Rutgers University-Newark has been selected to receive an IDEAS (Increase and Diversify Education Abroad for U.S. Students) grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Capacity Building Program for U.S. Study Abroad. The program, titled “Mediterranean Displacements: Refugees, Exile, and Migration from Antiquity to the Present,” will offer opportunities to any interested Rutgers-Newark undergraduate student to study in Italy, Spain, Morocco, Bosnia and Herzegovina, or Jordan.
Rutgers University-Newark is one of 26 colleges and universities from across the United States, selected from 132 applicants, to create, expand, and/or diversify American student mobility overseas in support of U.S. foreign policy goals. This U.S. Government program is funded by the U.S. Department of State and supported in its implementation by World Learning.
“The U.S. Department of State is committed to expanding study abroad opportunities for Americans of all backgrounds studying at colleges and universities across the United States. Americans studying abroad serve as citizen ambassadors by building relationships within their host communities, demonstrating American values, and countering stereotypes. They also gain critical job skills abroad that in turn benefit their home communities. We are committed to continuing our strong support for U.S. colleges and universities as they build their study abroad capacity now, in anticipation of a strong return to U.S. student mobility in the future,” said Heidi Manley, USA Study Abroad Chief, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The $35,000 grant will be used to increase the number of undergraduates studying abroad by establishing affordable, short-term, faculty-led study abroad opportunities in the Mediterranean that will be thematically linked to popular offerings throughout the curriculum. The program is part of the Mediterranean Displacements Project, a new initiative at Rutgers-Newark that seeks to bring together students and faculty interested in the Mediterranean region and issues related to migration, displacement, and refugees.
Rutgers-Newark students currently make up 18-20% of the total undergraduate population across Rutgers University but comprise only 5-6% of those who study abroad. In Rutgers Global’s catalogue of study abroad opportunities, there are no embedded study abroad programs based at Rutgers-Newark, and only one short-term summer program is led by Rutgers-Newark faculty. This new initiative seeks to close this gap by creating a set of study abroad programs that are affordable, shorter than traditional year- or semester-long offerings and led by Rutgers-Newark faculty. The short-term summer programs will run between 2.5-3 weeks for 3 credits, and 5-6 weeks for 6 credits.
“These new study abroad programs will be a combination of short-term summer opportunities and programs that are embedded into courses where the travel happens during spring break or even over the winter break, depending on the destination," said Brian Murphy, Associate Professor of History in the School of Arts & Sciences-Newark, “This is to keep costs down and make the programs as accessible as possible.”
A unifying theme of the study abroad programs and their linked courses will be migration, population displacements, and refugees in historical and contemporary social, political, and cultural contexts. These themes are at the core of the Mediterranean Displacements Project. This thematic coherence directly amplifies the democracy and human rights State Department foreign policy goal of the IDEAS Program.
Murphy remarked, “We have many students with familial ties to the region, or who care about these issues. Since the programs will be led by Rutgers-Newark professors, they’ll be more accessible than if they were based at another school. Thematically they’ll build on courses our students are already taking – this will really enhance our Newark curriculum. And the programs will be short-term and therefore affordable. We were surprised after we ran our program to Malta in 2019 that we had many more applicants for 2020 than we could have ever taken with us; there is unmet demand for these kinds of programs at RU-N.”
“We are also developing service learning or internship opportunities for students to work with refugee organizations around the Mediterranean, as well as a new archaeological field school in Spain,” added Mayte Green-Mercado, Associate Professor of History.
The project team includes Murphy and Green-Mercado, along with fellow History Department faculty Gary Farney and Leyla Amzi-Erdogdular, as well as Salam Al Kuntar, Assistant Dean of Middle Eastern Affairs at Rutgers Global.
Farney is Acting Chair of the History Department and has led the Rutgers University Archaeological Field School in Italy since 2012. The field school is a Universitywide study abroad summer program that teaches undergraduate and graduate students archaeological field skills and methods. “The program in Italy is regularly the largest faculty-led program by enrollment across all of Rutgers, and we're hoping for that kind of success for the planned program in Spain.”
The IDEAS Program seeks to increase the capacity of accredited U.S. colleges and universities to create, expand, and diversify study abroad programs for U.S. students. In addition to the IDEAS grant competition, the program also offers opportunities for faculty, staff, and administrators at U.S. colleges and universities to participate in a series of free virtual and in-person study abroad capacity building activities.
For a full list of 2021 IDEAS grant recipients, as well as information on a free IDEAS webinar series on building study abroad resources for U.S. campuses, please visit the Capacity Building Program for U.S. Study Abroad website at www.studyabroadcapacitybuilding.org. Funded projects are supporting such activities as developing new international partnerships and programs, training faculty and staff, internationalizing curriculum, creating resources to engage diverse student groups in study abroad and creating virtual exchanges. Once international travel resumes in full, these IDEAS grant recipients will be better equipped to deliver impactful and inclusive study abroad programs around the globe.
For further information about other study abroad resources and other exchange programs offered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, please contact ECA-Press@state.gov and visit https://studyabroad.state.gov/.
This article originally appeared on the Rutgers University--Newark School of Arts and Sciences website.