As we discussed in our last “Ask the Experts” installment, developing a faculty-led program with a co-leader has a number of advantages. But, is it worth it to consider partnering with a professor from another discipline? Let’s talk about it.

To discuss best practices from a number of perspectives, we spoke with three professionals who each play a different role in developing international education programs: Mayumi Nakamura, Interim Director of International Programs at Randolph-Macon College; Dr. Brandon Cromer, Biology professor at Augusta University; and Jenny Burkholder, a Study Tour Coordinator with 20 years’ experience at FTI.

Our Experts: Mayumi Nakamura, Dr. Brandon Cromer & Jenny Burkholder.

Have you ever planned a study tour that focused on more than one discipline? Pros? Cons?

Nakamura:  Our study courses must be cross-discipline. Not only does this promote intellectual collaboration for both students & faculty, but it also makes the courses more appealing to students & parents. The opportunity to take two courses for one price is a huge bonus that really increases our ability to get the parents’ buy in. This shows in the statistics. Courses in pairs fill quicker & more consistently than individual travel courses.

I think it can be more effective when our study/travel courses are cross-discipline. Not only does this promote intellectual collaboration for both students and faculty, but it also makes the courses more appealing to students and parents (i.e. tackling two full academic courses in short 4 weeks, earning up to 6 credits for one travel price, etc.). The opportunity to take two courses for one price may be a huge bonus to some of the students that can really increases their ability to get their parents’ support. This shows in the statistics. Courses that encourage students to take both tend to fill quicker and more consistently than individual travel courses.

This does require a coordinated effort between the co-leaders. For example, they collaboratively work together and discuss how to avoid scheduling conflicts when both courses require a particular component or activity at two different locations. Students registered for both courses can’t be in two places at the same time , so the faculty instructors must talk it out and carefully plan everything out when developing their course itinerary. And don’t forget that there is always a few students who have only chosen to take one of the courses. So, the logistics need to take this into consideration so that their learning objectives are also met. 

The exposure participants get to other disciplines and students they wouldn’t typically interact with is invaluable. It really makes this effort worthwhile.

“New partnerships—among departments on the same campus or between institutions … bring fresh thinking and creative ideas to enhance students’ experiences, especially when leadership fosters and rewards innovation.”

Stephen G. Pelletier, “Innovation Through Partnerships,” Nafsa.org, International Educator, March/April 2019

Cromer: I normally plan programs that are only ecology based, however, the Tanzania program I did in 2018 and the return trip we are planning for 2020 will be ecology plus evolutionary biology.  Not extremely different fields, but it did mean the addition of sites that I may not have included.  For example, we added the Arusha Natural History Museum and the Laetoli Archaeological Site. 

The pros are that we were able to recruit a few students interested in cell biology, genetics, and anthropology.  The con was that we have to split the group up a couple of times during the trip.  I am not sure if that affects the cost, but it does make the logistics more challenging.

Burkholder: Absolutely!  The pros of this, especially for smaller institutions, is that you are able to combine forces and pull from a larger pool of interest than offering one program.  There will of course be some overlap where sites you are visiting will really only relate to one or the other.  We do our best to balance them out and at the end of the day the students are still learning, it’s just a broader scope than if they had travelled separately.  And let’s face it, the experiences will always be amazing and interesting!  That’s the whole point of study abroad – to bring the lesson to life. … leaders need to be on the same page.

Cross-discipline Study Tours Pros & Cons

Pros

  1. Larger recruiting pool
  2. Better ROI for students
  3. Increased parental support
  4. Safety
  5. More well-rounded experience

Cons

  1. More logistic coordination
  2. More communication needed between leaders

We hope you enjoyed the third installment of our “Ask the Experts” series. If you missed the first two parts, take a look at:

Part 5 will discuss creating authentic experiences. Please subscribe to our blog to read more.

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