For more than a decade, Rollins College has been raising the profile of internationalization in its unprecedented effort to educate students for global citizenship and responsible leadership. These efforts consistently receive national accolades including recognition as a leading institution for the internationalization of its faculty in The Chronicle of Higher Education. And, according to the Institute of International Education, Rollins ranks among the top 10 colleges and universities for its study-abroad program.
In 2005, Rollins embarked on an unparalleled effort to internationalize its faculty — an effort that President Lewis M. Duncan believes is key to providing a global education for students. Professors at Rollins are given opportunities to travel all over the world to experience other cultures. Now in its sixth year, the President’s Internationalization Initiative (PII) strives to enable every faculty member to have an international experience at least once every three years.
“To truly provide a global education for students, you must first internationalize the faculty,” said President Duncan. “Rollins is boldly at the forefront of bringing the outside world into the classroom. This helps answer the question that students always ask … ‘How am I going to use this in the real world?’”
Nearly 75 percent of eligible faculty and teaching staff have used the grants to conduct individual research projects or to travel internationally with faculty-led groups to destinations that take participants out of their “comfort zone.” Destinations have included Africa, Asia, South America and Antarctica. In 2010, faculty used the grants to travel to the Peruvian Amazon, Iceland, Nepal and China.
Many faculty report “transformative” effects on their research and their lives. Those lessons in the world’s classroom are brought home in many ways when professors across different disciplines collaborate together on projects or new courses to “connect the dots” for students, showing, for example, how physicists, artists and musicians can work together to solve problems. Or through the many and varied community service projects benefiting residents in communities around the world or in our very own Central Florida neighborhoods.
“You can’t understand yourself as an American unless you look at America from the perspective of another culture,” said Rollins’ McKean Professor of Philosophy Hoyt Edge, who has led field studies to Indonesia and Australia. “You don’t know yourself until you have that mirror and begin to understand your own assumptions and your own context in the world. It gives you a perspective you can’t get any other way.”
In May 2010, Edge led a group of 18 Rollins faculty, staff and emeriti representing 11 disciplines on a three-week PII-sponsored trip to Bali, Indonesia. The trip came about from Edge’s experiences traveling to Bali for more than 25 years to study various aspects of the culture—from trance to traditional healing to concepts of self—which have deepened his understanding of cross-cultural differences.
Unlike ordinary travel experiences, the PII program challenges participants to develop deeper intellectual insights into the historical, cultural, religious, economic and political systems of the global locations they explore. These encounters—and the interdisciplinary exchanges that take place among colleagues—provide faculty and staff with experiences and opportunities to enhance their teaching and international perspectives, as well as develop new scholarly interests and research.
From his experiences and in an effort to enhance the international and interdisciplinary perspectives of his colleagues, Edge worked to coordinate the PII trip for the time of year in the Balinese calendar when significant cultural and religious trance possession ceremonies take place. In addition to participating in the religious and sometimes astonishing trance possession ceremonies, the group had other unique opportunities to gain important understandings of the Balinese culture. One participant’s most insightful experience was the sense of familial tradition and symbolism she encountered.
“Balinese spend significant time together each day and all pieces of their lives are spiritually connected to family,” said Director of community engagement Micki Meyer. “The ideal of the ‘collective versus the individual’ was a powerful experience for me because as a Westerner, our emphasis is on the individual and not the collective.” Read more about the Bali trip.
In 2009, faculty participated in a 15-day trip to China designed to help faculty members have a cross-disciplinary discourse on China, a rapidly rising power in the 21st century. Structured to enhance participants’ teaching, scholarship and international perspectives, the group visited Shanghai, Urumuqi, Turpan, Jiayu Fort, Xi’an and Beijing.
“Faculty are required under the program to submit a report about their experiences, which tells me a lot about what the trip has meant to them both personally and academically,” said Associate Provost for Internationalization Barry Allen, who oversaw the grant process. “Farther down the road, I hear about how these experiences enrich learning for the students by giving the faculty a much broader experience from which to teach.”
Study Abroad Opportunities for Students
With approximately 73 percent of Arts & Science students having an international experience before graduation, Rollins ranks among the top 10 colleges and universities in its category, according to the Institute of International Education.
“During the last academic year, Rollins sent a total of 347 students abroad, an 11 percent increase over the year before,” said Director of International Programs Giselda Beaudin. “In the 2010-11 academic year, we have sent or are sending 189 students abroad, and we’re offering a record number of spring break and summer programs.”
Nearly 250 Rollins students — the largest group ever in the College’s history — “spanned the globe” throughout summer and fall 2010. The students traveled to 15 countries including Australia Nepal, Scotland and Spain. 2010 field-study opportunities included trips to Costa Rica, China, Mexico and rural Guatemala.
Professor of International Business and Political Science Thomas D. Lairson is the architect of the annual Rollins in Shanghai program, now in its fourth year. The program is among Rollins’ signature international programs, providing students with an opportunity to learn both in and out of class about China’s diverse cultural and physical climate. “No study of China would be complete without the opportunity to spend extensive amounts of time living there and immersing in its culture,” said Lairson.
The Rollins in Shanghai program was designed for Rollins students interested in Asian Studies. The program, however, has also gained popularity with other students in many disciplines because it allows them to make optimum use of their time in the "Middle Kingdom" through special courses that include numerous field trips and excursions to places of historical and cultural interest.
The goal of the semester is to introduce students to all aspects of China and Chinese life from the urban centers to the rural countryside. In 2010, the program allowed 23 students to experience how the “open and reform” economic policies introduced 30 years ago have now fully entrenched China as a global economic superpower. Read more about the Rollins in Shanghai program.
Along with the second annual Costa Rica First-Year Field Experience, Rollins also launched a new program developed and led by Lecturer Li Wei that took seven students on an intensive 23-day Shanghai language immersion. The Shanghai trip was a beginner-level, five-credit Mandarin Chinese language course designed to catapult students beyond the 101 level and into 102 for fall 2010. In fact, Wei described this particular field experience as “transporting the entire 101 course to China.”
Allen led the Costa Rica trip and recalled fondly that he left with a dozen kids from around the country and came back with Rollins students. “This wasn’t just a trip,” Allen said of the First-Year Field Experience. “Like all of our study abroad experiences, these trips are academic courses that provide unique bonding opportunities.” After completing an intensely competitive application process, accepted students tackled a hefty load of assigned reading and submitted a summary essay prior to departure.
As far as Allen has discovered, an international abroad program for incoming freshman is something that’s highly progressive in the academic community. “I’ve heard that some colleges run a semester-long abroad experience in the fall. But I know of only one other institution that is doing this on an international scale in the summer before the freshman year.”
Beneath the obvious allure of a summer adventure combined with academic credit, the First-Year Field Experience served one other critical function: it gave new students the chance to begin their life in college with confidence and ease. Over the course of the 10 days students spent abroad together, they formed a close peer group that continued on into the new school year. “I still see the Costa Rica group hanging out together on campus,” said Allen.
The experiences of students participating in abroad programs are shared through the College’s new International R-Journalist program which chronicles the journeys of four abroad students. In 2010, R-Journalists blogged from Spain, China, France and England.
Associate Provost for Internationalization
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