Global learning through off-campus study is strategically important across many different types of institutions, but plans for achieving global learning outcomes often focus on facilities, infrastructure, and students, without explicitly aligning those strategic goals with faculty development programming or recognizing the impact of those goals on faculty members’ professional and personal well-being (Baker, Lunsford, & Pifer, 2017; Berg & Seeber, 2016). The concept of “horizontal alignment” – clear, consistent, and mutually reinforcing policies between faculty work and faculty lives (Baker et al., 2017) – offers a useful strategy for synergistically supporting faculty leaders of off-campus study programs. This is a high priority, given the growing number of students’ immersive experiences that occur during short-term programs led by a faculty member from their home campus (Calahan, 2018; Chieffo & Griffiths, 2009; Helms & Brajkovic, 2017; IIE, 2018). Provosts and academic deans, collaborating with directors of teaching and learning centers and committees charged with guiding faculty development programming, can utilize existing resources and supports to meet institutional goals for global learning and long-term faculty success.
Although faculty leaders of off-campus study programs increasingly play a unique and valuable role in facilitating students’ immersive global learning, faculty do not always feel supported or valued when they take on this kind of experiential high-impact pedagogy (Dewey & Duff, 2009; Niehaus, Reading, Nelson, Wegener, & Arthur, 2018). “Faculty as Global Learners,”1 a recent survey of more than 200 faculty members at twenty-seven selective private liberal arts colleges across the country who had led off-campus study programs, found that, while fifty-nine percent agreed “to a great extent” that global learning is a priority at their institution, only twenty-two percent agreed “to a great extent” that supporting faculty members who lead off-campus programs is an institutional priority (Gillespie, Glasco, Gross, Jasinski, & Layne, 2017). The 2016 Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses survey found that, although an increasing number of colleges place a high value on internationalization, global partnerships, and study abroad opportunities for students, ninety-three percent of baccalaureate institutions do not specify international work or experience as considerations in faculty promotion and tenure decisions. Moreover, only nine percent of baccalaureate institutions in the 2016 Mapping survey report that they offer recognition awards specifically for faculty members’ international activity (Helms & Brajkovic, 2017). These examples show that, although many institutions have articulated clear goals related to internationalization and global learning, these goals have not significantly influenced criteria for hiring and reviewing faculty (Helms, 2017) or led to commitments to provide effective, continuous, and synergistic support for faculty leaders of off-campus study programs.
Synergistic support – investing resources that both enhance the immediate effectiveness of program leaders and contribute to their long-term job satisfaction and career success – requires that leaders in higher education not only provide funds for program development and post-program activities but also recognize differences that exist among faculty in their career trajectories, disciplinary contexts, expectations for scholarship or creative work, and teaching and travel experience, as well as their personal and cultural roles and identities (Austin, 2010; Baker et al., 2017; Bikos, Chism, Forman, & King, 2013; Dewey & Duff, 2009; Moseley, 2015; Niehaus et al., 2018). Thinking synergistically means taking steps to align institutional missions with policies and programming to ensure that faculty have the skills, knowledge, and support they need to succeed, and continue to thrive, as leaders of off-campus study programs.
The “Faculty as Global Learners” study, like other studies of faculty perspectives on internationalization and global learning, found that faculty perceive both opportunities and obstacles when they consider their institution’s strategic goals for internationalization and global learning (Bikos et al., 2013; Gillespie et al., 2017). Faculty value qualified staff members in off-campus study offices that receive appropriate funding; establishing and staffing offices for internationalization and global learning thus provides immediate support for off-campus study leaders. Provosts and academic deans can further advance their institution’s goals by supporting the long-term job satisfaction, career success, and personal well-being of faculty leaders of off-campus study.
Synergistic investments need not require significant budgetary expenditures. Although attendance at conferences, workshops, and international seminars is valuable, faculty leaders of off-campus programs, and the professional staff who work with them, also benefit from participating in on-campus communities of practice (Allocco & Fredsell, 2018; Felten, Bauman, Kheriaty, & Taylor, 2013; Hall, Walkington, Vandermaas-Peeler, Shanahan, Gudiksen, & Zimmer, 2018; Hara, 2009; Lave & Wegner, 1991). A community of practice brings faculty members together to discuss off-campus study and share ideas, resources, knowledge, and decisions made, or challenges met. This forum supports faculty members in the multiple phases of preparation, on-site teaching, and debriefing when they return (Gillespie, Gross, Jasinski, 2020). The metacognitive exercise of reflection that faculty ask students to perform when they return to campus also serves faculty leaders and their institutions equally well. A community of practice can address significant issues of matching topics with field sites, identifying the particular needs for local expertise, and brainstorming ideas for community engagement, as well as endless small administrative details. Debriefing in a community of practice about what worked and what should be reconsidered contributes to the effectiveness of multiple off-campus programs.
Besides deepening the engagement and expertise of existing stakeholders, a community of practice can also help recruit new faculty, including early-career faculty and faculty who are underrepresented in off-campus study, and provide them with opportunities to learn more about these programs (Bilecen & Van Mol, 2017). These newcomers need to hear, however, that teaching a short-term off-campus program is valued by their department and their institution.
While stipends or course releases are conventional ways to recognize faculty work involved in developing and preparing to lead an off-campus course, low-cost institutional support for this activity can also be reflected in reduced expectations for committee service. Similarly, although support for faculty leaders during an off-campus program often takes the form of stipends or co-leaders to assist with program operations, family-friendly policies directly communicate the institution’s value of faculty leaders’ personal well-being. Another synergistic, vastly underutilized way for provosts and academic deans to advance strategic goals for internationalization and global learning is to get to know off-campus study leaders at their institution and find ways to “take note of what faculty are doing and celebrate that work…at some point every year; such occasions do not have to be costly to be meaningful” (COACHE, 2014, p. 2). Directors of off-campus study offices can facilitate this recognition by providing reports and letters of support that help provosts and academic deans understand off-campus study faculty leaders’ contributions.
Faculty members who receive synergistic institutional support for leading off-campus study programs acknowledge its importance to their success. They know the benefits to students and themselves in spite of – or sometimes because of – the challenges, and they can function as a support system and cultural mentor for students in the field (Niehaus et al., 2018). Working with academic administrators, these faculty leaders can scaffold off-campus experiences for new faculty members and eventually transition them to leadership positions in a study-away program. Given the multiple, long-term benefits of these roles for the institution, and the immediate influence on student intercultural gains and learning, investing in the faculty who lead these programs is one of the most effective ways to maximize students’ global learning and achieve strategic institutional goals (Anderson, Lorenz & White, 2016; Hulstrand, 2013, 2015; Vande Berg, Paige, & Lou, 2012).
1 This study was conducted in conjunction with the research seminar “Integrating Global Learning with the University Experience: Higher-Impact Study Abroad and Domestic Off-Campus Study” hosted by the Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University. Research team members were: Joan Gillespie, Independent Scholar; Sarah Glasco, Associate Professor of French, Elon University; Dana Gross, Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary and General Studies and Professor of Psychology, St. Olaf College; Lisa Jasinski, Special Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Trinity University; and Prudence Layne, Associate Professor of English, Elon University.
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