Travel enhances education

In order to provide students with a “world class, face to face” education, some classes travel abroad to see first hand how their field of study can be applied outside the classroom. That’s one of the reasons study abroad programs are part of many department course offerings.

Katherine Keane, associate professor at the School of Architecture and Construction Management, described study abroad as a “great learning experience for architecture students.’’ In addition, she sees it as a complement to being in the Palouse, “since we are a rural area with limited access to architecture and physically far from other cultural experiences.”

In 2002, Keane designed a semester-long program in the United Kingdom, and this summer she will return to the UK and France. “The full semester program included design studio, visits with professional architects, guest lectures by renowned architects, travel to historical sites and contemporary architecture, and intensive travel throughout the UK. This year, by student request, we are offering a summer class, because the indication was that student commitment would increase with the reduced cost of a shorter program.”

Her main advice to faculty preparing a study abroad course is to start planning ahead of time.

“Start planning at least 18 months in advance. It is also important to engage students’ interest and to get them to commit early. There is no point in designing a program if there are no students wishing to participate.

“I think the key is to create appropriate courses that can be executed in a foreign environment where you have limited access to the conventional materials utilized to support architectural education.”

Office plans logistics

Designing and planning a study abroad course can be overwhelming for first-timers. The Education Abroad and International Credentials office at WSU helps faculty with planning an academic program abroad.

“We assist with the logistics, so professors have more time to focus on the academic content of the course, course development and the recruitment of students,” said Candace Chenoweth, assistant director of the Education Abroad and International Credentials office.

“The Education Abroad office assists professors with overseas program planning and logistics, budget development, student advising and recruitment, application processing, contract development, student billing and financial management, student orientation, and emergency preparedness and risk management,” she said.

A college’s dean should approve any faculty-led abroad program before it arrives at the Education Abroad office. “Departments will decide if the program and course content are relevant to their curriculum. They need to assess who would teach the class abroad and if they would need to hire a replacement for campus,” Chenoweth said.

“We can provide support to departments only if the course is for credit. We can advise and provide input about location, accommodations, transportation and other logistics. Often, there are program providers who have local knowledge and resources; we can put the faculty in touch with those providers to determine if their assistance would be helpful.”

Study abroad programs can be a learning experience for both students and faculty. “I get to learn a lot by doing all the research, revisiting historic and new buildings, etc. It boosts my resources, and I bring that back to the classroom,” Keane said.

Networking initiated

Linda Arthur, professor and chair at WSU’s Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles, emphasized that students can start networking internationally and that “faculty teaching on study abroad tours get to know the students at a different level.”

“Students and faculty have to keep in mind that this is an academic experience, not tourism,” Arthur said. Students in her class go to lectures, keep a log on activities and write research papers. “We even prepare the students in cultural competency,” she said.

Arthur, who is taking her students for the first time to London, Paris and Florence during the last two weeks of May, added that faculty can also do some research while overseas if the course is well planned. “It is very important for faculty to travel and be updated and learn how things are done in other parts of the world,” she said.

Alumni, faculty also learn

It is not unusual for alumni or community members to have an interest in a course offered abroad. “We are taking four alumni on our next trip,” Arthur said.

“Alumni or community members would be welcome to participate in these programs as long as they enrolled in the appropriate class, but degree-seeking WSU students would have priority if the number of seats was limited,” Chenoweth said.

WSU’s Advisory Council for International Affairs is currently developing a policy regarding participation in these courses. The policy, which will be sent to the provost for consideration, would allow WSU faculty to participate in the programs for professional development when space is available.

“This summer 87 students are signed up to participate in faculty-led programs to Europe or Thailand,” Chenoweth said. “Last summer WSU didn’t offer any faculty-led programs.

“The growth of such programs indicates that departments and faculty are responding to the provost’s desire to increase the number of WSU students participating in study abroad programs,” she said.

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