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The game-changer
“This alone you can take to the bank.”

By Joni Moths Mueller

Associate Professor Jean Grow showed a senior vice president and creative director at Leo Burnett the multipage itinerary for her study abroad seminar in Barcelona and London.

Three weeks spent guiding students in conducting ethnographic brand marketing exercises in two distinctly different cultures. Her students have access to some of Europe’s top advertising agencies exclusive enclaves humming with creatives who pump up the volume on products until they tower over the competition.
 
The SVP pointed to just one of the agency visits in London and said those unforgettable words: “This alone you can take to the bank.”

The affirmation was enough to keep Grow shuttling students across the Atlantic for study again this summer to conduct in-culture ethnographic studies on international brands. Grow is convinced the class is a game-changer.

“Not many students can walk into an agency and talk about something like this class. It’s the difference between getting a job and not getting a job,” she says.

Study abroad may at one time have been more heavily weighted toward trekking in another culture and talking in another language. Today’s version is keenly focused on boosting the academic credentials and knowledge base of students.

Faculty devote untold hours to developing curriculum with global significance, focused on quality of life issues such as sustainability, entrepreneurship, health care, the European economy and, in Grow’s case, international marketing of consumer products. Speaking just in terms of student participation, it’s clear their efforts pay off.

Study abroad consumption at Marquette is huge 23 percent of graduating seniors report participating in study abroad compared with the national average of 3 percent, according to Terence Miller, director of the Office of International Education. He calls study abroad a “high-impact learning event” that gives students the ability to “transcend to another reality, another culture.”

For students who historically couldn’t fit that high-impact opportunity into their already-heavy academic schedules, this is a banner summer with 11 faculty-led short-term programs in Europe, South America, China and Africa.

“We realize not all students are able to go overseas,” Miller says. In response, OIE and faculty created the summer options that also give faculty opportunities to travel, study and enlarge their own research and scholarship.

Four programs are sponsored by the College of Business Administration, including the Belgium program that began 20 years ago. More than 700 students have participated since the first cohort studied in Brussels in 1992. When this program began, Associate Professor Joe Terrian says the focus was on Europe’s economic development pre-Euro. When 42 students from campus convene this summer’s session in Antwerp, lectures will probe the post-Euro economic issues that have Spain, Greece and other nations reeling.

Dr. Darlene Weis, R.N., is returning to Piura, Peru, for her fifth visit with students from the College of Nursing. “It’s like a second home now,” she says.

The students complete a three-credit theory course to prepare for the three-credit practicum in Peru. Once in country, they spend a week with a team of doctors and learn to handle the predominant health issues of hypertension, cataracts thought to be caused by exposure to bright sunlight and many of the parasitic symptoms caused by drinking unclean water. In addition to assisting at portable clinics, the students visit homes, schools and the parish hospice.

“To me, a global experience in health care is really important,” Weis says. “It adds another dimension to nursing education. You learn to understand yourself and what you have and understand your way to give back to the world.”

Every study abroad program proposal is reviewed by the Office of International Education and approved by the college deans and provost. Student security is always a top concern, and OIE consults with the U.S. Department of State and International SOS before approving a program. The university maintains constant communication with faculty and students and moves quickly to evacuate participants in an urgent situation such as after last year’s tsunami in Japan or during the Arab Spring protests in Egypt.

In addition to the array of programs offered this summer, faculty are working up some new adventures due to launch in 2013. Dr. Richard Jones, associate professor of social and cultural sciences, will lead a session in Finland for criminology students. The coordinator of women’s studies, Dr. Amelia Zurcher, is working up a class on gender issues in collaboration with the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Grow, too, has further ambitions for her program. She would like to establish scholarships to fund travel for two students whose families can’t afford it.

Even with 23 percent of grads already logging study abroad miles, Miller wants to expand student options.

“There is still a cohort that needs its curriculum internationalized,” he says.

For Miller, the global experience is an expression of the university’s educational mission. “That’s the heart of our Catholic, Jesuit way walking with the other,” he says.



This summer's faculty-led summer study abroad includes programs in Cochabamba, Bolivia; China; Ghana, Africa; Rabat and Fes, Morocco; and Madrid, Spain.

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