For the past few years, researchers at the University of Minnesota have been working on a project titled: Beyond Immediate Impact: Study Abroad for Global Engagement (SAGE). Recently, some preliminary findings have been released. The study surveyed nearly 6,400 graduates across 22 colleges. In short, results of the study indicate that students who engage in short-term study abroad opportunities (less than four weeks) are just as likely to be globally engaged as those students who study abroad for several months or longer.
These findings are huge! Let me repeat, this large-scale study indicates that short-term international experiences are just a powerful as long-term international experiences in created global citizens. University faculty members are scrambling to get their heads around how to best mold school leaders who are able to create and lead 21st Century schools. If a brief sojourn abroad statistically increases the likelihood that school leaders will be globally engaged and thus take these ideals into their institutions, the next step is a no-brainer.
I have long advocated for cultural immersion experiences. I, like many others, are disappointed to hear that longer immersions are not necessarily more meaningful. I am however pleased to hear that these short-term experiences can have impact and do have value. A warning must be sounded. In preparing school leaders who are globally-minded, globally engaged, and globally connected, universities should hesitate to create a market of cultural tourism. We need to proactively create opportunities for our future school leaders that focus on intercultural communication skills and intercultural sensitivities.
If we expect students to leave our schools with 21st Century skills, we need to start with the school leaders. At the University of North Carolina Wilmington, a component of our Ed.D. program is a mandatory international internship. I would love to hear about university programs that are infusing international experiences into their school administration / school leadership programs. Feel free to comment below.
Jayson W. Richardson
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