Lobos going global is nothing new; but now, thanks to the implementation of a new course section, students have even more options for studying abroad. UNIV 175: Seminar in International Experiential Learning, provides the opportunity for students to volunteer abroad and receive three university elective credits in return, which also count toward the UNM diversity and intercultural requirement.
The special section, designed by Education Abroad Associate Director Ken Carpenter, and added to existing course UNIV 175 last fall, provides students the opportunity to choose a study abroad option outside of the classroom that provides hands-on experience. High school students are also encouraged to apply for the section and earn university credit.
“My idea to start this program came about after we realized that UNM students were participating in various international experiential learning projects on their own, without earning credit and without the ability to get financial aid,” Carpenter explained. “And at the same time, in the past couple of years, the university has made it more of a priority to engage students in volunteer work abroad. So it was really good timing.”
To offer course credit for the section, UNM’s Global Education Office (GEO) needed an academic sponsor. Carpenter turned to Kate Krause – dean of UNM University College and Honors College, and a university economics professor– and enlisted her support to help develop the section, and sponsor it academically.
“Ken wanted a way to add pedagogy and reflection to things students were already doing – serving as volunteers and participants in international public service efforts,” Krause said. “University College houses the Research Service Learning Program, so we are already committed to learning that has experiential, public service elements; it was a good fit for our mission.”
To participate, students work with GEO to find an international host organization and develop the project, which requires at least 60 course hours, the minimum amount necessary to earn three university credits. Completing the hours could take students as little as two weeks, potentially fitting into a student’s schedule for holiday or summer break.
Students are expected to prepare themselves before beginning their volunteer work or internship by studying the country they will visit. Preparation includes reading, reflecting and writing on the meaning of experiential learning and ethical issues surrounding their volunteer service.
“Part of the ethics of working with people in another country is understanding that you’re there to learn from them, not tell them what to do,” said Margaret “Guida” Leicester, a diversity and inclusion specialist for GEO, who recently began teaching the section due to Carpenter’s upcoming retirement. “Participating in a project like this is not just about the experience, but also about knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing, and how those actions impact the people in that country.”
The section is conducted online, and requires students to submit a weekly journal entry to the instructor about their experience. The course includes pre-departure preparations, online support and mentoring during the experience abroad, and a final project developed with the instructor.
“Students already want to participate in these projects. Just by participating, they benefit; but adding an academic element to their participation enriches the experience for the students. The academic element asks the student to go beyond doing good works to thinking about how those good works impact the people they serve,” Krause said.
Students interested in participating in a volunteer or service learning project abroad experience during summer session or fall semester should contact Guida Leicester at 505-277-0906 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Students can also visit the Education Abroad office in Mesa Vista Hall, Room 2120, during open advising hours from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.