Date of this Version
Published in Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council Vol. 12, No.1 (Spring/Summer 2011). ISSN 1559-0151
We know that one of the major reasons for encouraging our students to study outside of the United States is to broaden their knowledge and understanding of the world. The insights and personal experiences that students gain from living, speaking, and taking part in the culture they are studying are immeasurable. Students also improve their professional potential. An international study program can provide students with cognitive and affective competencies necessary for them to thrive in a global economy, and it can provide the nation with citizens who are economically and politically savvy. Substantive research demonstrates some of the core values and skills of a liberal arts education that are enhanced, including critical thinking skills, the ability to communicate in more than one language, the ability to communicate across cultural and national boundaries, and the ability to make informed judgments on major personal and social issues.
Although much can be gained from any experience of studying in another country, a program that is created and run by honors faculty is better. Honors international programs that have been designed and led by honors faculty tend to be customized both to the students and to the honors program, assuring that field pedagogy will replicate the standards and quality that students can expect in their home classes, seminars, and colloquia. Such programs are well-organized since they have to be arranged and approved well in advance. Furthermore, since the faculty members are aware of resources on campus or can propose and receive grants for international programs, the opportunities for students who cannot afford the expense of studying abroad are greater. For example, an honors faculty member at the University of New Mexico received a National Science Foundation grant for our Honors Biodiversity Program in Australia that allowed her to include qualified students regardless of their economic status.
Equally important are the design and execution that can often only be organized by faculty members from the home campus. Faculty-led international programs are designed with awareness of the important components for encountering or engaging with a site: The component parts exist in time-space. Organizing them presupposes pace, rhythm, and movement through them. Unlike the presuppositions of campus organization, which (however inaccurately) assumes static structures and immovable objects, every [honors international program] begins with the concept of motion and the dynamic of movement through space over time. [Faculty] construct unique calendars, juxtapose field explorations and classroom discussion, and create arenas in which differing voices lead discussion throughout a term with variable blocks of time allocated to these activities. Further, participants are invited to see themselves as explorers—that is, to move and simultaneously watch themselves moving through uncharted territory. The mapping they undertake is, therefore, of a space, of themselves moving through that space, of themselves transforming that space into a place that has taken on the tangible familiarity of what they, the [students], have measured by their alert movement through it. (Braid 19).