North Carolina State University is one of nine universities from throughout the U.S., Canada and Latin America to win a “100,000 Strong in the Americas” innovation grant in the amount of $25,000, given by the U.S. Department of State; Partners of the Americas; and NAFSA: Association of International Educators.
According to Partners of the Americas, President Barack Obama’s goal for “100,000 Strong in the Americas” is to reach at least 100,000 U.S. students studying, training or researching abroad in the countries of the Western Hemisphere each year by 2020. The initiative is aimed at enhancing hemispheric competitiveness, increasing prosperity and better preparing a globally aware workforce.
“NC State is committed to preparing graduates who are prepared to succeed in the global workforce,” said NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson. “The 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative is a great example of our ‘think and do’ approach to higher education. It is essential that students gain experiences not only studying abroad, but also collaborating on projects with partners to gain real-world experience at leading industry corporations abroad.”
Through collaboration between NC State’s Study Abroad Office and Department of Crop Science, the university will build on its successful partnership with the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR) to launch a new course model and short-term study abroad program for agricultural related disciplines that are significantly underrepresented in study abroad.
“Global population growth and increased demands on food, water and soil resources in the 21st century will bring new challenges and opportunities to agriculture professionals,” said Dr. Lori Unruh Snyder, NC State associate professor of crop science and grant co-P.I. “The United States government actively recruits individuals with expertise in global agriculture issues and practices, and USAID describes the need for such professionals as urgent.”
The program’s biggest priority, according to Snyder, is to significantly increase the number of first year and minority agriculture students at NC State who participate in short-term study abroad in Costa Rica.
“This innovative hybrid course model has never previously been offered at NC State,” Snyder said. The two specially developed hybrid courses – “Crop Production” and “Feast or Famine” – will feature a seven-to-9 day study abroad experience in Costa Rica that includes a service learning component with a company such as Chiquita Brands. The courses meet important degree requirements for agriculture students, and the field experience in Costa Rica is designed for first year students or others with limited international experience.
The program also will enable NC State to leverage critical resources in building academic-private sector partnerships to address workforce needs and to increase the number of NC State and UCR students participating in semester exchanges at each university, as well as to strengthen relationships with Costa Rican alumni of NC State.
“The grant will enable us to address multiple barriers to participation in study abroad and build a sustainable, scalable program structure,” said grant co-P.I. Ingrid R. Schmidt, associate vice provost for international affairs and director of study abroad at NC State.
“Semester participants will receive scholarships to participate in an intensive language program to enhance their Spanish proficiency,” Schmidt said. “Funding will also help NC State and UCR faculty collaborate on and pre-approve equivalent courses, which will ensure that students continue making progress toward their degree, have access to critical financial aid resources and develop relevant global competencies for future careers.”
The review committee that selected the proposal indicated that it was particularly impressed with the role that university-private partnership plays in this unique initiative. Chiquita Brands, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., is partnering in sustainable agriculture with NC State and is central to the study abroad project, along with local Costa Rican communities. Snyder explained that students will experience first-hand how a mobile classroom demonstrates how university-private partnerships aid in their professional development and workforce readiness.
“We hope that NC State will be a long-term resource for us as we develop our workforce,” said Manuel Rodriguez, executive vice president of Chiquita Brands and corporate responsibility officer. “As a company, we highly value students trained in sustainability and that have international experience. We congratulate NC State and look forward to building on our sustainable agriculture program working with these students.”
For more information on NC State’s global partnerships, visit http://oia.ncsu.edu/global-portal-database. Details on Costa Rica semester exchange opportunities, spring short-term programs and scholarships are available at http://studyabroad.ncsu.edu.