Program to encourage minority students to study abroad

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    In an attempt to encourage more minority students to study abroad, the Center for International Studies: TCU Abroad has teamed up with Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services to have a night of programming during Community Week in April, a program sponsored by ISS, a study abroad official said.

    Alexis Branaman, study abroad coordinator, said the department is attempting to build relationships with the Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services office to encourage more minority involvement. Branaman said there were no specific events planned as of Monday, but that the day would focus on highlighting communities students will be living in abroad.

    Branaman said the primary reason for low minority participation at TCU is a misconception about the financial cost of studying abroad. She said many students do not realize that scholarships can apply to study abroad, need-based grants are available and many courses taken abroad count for credit at TCU.

    Branaman added that she had not noticed an increase in minorities in study abroad since beginning to work with Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services, and had been disappointed in the number of minority students that even come into her office for advising.

    Branaman said study abroad officials also plan to speak directly with students in the Community Scholars program, which provides scholarships for high-achieving students from local high schools, Branaman said. She added the majority of these students are minority students who are interested in involvement on campus.

    “There’s a very natural relationship between the types of students that end up being community scholars and the students who would be very successful in the study abroad experience,” Branaman said.

    Data provided by Branaman showed that out of 34 total participants in fall 2010 study abroad, 70 percent were white and six percent each were black, Hispanic-Latino, Asian and international students. The remaining six percent did not specify.

    According to Daily Skiff archives, minority students have made up 20 percent of the past three incoming classes.

    President of Diversity Abroad Andrew Gordon said minority involvement in study abroad programs has increased in recent years on a national scale, but the increase has been small. Diversity Abroad is an organization that promotes diversity in university study abroad programs nationwide, Gordon said.

    “Ethnic and racially diverse students, particularly African-American and Hispanic-Latino students, are underrepresented in their participation in international education opportunities,” Gordon said.

    Devon Martinez, a junior film-television-digital media major and Hispanic student, studied abroad in London during the fall 2010 semester.

    Martinez said she was able to travel to London because she received a scholarship for studying abroad and her previous academic scholarships carried over to the study abroad program. However, the cost of living expenses in London required her to work two jobs this past summer to be able to afford the experience, she said.

    Martinez also said she did not notice any additional efforts by the study abroad office to promote minority involvement.

    “They were really excited for us to be going,” she said. “They didn’t focus on the fact that we were diverse or not.”

    Director of the Center for International Studies Jane Kucko said an international experience is an opportunity that should be provided to students, regardless of economic background. However, the perception is that study abroad is for white, privileged females, Kucko said.

    “There still lingers this perception that study abroad is only for the privileged,” she said. “I think that by diversifying, we are putting a more effective message and a more academic message that study abroad is just such an important part of anyone’s life.”

    Gordon said there is a societal benefit in promoting minority involvement to study abroad.

    “If we look at the breakdown of the U.S., we are becoming more diverse, and it’s a need of the nation to become more diverse,” Gordon said. “It’s important that all of our citizens have an opportunity to interact and engage with citizens from different countries.”

    Another benefit of diversity is that minority students often have the ability to understand cultural differences better than others, Branaman said. Many students also choose to study abroad in locations that may have importance for their heritage, such as South America and Africa.

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