The Plus3 Program: An Early Exposure to Study Abroad
2005 Heiskell Award Winner: Study Abroad
Nomination submitted by: William I. Brustein, Director, University Center for International Studies
University of Pittsburgh's innovative Plus3 program, developed and led by faculty from the School of Engineering and the College of Business, facilitates exposure to study abroad very early in the college career, and is designed to serve students of engineering and business. A three-credit optional addition to freshman courses required in each school, the Plus3 program targets rising sophomores who have little or no international experience, and all participants engage in a two-week international research trip at the end of their freshman year.
Plus3 aims to cultivate interest in foreign language study and future study abroad, as the students engage in a serious, multi-discipline team study and comparison of international and U.S. companies within an industry. This is particularly important for students of engineering, as the discipline has traditionally been less well-represented due to time constraints imposed by strict curriculum requirements. The Plus3 model has been so successful that the University of Pittsburgh has adopted it to create "Integrated Field Trips Abroad", now a component of courses across the university curriculum.
Coordination was one of the greatest program challenges, particularly as the common syllabus must work for all participating faculty members and administrators, independent of their countries and disciplines. In 2004, the Plus3 program included seventy student participants from four university administrative units, as well as four partner institutions, including the University of Augsburg in Germany, the Czech Management Center in the Czech Republic, University of Santa Maria in Chile, and University of Nanjing in China. Coordination was best accomplished with a final syllabus that includes a "common set of work products", which was adapted by each group to suit the local environments in the countries of destination.
The importance of internationalizing schools of engineering and business cannot be overemphasized, says Lawrence Feick, Director of the International Business Center at the University of Pittsburgh. "In recent years we have witnessed increasing global competition from countries such as India and China for highly skilled professional jobs in many areas," he says. "To be successful in this more global professional labor market, our students need the global awareness, interest, and experience that allows them to compete for these global jobs and to work in cooperative teams that cross national boundaries."
The highly effective Plus3 program has already produced lasting results. In one case, business student David Rodriguez had little international experience and no German language skills prior to participating. A member of the first Plus3 group sent to Germany in Summer 2002, David was inspired by his time in Germany, and chose to study German in his sophomore and junior years. In Summer 2004, he returned to Germany for an internship with Siemens Medical near Nürnberg, where he independently wrote a state-by-state analysis of the third party reimbursement system in the U.S. David is now continuing work for Siemens as a consultant during his senior year.
Program funding has been drawn from several sources including student tuition, UP-sponsored scholarships for study abroad, and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) which helps support collaboration with the University of Augsburg. In addition, the program's success is due in large part to the enthusiasm and support of senior administrators in both the Business and Engineering schools, both of which provided scholarship support and the time of their Associate Deans to develop the program.