Faculty Study Abroad Certification Series

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What is the collaboration strategy in a nutshell?

In collaboration with CIS Abroad, the University of South Carolina Faculty Study Abroad Certification Series is a remote-access, recorded training initiative that sets out to empower faculty from across the campus to engage with learning abroad. Led by the Director of the Education Abroad Office, and Vice President of University Relations at CIS Abroad, the initiative is an effective way to engage with faculty from a variety of disciplines and levels to form working relationships and build understanding. The formalized certification process also allows the education abroad office to easily identify and address gaps in programming by level, discipline, or other factors. 

How was this strategy created and who were the key players?

The Certification Series was introduced in 2017, following a full year of development before its initial run. During the development year, the initial labor focused on facilitating an online space to host the program recordings. The program was designed to reach an audience from a variety of disciplines, allowing for flexible nontraditional learning abroad opportunities. In addition to its focus on University of South Carolina faculty, the certification training was also made available to other universities through the CIS Abroad network. 

So, what’s the impact of this strategy?

While the certification series is not directly designed around enhanced data collection on learning overseas activities, it does lay the foundation for the improved quality and quantity of data on these activities. By offering an accessible way for faculty to engage with learning abroad, the series encourages faculty to collaborate with the university and CIS Abroad in ways they may not initially consider, allowing the university’s education abroad office to reach a wider faculty audience in a strategic way. 

A greater level of faculty awareness about the offerings and expertise of the education abroad office trickles down to graduate students as well, encouraging greater numbers of both faculty and students to engage directly with the education abroad office to pursue learning overseas opportunities. This often results in the facilitation of nontraditional types of overseas learning, such as graduate student research projects, internships, and grants. Where these activities may have taken place previously independent from the education abroad office, they are now supported and tracked in a more centralized, consistent, and holistic manner, leveraging not only disciplinary faculty expertise, but best practices in cross-cultural learning. Increased and improved overseas learning experiences plus streamlined data collection results in a win for the education abroad office, faculty, and students alike.

Any helpful context about implementing this strategy on your campus?

The University of South Carolina Education Abroad Office has a dedicated staff member who engages with and supports faculty. This position collaborates with faculty across the university to help them and their students get the most out of learning abroad. Through initiatives like the certification series, the education abroad office makes a concerted effort to engage with as many university faculty members as possible, leveraging faculty champions, and identifying and addressing gaps in faculty engagement with learning abroad. The working relationship with CIS Abroad helps in these efforts by providing a wider inter-university context to the faculty, allowing benchmarking and tracking of trends in the field for faculty and staff alike.

What tips do you have for institutions looking to implement a similar strategy?

Like any successful faculty-led learning overseas experience, understanding the importance of collaboration was key to implementing the certification series as well. Because of the scope of the project – wanting to make the training available to faculty in and outside of the University of South Carolina – the certification series would not have been possible without the collaboration with CIS Abroad. Time is also an important consideration. The certification series was an ambitious project that required a year’s worth of preparation and collaboration before it launched in an official capacity. Any institution looking to implement a similar series should carefully consider how to engage with its scope and audience most effectively.

Resources:

Download a PDF of the University of South Carolina's Case Study