UW Field Course Leaders Faculty Focus Group

UW Faculty Focus Group – April 27, 2012
This focus group consisted of faculty members who have organized and led UW courses field courses
abroad. This group knows what processes students go through when they are becoming more globally
aware and competent; they have a better idea than most what learning outcomes are optimal for us to
expect UW graduates to achieve in global competency upon graduation; and they know first-hand the
policies and procedures that help and those that hinder their efforts.
We had 22 people in attendance, and 2 hours of excellent discussion. The meeting was recorded and
notes were also taken; below is a summary of the discussion.
To get people thinking about topics for discussion, the following slide was displayed throughout the
You have had a special role in making international education successful at UW – you know this stuff
better than anyone.
What do you think a “globally competent and engaged citizen” is? That is, what
should our student know, think about, be skilled in when they graduate from UW
when it comes to global affairs, other cultures, etc.?
What does your department, college, unit do to support your efforts to take students
abroad? What do they do that may be hindering you?
What processes or changes do you see your students going through on these courses?
The UW calendar isn’t particularly well designed to support field courses abroad.
o On one hand, starting later in January would be optimal for the Winter Break courses –
they could have enough time, without encroaching on Christmas, to travel, get the most
they can out of being on location, and getting back for classes to start sometime in late
January. As it stands now, either the trips need to be very short, or they must encroach
on Christmas, which reduces enrollment.
o On the other hand, starting later in January would mean that the May / summer courses
could suffer in enrollments. One of the attractive things about being done by mid-May
is that students can go on the field courses and still have time to come back for summer
school on campus, jobs, and internships for the full summer.
o An interesting suggestion was made to allow students and faculty who are taking
courses both in Winter and Summer breaks/sessions to have an early-leave policy in the
weeks leading up to their departure. This may include wrapping up courses early,
administering and/or taking final exams early, and other flexibility to take time for
staging and preparation involved in going abroad, which is very intensive and difficult to
juggle with wrapping up a semester. This could be a university policy that provides
exceptions only for these field courses abroad.
Overall, a compressed calendar for UW’s AY was discussed favorably, including having
longer course-meeting times or a quarter system to not only structurally ease
accommodation of field courses, but also to shorten the AY time overall without
reducing contact hours and academic rigor for all courses at UW.
There was a lively discussion of the policies associated with experiences like the London
Semester. The benefit to the students of living and having to adapt over the long term to life
abroad was highlighted, but the challenges to departments of having faculty members
participate in teaching London Semester and similar long-term programs was also a topic of
discussion. There was discussion about whether the courses for the program are considered on
load or not, and about the cost to the department of having to replace the faculty member
while they are gone. In addition, it was pointed out that the faculty member typically spends far
more on lodging and food in London than they are paid for the semester.
Extensive discussion was held on the value of the International Travel Grant program. The
program is very popular and regularly has request- to-funding ratios of 6:1. About 80% of those
that aren’t funded are meritorious, but not funded because of the limited resources of the
program. Currently the Grant is funded from AA at $30,000 per AY, with the funding usually
split between two funding rounds and subsidized as needed by the IPO Director’s discretionary
fund. All agreed that it is an excellent resource, but strong consensus emerged that the funding
level for that program should be increased considerably to support faculty who may be using
the funding to begin the set-up and logistics of a field course. This is a key phase in organizing
and leading any course abroad.
Some departments treat the summer field study abroad courses the same as on-campus UW
courses when it comes to enrollment requirements. However, given the challenging logistics
and added level of extensive faculty work involved in leading these courses, it’s wise to cap their
numbers at smaller numbers in many cases – and that cap may well be below the on-campus
break-even number. We need to look at that policy and be flexible about that cancellation
number threshold in these cases.
There was consensus that a change in or harmonization of policies regarding faculty pay for field
courses was needed. Some departments treat the courses as on-load, but others will (1) not
treat the course as on-load, (2) will treat the field course as a “junket” rather than work and so
expect professors to take reduced pay, and (3) pull funding if a course is canceled by the
department for low-enrollment numbers below the summer session threshold. Professors
should not do their jobs for free, it was agreed, and this seems ripe for some discussion and
action. In the words of one participant, “if you are not being valued through some form of
salary payment, you burn out, you lose enthusiasm, and you just stop doing it.”
Related to this, there was discussion about the fact that EPB’s are higher in the summer
also proves a disincentive for both departments and faculty. Because of the
entrepreneurial nature of the summer session, the EPB’s need to be higher, but perhaps
some tweaking of this policy is in order.
