Annette Fields of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) recently took part in a faculty orientation and development seminar in Paris, France. Fields is an instructor/counselor for the UAPB Office of Basic Academic Services.

Led by EF College Study Tours, the event was a chance for educators from institutions across the world to share ideas on education abroad, according to a news release.

Fields has previously helped organize education abroad programs as part of a UAPB Office of International Programs and Studies (OIPS) initiative. The effort encourages UAPB faculty to develop international opportunities for students and faculty. She attended the program in Paris to gather ideas on how to expand education abroad programming at UAPB.

Participants were able to network with other professionals during workshops that focused on recruiting, funding and planning study abroad experiences. They also explored Parisian landmarks from the perspective of students on a study abroad trip.

“During development sessions, we were split into two groups of 30 individuals and took part in activities that helped us learn from one another,” she said. “It was a great opportunity to share about our previous experiences. We discussed scholarships, funding opportunities and ways to work together between institutions.”

Fields said her main takeaways from the program were ideas about ways students and faculty could potentially offset the cost of study abroad programs.

“I am currently looking into ways students could conduct volunteer work in the community and receive donations from community organizations in return,” she said. “Students often find study abroad and related experiences more valuable if they put some work in and contribute to making it happen. If someone else simply pays for their trip, they don’t value the experience as much.”

Within the last two years, Fields organized two study abroad programs in South Africa. She is currently planning a program for UAPB students in Costa Rica through EF College Study Tours. The program, slated for May 25-June 2, 2020, will explore the topics of environment and culture, focusing on biodiversity, endangered ecosystems, as well as the social and cultural aspects of Costa Rican society.

The one-week program will include travel to the Arenal and Central Pacific Coast regions of the Central American country. Fields said the program is well-suited for students with diverse academic interests, including the social and behavioral sciences, humanities, foreign languages, agriculture, aquaculture/fisheries and other science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) areas.

During her own undergraduate studies at Michigan State University, Fields took advantage of study abroad opportunities. She tells students about her experiences abroad to encourage them to pursue similar experiences.

“Once students know you have been abroad, they know they can do it too,” she said. “I show them pictures from the airport, the hotel I stayed at and the places I visited. Of course, I don’t show and tell them everything, because I want them to fully experience the excitement of their first trip abroad.”

Pamela D. Moore, associate dean for global engagement for UAPB, said OIPS is currently recruiting additional faculty to become engaged in organizing global learning experiences for UAPB students. As a part of this initiative, discussions are in progress with EF College Study Tours to enter into a formal collaboration with the university.

“We are pleased and honored that EF College Study Tours offered this fully-funded development opportunity to Ms. Fields and that she was able to take advantage of the invitation,” she said. “We will continue to build our relationship with EF College Study Tours to open doors for greater faculty participation in education abroad programming.”

Moore said faculty-led education abroad experiences can enable the university to substantially increase the number of students who travel abroad.

“Faculty tend to underestimate the power of their influence in the classroom,” she said. “Integrating global topics into the learning experience and encouraging students to travel abroad through faculty or department-sponsored programs can go a long way in raising student awareness, interest and engagement in the global arena.”

— Will Hehemann is a writer/editor with the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.