MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — A joint project between West Virginia University’s Office of Global Affairs and Eberly College of Arts and Sciences aims to increase the number of WVU students from diverse and underserved backgrounds studying abroad.
A poll of RISE WVU members and first-generation WVU students found they are particularly interested in study abroad opportunities, but concerns about cost, language barriers and course schedules keep many from participating.
Education Abroad staff in the Office of Global Affairs and faculty in Eberly College’s Department of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics received a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Increase and Diversify Education Abroad for U.S. Students —IDEAS — program to address these concerns.
The project will create two faculty-led, short-term study abroad programs in Jamaica and Wales as part of first-year programming for first-generation and RISE students.
Study abroad opportunities will take place over spring break, exposing students to languages, cultures, economies and mining industries, as well as their relationships to West Virginia and its historical experiences.
Because the study abroad programs are part of the general education curriculum, students will be able to use financial aid to offset the cost of participating.
Team project directors are Nicole Tracy-Ventura, associate professor of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics; Vanessa Yerkovich, director of Education Abroad; Regan Bruni, director of Student Success; Niara Campbell, RISE program coordinator; Michelle Paden, First Generation Program coordinator; and Adrienne Washington, assistant professor of linguistics.
“This is great for our students,” Yerkovich said. “It will get them abroad, meet a degree requirement and help increase their global awareness and experiences.”
Tracy-Ventura is taking the lead on designing the new course. She and Washington will teach the course and lead the trips abroad.
“First-generation students and students of color participate in study abroad at a very low rate at WVU and across the United States,” she said. “Having this study abroad experience should stimulate students’ intellectual curiosity and guide them in developing critical skills for success in an increasingly global and interconnected society.
"As a first-generation college student, myself, I know that studying abroad has impacted me in ways that I never could have imagined. I want everyone to be able to have that experience.”
The project will be planned and implemented over the 2022-23 academic year, which includes hiring a dedicated graduate assistant to focus on advising and supporting students involved.
“Because this is going to be a high-touch project with a dedicated graduate student working with this population for a longer period of time, it will allow us, as a university, to get to know these students and their needs,” Yerkovich added. “That information can be used in other ways as we continue to develop programs and review how we reach out and support students.”
WVU is one of 44 colleges and universities across the United States that will use the IDEAS grants to create, expand and/or diversify American student mobility overseas in support of U.S. foreign policy goals. The program’s implementation is supported by World Learning, a global development and exchange program based in Washington, D.C.