Three UW-Eau Claire students spent part of their winter break investigating geomorphic sites and studying the sub-surface using ground penetrating radar in New Zealand with Harry Jol, professor of geography and anthropology. These students were funded to participate in an international research program.
“Without the funding from the Blugold Commitment, this trip wouldn’t have occurred, point blank,” Jol said.
The International Fellows Program at Eau Claire is an opportunity for faculty and students to collaborate on a research project internationally and is the recipient of the Institute of International Education’s 2014 Andrew Heiskell Award for Internationalizing the Campus.
The International Fellows Program supports one or more faculty members to go abroad with one or more students. It requires a research component and a minimum of three weeks in a country. Students are eligible for a $1,000 stipend and also have airfare and lodging covered by Blugold Commitment money. The students are responsible for their own food and any personal expenses.
Karen Havholm, the assistant vice chancellor for Research and Sponsored Programs and director of the Center of Excellence for Faculty and Undergraduate Student Research Collaboration, said receiving this award raises the profile of the center for international education and the university.
“I really believe that the more of those kinds of recognitions and awards that we get, the more valuable your degree is,” Havholm said. “Even though you might not go on the International Fellows Program, it raises the value.”
One goal of the International Fellows Program is to increase access and innovation within study abroad, by providing an option to those who often can’t participate in traditional study abroad opportunities.
Shanti Freitas, the International Immersion coordinator, said often students in the STEM programs are limited in their options for studying abroad, since many classes are only offered once a year.
With the International Fellows Program, Freitas said Eau Claire did a really good job of targeting the students who were not going abroad, identifying why they were not going abroad, and creating opportunities for those students.
The International Fellows Program offers research opportunities over the summer or over winter break so students on a rigid schedule can be involved.
“The award will have a big impact because it recognizes the fact that Eau Claire is really dedicated to increasing the impact of study abroad, making it more affordable and making it more accessible,” Freitas said.
Programs through the International Fellows Program create experiences for students which also act as a faculty professional development program, Halvolm said.
Jol said while in New Zealand, the Eau Claire students were able to interact with other students, both graduate and undergraduate, from other countries. Since coming back to Eau Claire from New Zealand, Jol has included what he learned on the trip into his lectures, letting students know what their peers accomplished.
“Often these are graduate student experiences,” Jol said. “And so I think we need to let students know that this is a significant experience, and most people in the world do not get this experience.”