FORUM May 2017 | Volume 3 | Issue 2
President’s Corner BrianWhalen, President & CEO,The Forum on Education Abroad Growth, Outreach, and Community
t our recent Annual Conference in Seattle a couple of colleagues shared their observation about what a large organization The Forum has become. They reminisced about the early years of The Forum, when the membership could all fit in one of the smaller conference session rooms. It’s fun to recall those early years of The Forum and the relatively small community of colleagues that met in rooms far smaller than the ones where we now assemble at the Annual Conference. Since 2004, membership has grown from around 150 institutions to nearly 800, while the Annual Conference has grown from 200 to 1,400 attendees. I have been doing some reading recently about the challenges and opportunities of maintaining a sense of community in a growing organization such as ours. I am especially interested in the thoughts of social learning theorists Beverly and Etienne Wenger-Traynor, whose insights I think apply well to The Forum at this stage of its development. They provide encouragement about how it is possible to sustain a sense of community even as an organization such as ours grows:
Being a community of practice does not depend on size. It depends on identification with the domain and enough mutual engagement to produce learning value. Of course, if a community is very small, members will likely have heard each other’s stories and opinions after a while. Without new blood or more people, interactions often become stale, unless the domain is extremely dynamic and presents new, exciting challenges all the time. ∙2∙
If a community becomes very large, intense interactions will be more difficult. The community will tend to spawn smaller subgroups based on specialized interest or geographical proximity. But if one considers different levels of participation, as long as an active core group sustains enough engagement, there is no limit to the number of people who might benefit from the learning that takes place (especially with new technologies that enable peripheral participation across time and space). The sustained growth of The Forum to include a greater number of col“Driven by a mission to leagues, perspectives, and viewpoints is a improve education abroad strength of an organization whose misso that all students benefit, sion is to improve education abroad for every student. At its core, The Forum is The Forum seeks to an outreach association. Driven by a misengage every institution, sion to improve education abroad so that organization, program, and all students benefit, The Forum seeks to person involved in engage every institution, organization, education abroad.” program, and person involved in education abroad. As the Standards Development Organization (SDO) for the education abroad field, The Forum serves all institutions and organizations engaged in U.S. education abroad, and seeks to include a wide range of perspectives and expertise to support this work. As The Forum grows, it adjusts its resources, programs, and benefits to serve new and existing members. Over the years, The Forum has been amazingly nimble in how it has attracted new members while simultaneously developing resources, programs, and events to serve members’ needs, and our new strategic plan continues this same approach. It includes the goal of increasing the presence of currently underrepresented types of institutions and organizations in The Forum’s work and membership, including Community Colleges, Minority-Serving Institutions, State Colleges and Universities, and Non-U.S. Institutions and Organizations located in low- or middle-income countries. At the same time, The Forum will develop a specialized program of resources, services, and benefits to serve these new members. ∙3∙
Expanding and diversifying The Forum membership will bring additional voices and perspectives to The Forum’s work, helping to advance another goal of the strategic plan: to serve as the collective voice for the field of education abroad. This larger purpose brings us together as a community of professional practice because we share a commitment to the standards that are foundational to our field. Knowledge of and ability to apply standards makes it possible for us to speak collectively about the value and quality of our work. But this shared commitment is not enough to sustain our community. We also need multiple opportunities to interact with each other on a variety of levels, and the new strategic plan envisions ways that we will accomplish this. These include convening Critical Dialogues Days on important topics, creating interest groups based on member needs and expertise, utilizing technology to enhance interactions, and engaging more members in the work of The Forum, all to help foster more intimacy in our growing community. Since its founding in 2001, The Forum has benefitted from expanding its outreach to bring new voices and perspectives into the work of the organization. This has made The Forum more vibrant, and its programs, events, and resources more relevant. The next several years will be exciting ones for The Forum, marked by continued outreach and growth, as well as spirited engagement and intimate interactions in service of our collective mission.
Confronting the Challenge of Rationalization in Education Abroad David English, Co-Founder, Study Abroad Mendoza Part 2: Predictability
n his book, The McDonaldization of Society, sociologist George Ritzer details four characteristics of the highly rationalized organizations that have become prominent in our increasingly globalized world: efficiency, predictability, calculability and control. In the previous issue of The Forum Focus, we examined the double-edged sword of efficiency. If in striving for efficiency we forget that student learning and development are our ends, our means will actually be inefficient and irrational. They will not be aligned with our field’s reason for existing. They will undermine education abroad’s core values. Yet predictability can be just as great a threat to our goals as misguided efficiency. If we overly structure and systematize our education abroad programs, or expose students mostly to what they already know and expect, we risk creating programs that generate tedium and boredom — which are inimical to learning and development. Yes, many students (as well as faculty and administrators) initially prefer predictability to the new and unexpected. But over the past ten years, I’ve seen that certain types of unpredictable, spontaneous experiences on programs are of immense educational value to, and in fact ultimately appreciated by, students. As an in-country service provider, we host welcome orientations in Mendoza, Argentina. Before beginning a talk, we invite students to serve themselves from a table featuring not only plain cheese pizzas but also pizzas with boiled egg, ham, red peppers and olives as toppings. Invariably, they devour the cheese pizzas, yet leave most of the Argentine varieties untouched. At the end of the hour, I always take a picture of the table with ∙5∙
the uneaten local pizzas to later discuss with students how trying new foods is an important part of embracing the unexpected in a foreign land. Some get the point, but many argue they didn’t eat the Argentine pizzas because they have allergies (despite not having them at other meals), weren’t hungry (despite having eaten plenty of cheese pizza), or didn’t know what the ingredients were (despite them being printed on cards in front of each pizza). In their defensiveness, the students betray their initial preference for the familiar and the predictable. They also do so when they inevitably beg me for directions to McDonald’s, or its Argentine equivalent, so they can have a fast lunch with no surprises. (It’s nearly impossible to have a meal in less than an hour in traditional Argentine restaurants, which are anything but rationalized.) And it’s not just with food that students initially express preference for what they already know. Deviations from the schedule—even if they are unavoidable—can also provoke objections. When protesters with burning tires once blocked our route to a winery, forcing us to detour to another site, we received bitter feedback from students about the change of plans. And the time we told students that due to bad weather there would be last-minute modifications to the printed itinerary they’d received, they scoffed in disbelief, exclaiming, “But when, where and what we’re doing is stated here in writing—you can’t change it now!” This preference for predictability also extends to some faculty and administrators, as expressed in their lodging choices. Although we can get them lower rates, friendlier service and more authentic accommodation from a locally owned and operated boutique hotel, several of our university clients insist that their students stay only at U.S. hotel chains. I feel deeply ashamed of caving into their demands when I think of what Conrad Hilton said at the opening of his Istanbul Hilton: “Each of our hotels… is a ‘little America’”. ∙6∙
In my experience, it’s clear: people who have grown up in a rationalized, predictable society like and want predictability in their lives. So it should come as no surprise that students raised on fast food regard it, and the rationalized business model of the fast food industry, as ideal. The Domino’s cheese pizza, not the local variety with ham and egg, is their standard of quality. McDonald’s operational standards, not those of the traditional Argentine restaurant, are considered the one right way to do things. The problem is, to be effective, education abroad should be about experiencing and adjusting to cultural differences like eating ham and egg pizza and lingering with the locals at restaurants run their way. If students don’t encounter at least a little mind-opening unpredictability on our programs, where else will they find it? If we are truly going to prioritize learning and development in our field, we must not cave into pressure from students, faculty and administrators to always do, be and serve the predictable. Of course, we all want predictability when it comes to air travel, health care, and emergency services. But learning is by definition about exposure “If we are truly going to to the new and the unexpected. We must find a middle ground between prioritize learning and checking students into the Bate’s Motel development in our field, we from Psycho and Conrad Hilton’s “Little must not cave into pressure America.” from students, faculty and
To this end, our program itineraradministrators to always do, ies are always labeled “tentative” and “subject to modification at any time.” be and serve the predictable.” This does cause students and faculty some anxiety, but it also gives us the flexibility to take advantage of special opportunities for learning and development as they arise. A case in point is what happened this year when, on Argentina’s May 25th holiday, our students were unexpectedly invited by their local peers to spend the day grilling meat and drinking mate tea in Mendoza’s main park. Although an excursion to the Andes mountains was on the printed itinerary, we cancelled it without a second thought so students could spend quality time with their new friends celebrating Argentina’s revolution against Spain. There was some grumbling beforehand, but ∙7∙
after their day in the park not a single student complained about the lastminute change of plans. We also resist pressure to take students to McDonald’s—or any other predictable, rationalized organization. As Ritzer points out in his book, a business can have local ownership and even serve authentic native cuisine, but if it operates with a great deal of efficiency, predictability, calculability and control, it is still McDonaldized. That is to say, places like Mos Burger in Japan, Russkoe Bistro in Russia, and Kingo in Argentina are effectively still McDonald’s. This is why when our students first arrive in Mendoza we tell them their meals with us are going to be authentically Argentine: long, large and late. In short, there are two important steps we “...There are two important must take to avoid turning steps we must take to avoid education abroad proturning education abroad grams into European packprograms into European age tour experiences, package tour experiences… where students rush Resist excessive through capital cities, predictability… [and] glimpsing museums and historic sites and having affirmatively create spaces little or no genuine, spurwhere learning and of-the-moment contact development can arise with native cultures. One spontaneously. is to resist excessive predictability in cuisine, lodging and program itineraries, whether demanded by students, faculty or administrators. The other is to affirmatively create spaces where learning and development can arise spontaneously. My experience is that in the end students do not really want education abroad programs to be as rationalized and predictable as their home society. After spending several weeks with us, they come to accept that unpredictability has actually promoted the interpersonal relationships and intercultural experiences that make education abroad unique and meaningful in their lives. Our feedback surveys confirm that it’s the unpredictable that students remember and appreciate: The New Year’s fireworks ∙8∙
that went off at 12:18 am instead of the stroke of midnight, the unplanned day at the park with newly-made Argentine friends, the messy gelato ice cream cones prepared without standardized scoops, and the longest, largest, and latest (and perhaps best) dinner they’ve ever had. Despite their initial affinity for cheese pizza, once exposed to the new and unexpected, what students most love is anything but the predictable. With this article and the previous one on efficiency, we have addressed two of the four threats Ritzer posits that can undermine the goals of education abroad. The third threat is calculability which, like the others, appears beneficial at first glance, yet also presents challenges our field needs to confront. It is to it that we turn in the next edition of The Forum Focus.
