International Educator - January/February 2013 - 59
curred on campus. Things are happening quickly, and they have to make decisions on the spot.” She adds, “We have to bridge the gap between student affairs on campus, and what happens off campus.” They are currently updating their faculty handbook to provide guidance in such situations. Providing faculty with very specific information and training that covers these kinds of issues is being seen as a necessary part of a well-run program on many campuses. “Anybody who has worked in education abroad recognizes that even the best-laid plans never pan out quite exactly the way you expected them to, which makes this a highstress activity both for administrators and for faculty,” says Laux. “Well-developed policies take away some of the administrative burden and ambiguity so that faculty can focus on the academic components of their programs.” “Probably the biggest thing we’ve done regarding the onsite experience is to come up with a risk management plan,” says Graff. This is not necessarily because we have more incidents now than we used to, but because faculty are more proactive in trying to head things off, especially behavioral issues. We have a process in place for them to follow so that students understand that it’s not just a professor complaining about their behavior: it’s something serious that could affect their grade, could even affect their ability to stay on the program. We’re really focusing on making sure that the professors understand how to resolve these situations in order to alleviate the pressures on their programs.”
Lemery agrees: “Get some samples from other institutions of what they have done, just to give you some idea of what you might want. Then really look at your own institution’s policies and see how they apply to study abroad.” “One of the things I’ve learned is that policy development is an ongoing, never ending process,” says Laux. It’s okay to start small. “I think it’s realistic to start with something small and build it out over time, not try to develop everything all at once,” explains Lemery. “We are constantly finding things that come up, and we don’t have a policy for it. Sometimes we think that’s okay, and other times we think, ‘Maybe we need a policy for that.’ That’s just a constant part of our work.” Developing and implementing welldefined policies regarding faculty teaching abroad may take effort and may seem laborious, but it is well worth the effort. “It provides infrastructure for growth and a common ground when disputes occur,” says
Laux.“It also helps the institution with risk management, and on a very basic level, it provides a clarification of roles. An added bonus to having well-defined policies is that more faculty on campus become aware of the opportunity to teach abroad just by knowing such policies exist. “Well-defined policies help encourage participation in study abroad by more departments, colleges, professors, and students,” says Graff. “It’s much easier [for faculty] to propose and develop a new program if they know the rules and the processes in advance.” IE
JANET HULSTRAND is a writer, editor, and teacher of literature and writing based in Silver Spring, Maryland. She has created and taught education abroad courses for Queens College, CUNY, in Paris, Florence, Honolulu, and Havana. Her most recent International Educator article was “Curriculum Integration: It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint,” in the September/October 2012 issue.
When asked what advice they would offer those working on defining policies for teaching abroad, everyone seems to agree that turning to colleagues in the field for guidance is a good idea. One key takeaway? “Don’t reinvent the wheel,” says Laux. “There are many institutions that have policies in place and would be willing to share them; a lot of this kind of thing is online now. And even though ‘borrowed’ policies have to be adapted, they can serve as a baseline for developing policies that meet your needs. Talk to colleagues before starting from scratch.”
J A N + F E B . 13 INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR