study abroadFour Drexel students were awarded the Gilman Study Abroad Scholarship for the 2010-11 academic year.

Francis Suen, Amy Ho, Abigail Cessna and Orela Suku received the Gilman scholarship, which “offers grants for U.S. citizen undergraduate students of limited financial means to pursue academic studies abroad,” according to the program website. The goals of the scholarship include increasing the number of students studying abroad in “non-traditional” locations, as described by the program’s website.

“The Gilman Scholarship Program broadens the student population that studies abroad by supporting undergraduates who might not otherwise participate due to financial constraints,” the website reads. “The program aims to encourage students to choose non-traditional study abroad destinations, especially those outside of Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand … [and] aims to support students who have been traditionally under-represented in study abroad, including but not limited to, students with high financial need, community college students, students in under-represented fields such as the sciences and engineering, students with diverse ethnic backgrounds, and students with disabilities.”

Suen, a Drexel iSchool student, is using his scholarship award to partake in Drexel’s Global Engineering Education Exchange program at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan.

Ho, a Lebow College of Business Economics student, will be studying through Drexel’s exchange program with Chung Yuan Christian University in Chungli, Taiwan, along with Cessna, an International Area Studies major in the College of Arts of Sciences.

“I’m really pleased that I got [the scholarship] and since I’m doing an internship afterward it will help for some of my living costs too,” Cessna said. “It’s a great idea for Drexel students because it can help with living costs, which is important especially with co-ops.”

Suku, too, was excited about the prospects that the scholarship offered.

“I was so ecstatic [about getting the scholarship], especially since I found out that my best friend and I got it at the same time and it was such a relief to hear that I don’t have to pay for all of the study abroad costs,” Suku said.

Suku, a Lebow College of Business student studying business administration, will be attending American University in Rome, Italy through the Drexel in Italy study abroad program. While there, Suku plans to travel everywhere.

“[I want to go] all over Italy and all over Europe,” Suku said. “I will be studying art and volunteering for the American Women’s Association in Rome, which is an organization that sets up community service events in Rome.”

Suku added that the Gilman Scholarship for study abroad is for students who received a federal Pell Grant and will be studying abroad for a full semester. He said the award amounts vary based on financial need, but the award is given in the form of a check and can be used for any study abroad-related costs from airfare to living to tuition.

“One of the main requirements for receiving the scholarship is that the recipient completes a follow-on project promoting the Gilman Scholarship and studying abroad to students in their university community,” Suku said. “Part of the application process is writing a proposal of how you plan on completing the follow-on project and later providing documentation of the project.”

Cessna said the application process was actually a lot easier than another scholarship she also applied to, but she advises other students to start early, since communication with financial and study abroad advisors is key.

Suku shared this sentiment, adding that the application components included writing an essay, sending an official transcript, obtaining certification from both study abroad and student advisors and other documentation.

Suku said he did not think he would get the scholarship when he applied, but believes his essay was a strong reason for being selected. He also said language should not be a barrier.

“Don’t be scared to study abroad just because you aren’t so prepared in the language; you can always overcome those things,” Suku said.

The Gilman Study Abroad Scholarships are sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. They are administered by the Institute of International Education.

Learn more about Study Abroad Insurance

(By Laura McDavid,

The demands on leaders of study abroad programs can be humbling.

“You have to have a willingness to learn and share experiences with students,” said Nancy Guthrie, program coordinator for Iowa State University’s Study Abroad Center and the center’s liaison with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “One of my most profound learning experiences came in Sucre, Bolivia, one year when I was spending the night on a cot in a clinic. It was cold; the student was severely dehydrated. If any of you know clinics in Latin America, some of them are very small, they don’t have a lot of staff, so I was there if she needed a drink of water; whatever she needed, I was there to help get.

”That’s kind of a reality check when you’re a faculty member. I was mom, I was translator, I was health care evaluator to see whether what the doctors were prescribing for that student were really appropriate or not. And if I hadn’t lived in Bolivia for six and a half years before that, it would have been very difficult.”