Setting New Standards of Excellence in Education Abroad Alma R. Clayton-Pedersen, Ph.D., CEO, Emeritus Consulting Group, Senior Scholar, Association of American Colleges and Universities
oncerted efforts to make excellence inclusive in U.S. higher education have gained traction over the past decade, with many campuses intensifying their focus. Yet, campuses’ constituents continue to grapple with imagining and illustrating the full meaning of the term Inclusive Excellence (IE) and how to achieve and evolve the work systematically. The work of The Forum on Education Abroad to make excellence inclusive in education abroad and determining how such efforts can be reflected in its Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad are the subjects of this article. It is important to understand the meaning of Inclusive Excellence because it is often articulated in ways that underestimate the institutional changes required to make excellence inclusive pervasively. The initial work to develop the principles and practices of Inclusive Excellence (IE) began in 2003 by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) with a grant from the Ford Foundation, which culminated with the publication of three papers, each developed by a team of scholar-practitioners: Achieving Equitable Educational Outcomes with All Students: The Institution's Roles and Responsibilities, Making Diversity Work on Campus: A Research-Based Perspective, and Toward a Model ∙9∙
of Inclusive Excellence and Change in Postsecondary Institutions. Today, hundreds of campuses have engaged in dialogue about making excellence inclusive and equity-minded practices that help achieve Inclusive Excellence. Others are working to develop institution-wide plans to achieve IE. This work is integral to AAC&U’s efforts to make high quality liberal education applicable for all types of Definition of Diversity/ higher education institutions. Global Learning HIP: National Survey of Student Engagement research identifies Many colleges and universities diversity/global learning among a now emphasize courses and set of high impact educational pracprograms that help students tices (HIPs) shown to have a discernable positive impact on stuexplore cultures, life dent’s general, personal, and deep experiences, and worldviews learning. Other research suggests different from their own. that the impact of HIPs on student learning depends on whether they These studies—which may are done well—i.e., the intensity of address U.S. diversity, world their implementation or when the cultures, or both—often “treatment” is done well. We should explore “difficult differences” expect students who participate in high intensity HIPs to show greater such as racial, ethnic, and learning gains than those participatgender inequality, or ing in low intensity HIPs, and even continuing struggles around greater gains than those not participating in HIPs at all. Engaging stuthe globe for human rights, dents in a high intensity, diversity/ freedom, and power. global learning HIP is among the Frequently, intercultural strategies that campuses are using to make excellence inclusive. studies are augmented by The challenge is that the popuexperiential learning in the lation of those participating in such community and/or by study study abroad is overwhelmingly Cauabroad. casian women. Thus underrepresented groups are more than racial/ ∙10∙
ethnic populations, but also people from low-income backgrounds, people from the LGBTQ community and men. These student populations miss opportunities to engage in what can be very powerful, cross cultural exchanges with their U.S. counterparts and with those abroad. Nationally, the effort to increase participation in study abroad experiences by underrepresented racial/ethnic populations has not demonstrated success. Additionally, a research synthesis of the learning outcomes related to five of the ten HIPs was conducted. The findings of this synthesis for underrepresented racial/ethnic groups were inconclusive, because the research was not disaggregated on these dimensions. Identifying and implementing equity-minded programs and practices to increase participation and success of historically underrepresented populations’ in study abroad experiences must become standard practice for professionals to increase participation. The Forum has taken steps to meet “...Success cannot be limited this challenge by working with abroad professionals to ensure its Standards to increasing the racial/ provide the guidance needed to ethnic composition of achieve greater success. students who study abroad, but by offering equityminded, high intensity abroad learning experiences for all students.”
