NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – The U.S. college population is about 18 million students. Reported by the Institute of International Education in 2009-10, only about 270,604 participated in any type of study abroad program. These students take advantage of learning not only outside the classroom…..but outside their country of residence. Their educational experience is enriched by a more global perspective, lifestyle appreciation in the U.S., respect for other cultures and people, and indeed become better decision makers in their respective disciplines.
Students from Tennessee State University recently returned from a study abroad experience to China. Now recognized as the second largest economy on earth, it was a returning summer visit to this populous country with an amazing ancient history, a nationally directed plan for economic growth, and several industrial enterprise zones that serve as a catalyst for rapid development and urbanization.
TSU led an entourage of five universities (TSU, University of Memphis, Dyersburg, Pellissippi, and Volunteer State Community Colleges) on a four-week study abroad experience as part of the Tennessee Consortium of International Studies, commonly known as TnCIS. The participants were a highly diverse group in gender, race, and academic disciplines.
The first week established a basic level of learning in the language and culture of China. Instructors guided the students through credit earning courses in Sociology, Philosophy, and Logistics & Manufacturing, while being engaged in a foreign environment to complement the knowledge content of their coursework. The intense curriculum had students immersed in a cultural environment to learn about Chinese history, relationships, international business, and competitive technologies through industry and plant visits. Thus, several state universities have also established international initiatives on their campuses and abroad. Within the Tennessee Board of Regents system, the University of Memphis and MTSU have innovative programs with countries in Asia, Europe, and on several other continents.
However, according to the Institute of International Education, almost 80 percent of the U.S. study abroad participants are white and include a large majority of females. The 8th Conference Forum on Education Abroad has issued a call for more student diversity in study abroad programs, and is encouraging more programs like TnCIS to reach out to community colleges and four-year colleges to diversify the pool with more welcoming strategies that may traditionally hinder some groups from an international experience.
Expanding international education in “all” disciplines can help invite more students and promote awareness of the employment value and marketability of a study abroad experience. Providing financial support and student organizations are excellent tools for advocating the benefits of international travel.
As Tennessee State University celebrates a century of existence and educating thousands of graduates, its mission of “Think-Work-Serve” extends beyond the shores of the United States with service learning activities, multi-cultural immersion, and providing a value-added education through its study abroad programs in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa. Though African Americans composed less than 5 percent of the 270,604 students that participated in a study abroad experience in 2009-10, TSU has responded to the call by the Forum on Education Abroad to recruit more underrepresented groups for international travel.
In particular, the College of Engineering at TSU has sponsored several engineering students with foreign visits to Brazil, Germany, Korea and China over the last few years. More minorities are participating in these programs, but these numbers can be increased by more engagement by HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) and recruiting at majority institutions.
Creating and expanding study abroad programs through partnerships with international universities, faculty exchanges, scholarships, and organizations that promote global experiences, are strategies to further provide all Tennessee college students with a quality education that rivals other states, and positions us with a larger residential workforce pool of global-educated employees.