One of the great challenges facing any college or university that desires to strengthen the international component of its education and research programs is to bring students and faculty together in meaningful exercises that empower both to think globally. For years, Brown’s Office of International Programs (OIP) has offered credit-bearing study abroad opportunities to undergraduates. While tremendously valuable, these experiences, more often than not, truncate – at least temporarily – the student/faculty collaborative partnership at Brown. Academics and education abroad practitioners alike have consequently asked themselves if there might be a way to simultaneously integrate the academic experiences of students who are abroad into the intellectual life of the campus here in Providence.
To this end, the Global Independent Study Project adds another dimension to traditional study abroad programming aimed at facilitating seamless and meaningful student/faculty collaboration beyond College Hill to include all five continents. Students going abroad for semester and academic year programs are encouraged to work with Brown faculty to develop global independent study projects that complement and significantly enhance their regular programs of study abroad. These projects, where possible, are tied to the students’ respective concentrations and reflect the University’s consideration that study abroad is not an interlude between semesters at Brown but an integral part of the “Brown experience.”
As indicated in the Brown University Report of the Committee on Internationalization, the University currently provides students with a plethora of courses that are international in scope. Not all are delivered in a given academic term, but the report identified well over 400 courses that focus on issues, events and themes that fall outside U.S. borders. Moreover, faculty members who deliver these courses are, in many cases, heavily involved in research projects with international distinguished scholars around the world.
Brown students, consequently, have access to an impressive array of international expertise right here on campus. But how can they tap into this expertise fully? How can the campus community best engage the intellectual wealth of its faculty as it seeks to encourage students to intellectually engage themselves with the global community? The aim of Brown’s Global Independent Study Project is to significantly increase the level of student/faculty collaboration in meaningful international study and research. Students who go abroad are encouraged to seek out Brown faculty members with teaching or research experience in their proposed study destination. In collaboration with these faculty members, students develop global independent study projects that become an integral part of their course loads abroad. The projects would be developed and carried out as follows.
Imagine the following:
- A student works with a Brown faculty member whose research focuses on health issues affecting the Caribbean region, to develop an independent study project focusing on the health care system in the Dominican Republic. The project is carried out while the student is enrolled on Brown’s approved program at Catholic University Madre y Maestra in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
- A student works with a Brown faculty member whose research focuses on migration and demographic change in Latin America, to develop an independent study project focusing on the challenges to urban planning in Peru posed by the massive migration of citizens from rural areas to the country’s capital, Lima. The independent study project takes place while studying at the Pontificia Universidad Católica, a premier Peruvian social science research university.
- A student works with a Brown faculty member whose research focuses on urban trends in China, to develop an independent study project focusing on the transformation of Shanghai in the last 25 years to become mainland China’s leading financial and business center. The independent study project is carried out while the student is enrolled at Fudan University in Shanghai.