Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Expanding Study Abroad for Minority Students

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Expanding Study Abroad for Minority Students

Article excerpt

Tajee Anderson, a psychology major at Kent State University, had always dreamed of studying abroad. Raised in a single parent, low-income home, Anderson never had the chance to travel overseas as a child and worked hard in high school to earn the necessary scholarships and additional financial aid she needed to attend a university.

Likewise Dennis Meacham, a music education major also at Kent State, always wanted to broaden his horizons by traveling abroad. He, too, never had the chance.

Both Anderson and Meacham finally got the opportunity they've longed for and found themselves immersed in a culture other than their own this past summer. As part of its TRIO Upward Bound program, Kent State sent Anderson and Meacham - along with four other underserved students - to Florence, Italy, all expenses paid. The six Kent State students, dubbed the Seminal Six, participated in global education during the Florence Summer Institute 2014 session. This new program aligns with Kent State's Diversity Abroad Network goals and is organized and funded by the Office of Global Education; the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and all Kent State Colleges.

Marcello Fantoni, associate provost for global education at Kent State says this initiative is a long time coming. "This is a huge step in the right direction and one of many steps we are taking to level the playing field for the underserved. Global education gives students opportunities for cultural enrichment, academic development and career enhancement," he says. "Unfortunately the most underserved students - minorities, disabled, economically challenged, socially challenged - are virtually shut out of the international education experience."

This is true. According to Fantoni, recent research indicates that 90 percent of college students nationwide who participate in study abroad are white and 72 percent of them are female. Kent State's study abroad programs have a similar demographic and are often financially out-of-reach for an underserved student. Kent State students wishing to participate in a study abroad program can expect to pay a program fee of about $3,500 on top of the tuition for six or seven credits, according to Fantoni.

Fantoni and his colleagues are trying to change the study abroad demographic at Kent State while making its program more financially accessible to underserved students. They hope this summer's initiative will be the first of many study abroad opportunities for the underserved.

Fantoni and Stephon Brown, who served as the students' mentor while in the program and himself a Kent State Upward Bound alumnus and recent graduate from the master's degree program, have charged this seminal cohort to lift up and nurture the program to ensure its sustainability. "Kent State University is dedicated to preparing students for the global economy. We believe study abroad is one of the most effective ways to enhance their skills for the real world. This said, it is important for us to make study abroad opportunities accessible to all our students," says Fantoni.

The Seminal Six, which are comprised of Anderson, Meacham, Rachel Brown, Jalessa Capíes, Iniah Dunbar and Isaac Talley were chosen from a larger group of underserved students. "They have studied hard and accomplished our and their goals in Florence. We are planning to increase the number of students in this program," says Fantoni.

Meacham, a music education major, was raised in an apartment and had to work all through high school to buy himself "the extra things I wanted." Now as a sophomore he works to purchase college supplies and books. "Currently, I have enough scholarship and grant money to send me to school, all academic or music based, and if I did not have these I may not be able to pay for school... I never saw myself being chosen to go abroad for free. I had been chosen to go through other programs, however, they were extremely costly and I thought I would never be able to afford it," says Meacham. …

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