or more suitable positions that require the expertise needed to professionally and safely support sustained study abroad efforts in the OIE.

Recommendations for the
recommitting of international education at Ferris

The Senate also focused on budgets. The Senate wants to start by creating a sustainable budget model for the OIE that supports growth in international student enrollment, effectively supports study abroad programming at the college levels and strengthens campus internationalization efforts.

The Senate brainstormed different ideas on how they could find ways to figure out different budget plans, including “[developing] a sustainable funding model for and commit to working with educational agents around the world to recruit international students” [and] “consider the viability of re-instituting and staffing an intensive English program to attract a larger population of international students on campus.”

The Senate knows that they need support from the university as well as faculty.  In order to encourage and support faculty to seek nationally sponsored and competitive international experiences in line with the university’s commitment to learning and excellence, faculty members offered Fulbright scholarships are to be offered automatic sabbatical leave. This way it gives the faculty an incentive.