“How do we prepare faculty to handle those kinds of situations if they don’t have any previous experience?” Guthrie asked. “Of course they can call back to our offices, and we run through all these scenarios, but still, once the rubber hits the road, it’s very difficult to predict exactly what skills are needed.”

Guthrie and several colleagues discussed the challenges of faculty-led study abroad during a session Wednesday at the annual conference of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, where more than 7,000 professionals have gathered to discuss the benefits of international exchange, incoming and outgoing — as well as the pitfalls and risks.

“On our campus I’m on the phone with the risk manager every day,” John D. Battenburg, director of international education and programs at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, said during the session on faculty-led study abroad.

Short-term, faculty-led programs are key elements in the ongoing push to increase the number of American students studying abroad. Indeed the majority of students now studying abroad — 56 percent — do so on short-term programs. While the quality of these programs is correlated with the quality of the faculty leader — “Great faculty make great programs,” as Battenburg said — figuring out which professors will make great study abroad leaders is a fallible process. “The quickest way to ruin a program is to choose the wrong faculty member. And you don’t always know,” Battenburg said.

The faculty leader is thus the “wild card” in any study abroad program, as Richard Webb, president and founder of ProWorld, a study abroad provider, put it. Tales of short-term study abroad programs gone awry because of poor faculty leadership surface periodically (and, for a twist, in the most recent case to attract news media attention, it was not a professor but a college president who was faulted for the way he handled the suicidal behaviors of a student on a course trip to Costa Rica ).

Such distressing reports will probably keep coming as colleges increase the numbers of short-term programs, but Battenburg stressed the need to put protocols in place to reduce their likelihood. “My campus, we do quite a bit with the selection of faculty members, quite a bit with the training of faculty members, and quite a bit with program delivery when they’re overseas. So with selection, we have an application process, we have a committee that chooses faculty members, and it’s a broad-based committee [made up of former faculty leaders], representing different colleges.

”We have information meetings with the faculty beforehand, so they know what to expect, in terms of compensation, in terms of workload issues, in terms of risk management, in terms of academics. The faculty submit a statement of purpose for those courses they want to offer, teaching evaluations, and the signature of the chair and the dean, which we find very important, because then if there are problems, the dean or chair can’t say, ‘Oh, it’s not my problem.’ ”

Battenburg continued: “We interview the faculty member. We talk a lot about, ‘How are you going to connect the dots? How are you going to use the location, the city or location where you’re going, as a laboratory?’ Then of course we appoint the faculty member, but it’s a conditional appointment. Obviously it depends on enrollment and it can depend on other issues. We also deal with training. We spend a lot of time with risk management. We require all faculty to take emergency management response PowerPoint training. We also have faculty involved in the pre-departure orientation with the students.

“And, then, finally program delivery. We communicate with the faculty often. With our faculty-led programs we send a staff member for at least part of the duration of the program. We have students and we have a supervisor evaluate the program and then we also meet with faculty afterwards. So we take it very seriously. We don’t always get it right. Sometimes we do; sometimes we don’t,” Battenburg said.

Despite the challenges, one message of the session Wednesday was that if colleges want to expand their study abroad capacity, faculty-led programs are an essential component. La Roche College, in Pittsburgh, is ramping up its faculty-led programs significantly: It recently began the Study Abroad + Study USA program, in which all students will have the opportunity to participate in a one- to three-week program abroad or in another part of the United States, at no extra cost (the cost is included in the college’s tuition structure). Those in the entering class of 2009 are the first students who will benefit from the new program, and so La Roche plans to offer 19 faculty-led programs come May 2011. “This can only work with collaboration of the faculty,” said Thomas G. Schaefer, the associate vice president for academic affairs at La Roche. “There is no alternative for this. These are all faculty-, staff-led programs.”

“What we’re seeing is, there is excitement on the part of the faculty, but also apprehension,” said Schaefer. “It’s the fear of not knowing what to do.  By Elizabeth Redden

Learn more about Study Abroad Insurance

(ByElizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed)

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