Developing Education Abroad at Community Colleges

By Hulstrand, Janet | International Educator, September/October 2011 | Go to article overview

Developing Education Abroad at Community Colleges

Hulstrand, Janet, International Educator

OMMUNITY COLLEGES haven't traditionally been hotbeds of education abroad activity, but as local communities become more global, that is changing. Many community colleges today have success stories of building education abroad programs from scratch, expanding them toward larger operations to provide more options abroad for students, and some have even persevered through tough economic times to keep their programs running strong.

Building Programs From the Ground Up

City College of San Francisco (CCSF) began offering education abroad programs in 1984, making theirs among the longest-running community college education abroad programs in the nation.

"It's very important to make friends with everybody at your college across the board, and get a really good third-party provider or providers," Heffron adds. "Those two things can really make or break a program." When Heffron was new in her position she took the time to build relationships with all the people involved in making sure that students get overseas and get back home again successfully. "I work on an ongoing basis with admissions and records, tuition and fees, financial aid, the foreign language departments. the ethnic studies department, the art history department, human resources. If you don't have support from all those departments, it's going to be very challenging to get your job done," she says. "One of the first things I did was to sit down and spend time with people from all those areas, and get to know them. They saw my enthusiasm for making these opportunities available to our students, and how they could be a part of that. That's been very helpful." Also helpful, she says, has been a longstanding relationship with their third-party provider. "We started in 1984 with a company that used to be called Opportunities in International Learning and is now called Accent. I don't think I could do what I do without them. They provide a lot of resources that we. as a community college, just don't have." Heffron explains. "For example, because they have centers and staff onsite overseas, but we do not, they are able to provide expertise and up-to-date information in terms of the cultural, social, and political climates, to which we otherwise would not have easy or immediate access. The program model we use does not allow us to send U.S. faculty overseas to accompany students on semester-length programs, and this third-party provider both offers someone to act as our academic coordinator and finds us qualified instructors who live overseas. Being a one-person office is extremely challenging, and I depend on the support of Accent for assistance with the planning and pre-departure phases of the programs, including creating flyers and brochures, marketing, student enrollment, visa applications, orientations, and so on."

Dawn Wood, director of international programs at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. Iowa, says that the Community Colleges for International Development Troika program offers a great opportunity for community colleges that don't have a study abroad office. "We used to work with Troika programs, and from there we developed our own infrastructure-an application process, contracts, insurance. etc.-all the things that are critical to running faculty-led programs." Wood says. "Troika is the logical first step for colleges that are just starting to develop programs. Even now. if we have a new faculty person who is interested in partnering with another institution in a specific area where we may not have a critical mass of student interest, Troika is a good option "

New technologies can also offer help to cash-strapped community colleges. "We were one of the first community colleges in the country to use Studio Abroad's content management database for the tracking of data," says Geoffrey Bradshaw, director of international education at Madison Area Technical College in Madison. Wisconsin. "This program and others like it allow small offices a robust tool for manag-ing all of the forms, releases, and medical information for students traveling abroad. …

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