Changes made to Study Abroad

“New study away courses that represent a range of academic interests and opportunities for students and faculty to collaboratively learn together in unique and distinct ways,” read an email sent to Guilford students from the Provost’s Office. This is what Guilford’s faculty projects to offer with the upcoming Guilford Edge, a series of campus-wide changes to be implemented starting from fall 2019.

With the Edge academic calendar changes, new study away opportunities are being offered for students and faculty in an initiative for collaborative learning. Some fall courses include “Community Health & Development,” taught by Professor of Sports Studies Lavon Williams and Professor of Business Management Michael Dutch in India, “Comparison of Prison Systems in Norway and the USA,” taught by Professor of Justice and Policy Studies Sherry Giles and Professor of Psychology Eva McGuire in Norway and “Pilgrimage & Hospitality: El Camino de Santiago de Compostela,” taught by Professor of English Heather Hayton in Spain.

“In the fall three weeks and the spring three weeks, Guilford College faculty and departments will be offering interdisciplinary programs that will provide a range of experiences for students,” said Study Abroad Director Daniel Diaz. “Those programs will range in duration. Some may just be a few days, and some will last the full three weeks.”

The Edge calendar makes room for a three-week period of intensive student learning and new experiences that go beyond a traditional education, of which includes study abroad.

“One of the things that the faculty were focused on from the very beginning is that the new calendar would offer a larger number of opportunities for students to study away,” said Academic Dean Frank Boyd. “That’s why it was important to have Daniel at the table.”

Diaz agreed that the Study Abroad Program played a role in crafting the Edge.

“I think in many ways the idea of the Edge bolsters and supports study away experiences,” Diaz said. “It was something that was certainly considered, but not the only reason for the idea.”

Guilford’s faculty and administration heavily believe studying abroad to be a unique and enriching experience for students.

“From my personal experience, one of the most consistently transformative experiences any student engages in is study abroad,” Boyd said. “We should do everything we can to make that available to as many students as possible.”

Senior Finn Shepard, who is currently studying abroad in Munich, Germany, expressed similar sentiments.

“It’s a really nice way to expand your cultural references,” said Shepard in an email interview. “I know in my case, I was fairly sheltered, and studying abroad was a way for me to experience my adulthood. You’re going to look back at it down the road and be thankful you went.”

Guilford’s faculty and administration hope that with the inaugural Edge academic calendar, more students will be interested in studying abroad.

“In a graduating class, about 52 percent of students have had an international experience during their time at Guilford,” Diaz said. “That number has gone down since there hasn’t been a January term, but now we’re converting to the Edge and so I imagine that number will go up.”

One of the motivations the administration envisions will increase Study Abroad participation include the shorter duration of the trips associated with the Edge. According to Diaz, the Edge will also open up study abroad opportunities for those who previously couldn’t due to time constraints.

“A lot of students are very busy,” Diaz said. “The idea behind the Edge and having those three weeks is to give space for providing a very short, but impactful opportunity for more of our students to engage in these kinds of experiences that a full semester or summer program may not have allowed for.”

Some students and professors expressed worry about the impacts of the changes on their respective courses but believe there won’t be any major problems for study abroad programs.

“After talks with STEM majors, I worry for them, especially with the shortened semester,” Shepard said. “I know that some professors are worried about how they will adapt their courses to fit the three-week block. I think study abroad won’t have as much trouble with the schedule change, since the programs are typically about twelve weeks anyways.”

Although the Edge will provide students with the shorter three-week-long study abroad programs, longer programs will continue to be offered.

“For students that want to do the full semester, they can do the 3-week and 12-week together,” Diaz said. “That’s all it is, just adjusting a little bit to include the 3-week experience in front of it for those that want to do that.”

Diaz also emphasized the difference between the study abroad opportunities offered under the Edge and the previous January terms.

“Students and faculty enjoyed study away courses with the January term, but because it wasn’t institutionalized, with Jan term, you had to pay out of pocket for it,” Diaz said. “By creating the three weeks through the Edge and attaching financial aid and college support, we are aiming to create a more equal opportunity for everyone.”

Many professors, including Coordinator of International Studies Eric Mortenson, have expressed excitement over the lower costs of the upcoming program. Mortenson will be teaching “Mechanisms of Magic and Medicine” next fall semester.

“I think the cost is one of the most exciting aspects of the new curriculum,” Mortenson said. “Many study abroad options have been quite pricey, but the new three-week intensives in the new curriculum will enable far more students the opportunity to study abroad.”

The Provost’s Office recently sent out an email to Guilford students with approximated pricing for several programs and study away courses. The travel fees range from $800 to $1800.

“Those prices are estimates,” Diaz said. “With the new fall and spring programs, we’re working right now to bring down the costs as much as possible. Most programs do not cost a student anything more, other than a plane ticket and a passport, than your regular on-campus semester fees.”

There will be an open info session on Monday, Dec. 10 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Carnegie Room foyer and during the Study Abroad Fair scheduled for Jan. 16.

“I’m very excited and happy about the Guilford Edge,” Diaz said. “I think it’s challenging us to be more imaginative and to create opportunities that are really exciting for students and faculty. It is a fantastic endeavor for Guilford College to be taking on.”