A leading expert in faculty-led education abroad programming is helping McMaster take steps toward developing the structures and resources needed to support study abroad programs across the university.
Mark Eckman, Director of Study Abroad at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee’s (UWM) Center for International Education, is preparing a report for the Office of International Affairs which will include recommendations for ways to streamline McMaster’s existing study abroad processes, as well as build the administrative functions and faculty development resources needed to support these programs.
Peter Mascher, McMaster’s Vice-President, International Affairs, says this report, which will be submitted in the coming months, is the first step toward identifying ways to develop enhanced supports for study abroad activities, a key strategic element of McMaster’s global engagement model.
Eckman recently visited campus to hear from McMaster faculty, staff, administrators and students about current study abroad activities, as well as learn more about the structural barriers they have encountered while developing or participating in study abroad programming.
Eckman also shared best practices with academic leaders across campus, pointing to the need for faculty development programs to help prepare instructors for situations they might encounter while working with students in an international context, as well as to the importance of developing centralized administrative processes which he says are vital to supporting study abroad programming.
“When you’re taking students abroad there are a lot of costs associated with paying for the logistical elements of travel and educational activities – the mechanisms for doing that can be very complex,” says Eckman. “At the UWM, all of that is done through the central Study Abroad Office, which not only ensures institutional compliance with our best practises, it also significantly reduces the administrative burden from the faculty perspective, freeing them up to focus on the delivery of the academic content of the program.”
Mascher says creating more streamlined, dedicated support systems for study abroad programming is critical to expanding McMaster’s activities in this area.
“Study abroad programs can be deeply enriching and provide valuable opportunities to add global perspectives to student learning,” says Mascher. “Mark’s insights will help strengthen our current programs as well as inform our efforts to put in place the support structures the McMaster community needs to develop and participate in study abroad programming.”