International Educator - November/December 2014 - 42

EDUCATION ABROAD

"If you're going to do something interdisciplinary in study abroad, it's important
to work with colleagues in disciplines that
complement each other well," Nelson says.
"For example, for the course I taught in Bali,
it was immediately obvious to students
that Balinese religion is heavily interconnected with music and other performing
arts. So, religious studies and ethnomusicology worked well together. It didn't take
a lot of time to convince our students that
our approach made sense, that it was not
an artificial imposition.  One thing you
don't have much of on a three-week study
abroad experience is time, especially for abstract theoretical discussions. If what you're
talking about is not obviously and immediately connected to what the students are
experiencing on the ground, you lose their
engagement with astounding rapidity." But
with a good match, and the right kind of
preparation, Nelson says, multidisciplinary
education abroad can offer an ideal teaching
situation. "There's nothing like teaching in
situ-with the ability to take students in the
afternoon to see and experience, and perhaps interact with, something that you've
discussed in class in the morning," Nelson
says. "To see the students' excitement is a
teacher's dream come true. And to do this
in conversation with a colleague who has
overlapping interests but a slightly different
perspective-what could be better?"
Madison Area Technical College (Madison College) has been offering faculty-led
programs abroad, including some interdisciplinary offerings, since the early 1990s.
In 2007 multidisciplinary offerings became
part of a conscious strategy for building
student and faculty member engagement in
programs abroad. "It's one of the best practices we recommend as part of our [U.S.]
Department of State Capacity Building for
Study Abroad award," says Geoff Bradshaw,
director of international education. Inspired
by Madeleine Green's work, Where Faculty
Live: Internationalizing the Disciplines, Bradshaw and his team made a significant effort
to reach out to occupational disciplines and
schools of the college that were not actively
42  

INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR N O V + D E C .14

internationalizing, and to engage faculty
members with education abroad through
the development of short-term programs.
"The motivations for creating interdisciplinary programs were twofold," he says. "In
part it grew out of the nature of sustainable
development as a field, which itself brings together perspectives from social sciences and
applied engineering to examine the needs
and resource solutions for developing world
communities. So when we started working
with the Community College Sustainable
Development Network (CCSDN), it was a
logical transition to find ways for faculty as
well as students from different colleges and
different academic disciplines to use the
common ground of sustainable development
to create multidisciplinary engagement."
In one such program, three members of
the network, Joel Shoemaker (Madison College), Chris Miller (Heartland Community
College), and Sarah Hawkins (Lakeshore
Technical College)-created a new study
abroad program after they realized, in talking
with each other at the CCSDN annual conference, that they had complementary skills
sets that could complement each other nicely
in a single class. Shoemaker and Miller are
both highly experienced in renewable energy
technology, and Hawkins teaches environmental science, sustainability, and ecology.
Their idea was to expose students not only to
the basics of solar electric systems, but also
to demonstrate to them how this technology
can fit into a developing world setting.
Now planning their third year, the class
involves 11 days in Belize, with both course
titles and pre- and post-trip assignments
varying between the different colleges.
Faculty members and students from the
three schools "meet" via Skype prior to the
in-country stay to review health and safety
issues, discuss planning and packing, go over
course expectations, and introduce students
to the culture and customs of Belize.
"The fact that the students are learning about both energy and environmental
issues has added a lot to their experience
because they are so intrinsically linked," says
Hawkins. "For example, when we go on a

TIPS FROM
FACULTY
MEMBERS
"Work with colleagues who
already have some expertise,
or are at least willing to acquire
it, in the study abroad location.
The course must be localized,
and this takes considerable
time and effort. You don't want
to get stuck teaching with
someone who wants the travel
experience, but isn't willing to
work beforehand to localize
their expertise. You also want
to have contacts and preestablished relationships in the
location."
-Lance Nelson
the University of San Diego

"Collaboration is key! It's also
important to have support
from the administration at your
home institution. The CCSDN
grant opportunity aligned
well with our college's mission
statement and strategic goals."
-Amy Edwards Patterson
Moraine Park Community College

"Plan as much as you can
beforehand and be very clear
in your communications with
your colleagues and your
in-country contacts. When incountry, be flexible to changes
that may occur due to the
fact that there are multiple
stakeholders working together."
-Sarah Hawkins
Lakeshore Technical College



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