Two of the ten “high impact” practices that can dramatically influence a college student’s personal and intellectual development are conducting research and participating in intercultural learning, such as off-campus study, according to studies sponsored by AAC&U, the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Put the two together – independent research as part of an off-campus program – and the effect can be especially profound, giving a boost to cultural immersion, deepening language learning, and providing a basis for senior theses or honors projects back on campus. But conducting research off-campus can also introduce complexities that are not part of the undergraduate research experience on campus.
Those complexities, and ways to address them, will be the focus of “Fostering Undergraduate Research Abroad: Opportunities and Challenges,” an interactive presentation and discussion session moderated by ACM President Christopher Welna at the 8th Annual Conference of the Forum on Education Abroad in Denver on March 21-23.
Welna will be joined by four ACM colleagues, who will use case studies to highlight broad issues that are central to students developing and producing high-quality research while studying off-campus.
- Adhering to ethical research standards at home and abroad
Presenter: Eric Lund, Director of Off-Campus Study, St. Olaf College
Students abroad need to be aware of and conform to ethical research standards not only as defined by the host country, but also as mandated by Institutional Research Boards (IRBs) at their home colleges. Lund will discuss the process of establishing guidelines with St. Olaf’s IRB.
- Advising students across the disciplines
Presenter: Peter Peregrine, Professor of Anthropology, Lawrence University
Faculty advisors are called upon to oversee student projects in a wide range of subjects. Peregrine will share his experience in helping students design projects in the humanities and social sciences last fall when he was Faculty Coordinator of the ACM India: Culture, Traditions, & Globalization program.
- Developing locally and culturally appropriate research tools
Presenter: Carol Dickerman, ACM Director of International Study Programs
Surveys, questionnaires, and other forms of data gathering should be framed to take into account cultural and social norms, as well as the practical dimensions of gathering data on site. Dickerman will draw on the example of a social science project in ACM’s Costa Rica: Field Research in the Environment, Social Sciences, & Humanities program to describe one student’s experience in collecting data and its impact on her project.
- Framing viable research questions
Presenter: John Ottenhoff, ACM Vice President
Using the example of the ACM Newberry Seminar: Research in the Humanities program, Ottenhoff will discuss how to help students develop research projects that take active advantage of local resources and can feasibly be carried out in a semester.
Following the presentations, conference attendees at the session will be able to discuss these issues and share best practices in a round-table discussion.
“Doing a research project at an off-campus site can add tremendous depth to a student’s engagement with another culture, and we’ve certainly seen that on ACM programs,” said Dickerman. “However, facilitating good research off-campus doesn’t come easily. It requires thoughtful direction and oversight, as well as an ability to navigate both limited academic resources at a program site and an abundance of resources specific to the location, such as natural habitats or people to interview.”
“There are also, almost inevitably, cultural challenges for both faculty and students,” she added. “But it’s worth it – just ask the students.”
Created in 2001, the Forum on Education Abroad includes U.S. colleges and universities, overseas institutions, consortia, agencies, and provider organizations. The Forum’s mission is to help to improve education abroad programs to benefit the students that participate in them. It focuses on developing and implementing standards of good practice, encouraging and supporting research initiatives, and offering educational programs and resources to its members.