Six students from the University of Indianapolis School of Education will be studying abroad for a full semester as a first for the university, according to Elementary Education Coordinator Libby Turner. The program is the first embedded study abroad program and it will send students 3,500 miles overseas to Maynooth, Ireland where they will spend a full semester at Maynooth University within their elementary education program, according to uindy.edu. An embedded study abroad program differs from a traditional study abroad program as it allows students to retain their financial aid and continue taking classes for their major, according to uindy.edu.
Prior to this, Turner said, the SoE was undergoing a restructuring of its curriculum and one of the major goals was to give students better opportunities to study abroad. Turner said that once the idea was in her head, she reached out to the Center for Global Engagement and they recommended Maynooth University. After that recommendation, Turner and some others from the SoE traveled to Maynooth University to tour their school of education. She said that at first, Maynooth University was not sure if it would be possible, but they were very cooperative.
“And so we started having some conversations with them [Maynooth University] and they were leery because their school of education had never really even hosted any type of study abroad students or exchange students,” Turner said.
All the students participating in the program were put through a testing process to make sure they were right for the trip, according to Turner. Firstly, they had to meet the GPA requirement of a 2.7 and then pass an educators dispositional assessment administered by faculty review. And finally, the students were given a list of questions to answer, one asking how the program would help the students.
The applications were then sent through a rubric system set up by the SoE and the Center for Global Engagement, where faculty would blind review the applications for selection, according to Turner. She said this strenuous process was done not only to make sure the students would be right for the opportunity, but to positively represent UIndy. One of the challenges that the students are going to face is the different grading styles that Maynooth University has compared to UIndy. Turner said that the SoE and Center for Global Engagement had to make sure students were mature and responsible enough to handle those challenges.
“They’re the first ones representing it [the embedded study abroad program]. So again it’s important to us that the people going over represent UIndy well, they’re [Maynooth University] taking a risk on us,” Turner said. “ … This is a commitment, it’s a bit kind of like a job. You have a responsibility now you are representing us in setting this up for future generations, hopefully.”
Many study abroad programs at UIndy are elective-based programs that seek to give students a new experience but, according to Turner, a full semester of just elective courses would not be possible for elementary education students. She said that the program is very sequential in the way students progress through it, and she did not want students to choose between this opportunity and graduating on time. Turner said that the solution was to match the UIndy curriculum with that of Maynooth University. Another roadblock that had to be overcome was to guarantee that the students would still get to work in classrooms.
“And we wanted them to have an experience in a school because that’s the other thing we guarantee our candidates when they come in is that every semester you’ll have some type of placement out in a school setting — a K-12 school setting,” Turner said. “ … And then we rearranged our curriculum so that the first semester of their junior year, cause we had to go first semester for them that there are courses that they would be taking here that we found an equivalent for them. And so that’s what makes it a seamless step. That’s what makes it different than other study abroad programs is that we’ve sculpted the program here and our program here so that they align.”
The sequential issue when it comes to studying abroad was not the only concern when it came to this new program. The financial side of the situation was something that was a major factor, according to Director of Global Engagement Ghina Sadek, for both the students and for UIndy. Sadek said that they have worked with the Office of Financial Aid and the CFO of UIndy to let students use the financial aid package that they normally receive for attending UIndy and apply it to their semester in Maynooth. Sadek said that the entire process had been made much smoother than it would have previously been for a program like this.
“We’ve done study abroad [in] all kinds of ways. But never in the sense of here’s a program where we’ve already figured out all your courses for you,” Sadek said. “It’s specific to this major, we’ve already figured out all your classes for you …. Pre-approved in the sequence without even risking your graduation date being put off all, without having to worry about, ‘do I have to contact the school and register with them? Do I need to request a transcript to bring it back? Do I need to get it approved? Do I need this?’”
Sadek said she hopes that for that this will not be the first and last time that an embedded program of this type occurs at UIndy. She said she is hopeful that in the future this can be opened up to other majors and be advertised as an opportunity to potential students. The School of Business has already shown interest in an embedded study abroad program for its students, according to Sadek. Another opportunity for growth within the program, Sadek said, would be the School of Education receiving students from Maynooth University for their own embedded study abroad program. Sadek said that even though this partnership with Maynooth University is a pilot, she hopes that this will be the first of many.
“We are hoping that someone would specifically choose UIndy because they know, not just, ‘I’m going to go do elementary education at UIndy because they have a great education department and I get to teach in the classroom. I get this kind of one-on-one attention. I get this, I get that,’” Sadek said. “We want them to say, ‘I want to come here because I can do that in Ireland, here and only here, and I want to be able to offer that to everybody.’ So eventually that’s the vision.”