TU students learn how to reach the rain forest as well as its vitality to the ecosystem through local Panamanians.
University of Tulsa
The University of Tulsa’s commitment to internationalizing its campus and providing innovative study abroad opportunities for its students begins even before they arrive on campus for their freshmen year. JumpstartTU takes enrolled students on a study trip to Panama in the summer prior to their first semester at the university. The program seeks to help build excitement for the college experience, focus on learner-centered education with local NGO partners, build teamwork and collaboration across students in different disciplines, and engage with local communities in Panama.
150 students are divided into teams of 15 led by team leaders from across the faculty and administration. These team leaders expose incoming students to parts of the university that they may not have otherwise have known about and build networks that the students can draw upon when they get to campus. The team leaders can develop their own leadership skills and internationalize their own offices and departments with their experiences.
The collaboration between the Center for Global Engagement and the Office of Admission allows the JumpstartTU program to focus on Pell Grant-eligible students and first-generation college students. 30 percent of the students in the program are first generation. University of Tulsa’s student body is over 35 percent Pell-eligible and for many JumpstartTU participants, the program represents the first time they have left Oklahoma. 60 percent report needing to apply for a passport in order to participate. When they get to campus, these students have already built a network of friends and comrades that is diverse in background and interests.
“I welcome the entering freshmen class each year at matriculation ceremony,” said University of Tulsa President, Dr. Gerard Clancy. “Students who have participated in Jumpstart stand out as a cohesive community—they are excited about the University and their spirit is infectious. Stories of Jumpstarters welcoming students unable to participate abound. They value the connectivity to others, and they take steps to welcome others to the table.”
While in Panama, Jumpstart students learn about global issues like health and society, energy and sustainability, and the culture of indigenous people. They partner with local NGOs to see how these issues affect real people in local communities, and read and study about both the global and the local. Alfredo Hidrovo, the founder of Luna Llena de Tambores, one of Jumpstart’s local partners in Panama, described the transformation students undergo over the course of their experiences. “It is a powerful experience in changing one’s lens to a heightened awareness of the need to embrace difference and diversity.”
Students also bring the spirit of service learning back to Tulsa. Participants who learned about sustainable development have worked with a local park to design a solar-powered lighting system. Others have written a children’s book that supports the work of a Panamanian nonprofit that supports poor and abused women. Many others volunteering with service projects in the local community. The interest in study abroad also remains with program participants. One cohort of Jumpstart students are already working on replicating the program with a trip to China after their junior years to help prepare them for graduation and their careers.
Summer 2020 will be the fourth year of the JumpstartTU program and the University of Tulsa is excited to see how the program affects four- and six-year graduation rates. Administrators are already conducting focus groups and studying how Jumpstart participants are progressing through their collegiate experiences. JumpstartTU began with a five-year plan to get the program to a place where it was a fixture in the community and could measurably affect the internationalization efforts on campus. The next step is to see what the effects of this program are on the student experience, implementing best practices, and continuing to innovate to maximize the benefit to students of this unique study abroad experience.