Pitt Community College’s Award-Winning Experience in Internationalization

Pitt Community College in Greenville, North Carolina was one of the recipients of IIE’s Andrew Heiskell Awards for Innovation in International Education at IIE’s Best Practices Conference last week. Pitt was honored for its International Education Travel Scholarship, which provides full funding for participation in a Pitt Community College Abroad-sanctioned program and seeks to eliminate financial barriers for students and faculty recipients.

Guest blogger Darlene Smith-Worthington, Director of Pitt Community College Abroad, shares the story of the scholarship’s creation:

Pitt Community College’s recipe for success for global education includes

  • strong support from forward-thinking, open-minded  administrators
  • clever, creative, and determined faculty and staff who simply don’t give up
  • a network of colleagues who share ideas, resources, and more
  • eager and committed community members, and
  • students who are engaged and thirsty to become global citizens and scholars.

One of the components of global education at PCC of which I am most proud is the International Education Travel Scholarship (IETS) program.  The IETS story began with a symposium presentation at World View by a colleague from Kellogg Community College. (PCC is a member/partner of World View, an organization established by The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which works with K-12 schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges to “prepare students to succeed in an interconnected, diverse, and multicultural world.”) 

The speaker told of her successful short-term study abroad program and how many of her students were able to fund their study abroad experiences by using a portion of their federal financial aid.  After the presentation and additional conversations with the speaker, I hoped to find a way for PCC students to use financial aid also.  Pitt Community College had been running a short-term study abroad program called PCC Abroad since 1998; however, the only students able to participate were those whose families had the means to pay for travel.  Since a large percentage of the PCC student population qualifies for federal financial aid, I hoped that using financial aid to pay for study abroad programs could provide opportunities for more students and diversify our participant pool.  Despite sincere efforts of many on campus, including the staff in the Financial Aid Office, this avenue proved unsuccessful.

Dean of Arts and Sciences Dr. Stephanie Rook and I brainstormed other possibilities.  Dr. Rook suggested that I write a proposal for the program, leaving the question of the funding source to the President’s Leadership Team. Then Dr. Dan Mayo, who was Assistant to the Vice-President for Academic Affairs at the time, suggested that the College designate a percentage of self-supporting monies to be used for students’ study abroad experiences each year. (Dr. Mayo has been deeply committed to global education throughout his tenure at PCC, and he identified the perfect funding source for PCC Abroad).

With what seemed like a feasible plan, Dr. Rook; Dr. Mayo; Andre Gregory, Coordinator of International Programs; and I wrote a draft policy along with program outline.

The IETS policy was ultimately approved with the support of President Dennis Massey, another strong advocate for global education.  The President’s Leadership team approved an annual allocation of five percent of self-supporting funds to be used to support students, faculty and staff who wish to study abroad. 
Now IETS is in its third year. Andre Gregory, Coordinator of International Programs, provides leadership, determination to give students opportunities and responsibilities, and enthusiasm.  He ensures also the College’s funds are spent wisely so that support for the program will continue.

Last year, the IETS provided for nine students to travel to Belize to participate in a service-learning experience,   11 students to participate in short-term study abroad in the British Isles, and for two students to intern at PCC’s sister institution the Wuxi Institute of Technology in Wuxi, China. To date, the scholarship has allowed over 43 students and five members of faculty and to participate in an education abroad experience. Although the IETS is only one small part of PCC’s International Program, it is a critical piece and adds a great value to our campus and community.

Darlene Smith-Worthington is Coordinator of the Reading & Writing Center, and Director of Pitt Community College Abroad.