There was also some concern expressed that Winter Break courses, in particular, do not revert
funding back to the department or college as a share of revenue, as is done in the summer
session courses. This will prove a disincentive for these courses, which are important to expand
the availability of study abroad.
Extensive discussion was held on the “scattershot” approach UW has taken so far to supporting
and facilitating these courses. Many pointed out that support and financial assistance is very
good out of IPO, but that the many different deadlines for all the different kinds of support, and
the many offices and sources of support a professor has to work with to find all of the resources
they need, presented an unnecessary barrier.
Professors advocated for a “one stop shop” approach for funding and planning
resources. The hire of IPO’s new study abroad advisor who will handle faculty-led
programs will help. But, faculty advocated for one place where people can find
information about all the possible sources of funding for courses; timely assistance with
marketing and recruiting; streamlined deadlines for student scholarships, faculty
innovative course funding, and travel grants; and the ability to “pre-fund” qualified
students to assist with recruitment, such as assured Cheney assistance for applicants
who fit that scholarship’s criteria advertised up-front.
There was also consensus that while IPO does provide as much support as possible for
logistics and planning, assistance on this front should be strengthened. This could be
trying to find a consistent source of funding for coordinators who can plan the trip with
direction from the professor, such as a graduate assistant – faculty with experience
using this model have found it to be very successful.
Support was widely expressed for funding courses through innovative course grants and
other mechanism for multiple years at a time – a one-shot 2-5 year funding stream,
which gives the professor time to focus on the rest of the course. The understanding
would be that the professor would seek other sources of funding with the record of
success provided by this funding stability. This would reduce uncertainty in funding
There was discussion regarding the status of the G and D requirements in the USP. Some
expressed the opinion that this sends a mixed message – that with this ACE exercise we say that
international education is important, but with USP outcomes, the message is that they are not,
even with the caveat that global outcomes will be infused inside the disciplines. Concern was
expressed that there was no mechanism to “check” that indeed, global education outcomes
were being included in the disciplines, and the value of international experiences would
therefore be diminished. Others were of the opinion that with the reduction of USP
requirements overall, there would be more room for students to take electives that provided
global perspectives and participate in study abroad, among other international opportunities.
The infusion of the global perspectives requirement into the disciplines would also put the
knowledge into context and be more engaging. USP task force members urged people to let the
task force know their opinions.
Faculty shared that in some departments, they have been able to take existing scholarship
resources for students and, with donor advisement, redirect some scholarships to study abroad.
This provides another innovative source of funding for students to study abroad.
It was pointed out and discussed that some programs are more difficult to recruit for than
others, especially those in Africa. The discussion evolved into an idea that, in addition to or with
the usual Study Abroad Fair, IPO includes a Faculty-led Program Study Abroad Fair, where
professors and previous participants can give information on their programs and our own UW
programs can be promoted. This could help provide information on programs that are more
difficult to recruit for, be an effective marketing tool, and highlight student experiences through
our own programs. This could be coupled with separate websites for each program which
feature videos, blogs, and country information in addition to information specific to each
faculty-led program for students to visit to get more information. This could all be coordinated
through IPO. In addition, faculty shared that in the past, identifying specific courses for
recruiting works very well, especially when students who have gone on a program present
information about their experiences. To incentivize the students to visit courses, some portion
of credit for the course can be “held back” – after asking the Registrar to allow an X grade for
the course until this is done the following semester – so that if students go on a summer
program, they present to classes for recruiting in the fall. This has proved very effective for a
number of programs.
A strong point was made that the biodiversity initiative that’s being prioritized at the
institutional level dovetails well with internationalization, and that we should explore tie-ins
with that initiatives as well as any others that may be appropriate. These kinds of tie-ins will
allow UW to use resources efficiently in times of shrinking budgets while still meeting
educational excellence goals.
Overall, there was strong consensus that UW field courses abroad are one of the most effective
and efficient methods of giving our students global competency skills. Faculty who lead these
course observe measurable differences in students’ ability to solve problems and cope with
complexity from the time they depart to the time they return. There was agreement that this
method of internationalization is the highest-impact, highest-return programmatically.
Overall, the tenor of the meeting was collegial and positive. Faculty expressed gratitude for the support
they receive from IPO, the President’s Office, and other sources for their courses, and from that point
very productive discussions of what could be done to improve the support environment for faculty-led
courses, which by consensus provide the highest, most observable benefits in giving students global
competency skills.