However, success cannot be limited to increasing the racial/ethnic composition of students who study abroad, but by offering equity-minded, high intensity abroad learning experiences for all students. This can be done by:
identifying and clearly communicating to learners the intention of the desired outcomes;
offering a richly intense experience, guiding the interactions with each other and their host communities in ways to link to the learning we expect them to attain while abroad; and
understanding and guiding reflections on their experiences.
Applying such practices to study abroad programs works towards making excellence inclusive by helping all students to engage more intentionally in the learning, and gain the most from their experience. ∙11∙
Guiding the Implementation of High Intensity, High Impact Global Learning Experiences through the Standards In 2015 The Forum established an Inclusive Excellence Working Group to identify the challenges to making excellence inclusive pervasive in education abroad. The Working Group also sought to identify the conditions under which the diversity, equity and inclusive practices identified could have a positive impact on learning outcomes for those who are historically underrepresented and those who historically participated. Drawing on the professional experiences of the Working Group members over the past year they worked to: consider the infusion of IE principles and practices into the existing nine Standards; and assess the feasibility and merits of a separate 10th Standard of Inclusive Excellence. The Group suggested changes to the language of each Standard but most were focused on Standards 2, 3, 4 and 6. These proposed changes were distributed and explored by approximately 50 professionals in a session at The Forum’s 2017 Annual Conference. Written feedback was obtained from more than 70% of the attendees following small group discussions. A summary of the suggested changes has been completed and is currently under review by the Working Group, and will soon go to the Standards Committee. It is expected that the changes will address some common impediments to increasing study abroad participation. These impediments include cost, time to degree, negative experiences based on identity, and increasing study options to nonEuropean destinations. The next phase of work will likely be crafting and proposing a new 10th IE Standard. This process will continue engaging the larger professional community in providing guidance about how to make excellence inclusive in study abroad. ∙12∙
FROM the forum Board Chair: strategic planning & Advocacy Mary Anne Grant, President Emerita, ISEP
nce again, I am writing about The Forum’s Strategic Planning, which has been the key topic for The Forum leadership over the last 18 months. The Board of Directors, Council and staff have been represented on the planning committee that has engaged in dialogue about every aspect of The Forum’s work, its mission, vision, goals and priorities. We have also hosted conference sessions at the Annual and European conferences as well as invited input and feedback from the membership through online postings. The dialogue, comments and recommendations from the membership have been most important in bringing us to the point where the Board will approve the final plan in the coming weeks. In July, the Board, Council and staff will meet once again to discuss the implementation plan currently under development and thus complete the process with a road map for The Forum’s work through 2021. As the organization grows and matures, core resources for education, training and professional development will continue through our focus on the Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad. We anticipate doing more outreach and development of resources for an increasingly diverse membership. The plan re-emphasizes a founding principle of The Forum that focuses on critical dialogue to share information and engage with each other around key issues in the field of education abroad. Finally, The Forum will expand its role in advocating for education abroad in a variety of ways. Advocacy has been growing in importance as one of The Forum’s key activities. Advocacy will take different forms as we move into the future. First, at the national level, we will work more closely with other international education organizations to share our knowledge and perspectives in advocating ∙13∙
for education abroad. NAFSA comes to mind with its rich resources and experience at the federal level. Over the last couple of years, The Forum has engaged with member institutions in state-level advocacy, especially when state legislatures considered implementing certain requirements regarding education abroad. For example, the Virginia State Council of Higher Education has cited The Forum’s Standards of Good Practice in its Public Higher Education Guidelines for Study Abroad. A more general form of advocacy resides in plans to launch a national effort to document and ar“...The importance of ticulate the value of education education abroad has abroad through a survey of educanever been more tion abroad alumni. Such broad important in ensuring outreach to alumni for their views that today’s students are and perspectives is expected to well-equipped to live and yield useful information about the work in increasingly value of their experiences. During multicultural societies.” this period of political and potential global change, the importance of education abroad has never been more important in ensuring that today’s students are well-equipped to live and work in increasingly multicultural societies. And, finally, we hope that the membership will be actively engaged in advocating for The Forum itself, particularly in utilizing the Standards as a critical tool for ensuring high quality education abroad for all types of programs and all students. The Standards, along with the many related resources for education, training and professional development can support the growing number and diversity of campus entities that engage with education abroad. The Forum serves as the collective voice for increasing participation in education abroad while ensuring a high level of quality in the many different types of programs undertaken by students. The Forum welcomes deep engagement with its members as the organization grows and we encourage your support for The Forum’s mission, values and goals for the future of education abroad.
Opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of The Forum on Education Abroad. The Forum encourages responses to the perspectives in this issue. Reflections, topic suggestions and other correspondence are welcomed, and all contributions will be considered for future publication. Please send correspondence to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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