This fall participation in Study Abroad Office programs will reach 110 percent of pre-pandemic levels. By the end of the academic year, more than 2,000 Tar Heels are expected to study abroad — more than any previous year. When combined with steadily expanding on-campus global courses and programs, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is following through on the Global Guarantee.
The Global Guarantee is Carolina’s commitment that a global education is available to all students. Launched in 2019-20, this promise is embedded in the Globalize pillar—one of eight strategic priorities—of the University’s 2020 strategic plan, Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good.
“When borders closed and travel shut down in spring 2020, Carolina not only upheld the Global Guarantee but strengthened it by expanding global education on campus,” said Heather Ward, associate provost for global affairs. “Carolina is achieving the strategic goals set more than two years ago.”
The Global Guarantee ensures that a variety of opportunities are available, such as study abroad, language and area studies, Collaborative Online International Learning courses, virtual global research and internships, on-campus global programs and events and globally oriented courses. According to Ward, the Global Guarantee recognizes the value of gaining global knowledge and skills for all Carolina students, regardless of their major or degree program, and makes that learning available both abroad and on campus.
Study abroad soars
Since the spring 2020 halt on international travel, Carolina’s Study Abroad Office has steadily worked to assess risk and re-open a limited number of safe and well-managed programs. With the approval of campus leadership, some Carolina students were able to study abroad as early as fall 2020. Each semester thereafter, the number of programs and students has increased.
Now, the Study Abroad Office expects more Tar Heels to study abroad than any previous year. They estimate 2,000 students in 2022-23, compared with the most recent pre-pandemic figure of 1,724.
“We reexamined our practices to be more effective and efficient while implementing new processes and systems,” said Jason Kinnear, associate dean of study abroad & international exchange. “We oversaw a concerted and methodical return to mobility that focused on the health and safety of our students.”
The successful rebound of study abroad is also due to increased scholarships provided by donors and a streamlined application process.
“The Study Abroad Office is continuing to increase program access through scholarship funds, broadening the types of programs offered to provide more options for research, internships and study programs in locations not currently served, as well as expanded virtual programs,” said Kinnear.
A successful first year of the Carolina Global Launch program has bolstered study abroad numbers as well. Through the program, admitted students study abroad together in the fall semester before enrolling at Carolina in the spring. For the fall 2022 semester, the program’s second iteration, 83 students will study in one of three universities abroad—University of Stirling in Scotland, Maynooth University in Ireland and University of Granada in Spain.
“Carolina Global Launch reaffirmed my interests in international affairs, while opening me up to so many paths I did not know were possible,” said Emma Sampson, a sophomore double-majoring in global studies and public policy. Sampson completed a semester of general education coursework in Granada, Spain, through the program. “I learned so much both in and out of the classroom, both academically and about myself. It meant so much to me to form a cohort of students that I could enter Chapel Hill with, closely bonded from our experiences abroad.”
Charting a unique global journey
The Global Guarantee ensures that students’ global education is not limited to study abroad.
Through COIL courses, Carolina faculty co-teach with faculty at a global partner university, and Carolina students work virtually with peers abroad. Recent collaborative activities include examining case studies, crafting an original music score and developing a bilingual website. In the 2021-2022 academic year, 819 Carolina students enrolled in COIL courses with curriculum development support provided by the OVPGA.
Since fall 2020, 40 UNC-Chapel Hill faculty have taught COIL-enhanced courses, partnering with faculty in 26 countries and 33 universities. Faculty from seven professional schools and 25 disciplines in the College of Arts and Sciences have participated, and this fall more language courses will be added, two in Chinese and one in Russian.
“If it works out as we hope, the Global Guarantee integrates global learning into a Carolina student’s education from start to finish,” said Ward. “For example, a student can study Spanish abroad, continue their language learning on campus through a COIL course, then join a virtual research project with a team of scientists based in the Galápagos and deepen their knowledge of Latin America through coursework in history and anthropology. The learning journey becomes connected and purposeful.”
Students can also engage globally on campus through programs like the Diplomacy Initiative, spearheaded by Barbara Stephenson, vice provost for global affairs and former U.S. ambassador. This initiative has engaged hundreds of students in learning about shared global challenges and how diplomats try to tackle them during the program’s 2021-22 pilot year.
Top international relations practitioners from Washington, D.C. and around the world engaged with Carolina students both in-person and virtually through public lectures, classroom discussions, mentoring and networking in an event series called Diplomatic Discussions. During UNC-Chapel Hill’s inaugural Diplomacy Week in April, students stepped into the shoes of policymakers and received expert feedback from Carolina alumni working in international affairs through a policy brief competition.
“The Diplomacy Initiative advances the Global Guarantee by opening up the world of diplomacy and foreign affairs to Carolina students, creating opportunities that would typically be available only in world capitals such as Washington D.C.,” said Stephenson.
This year the Diplomacy Initiative will add a new element: Washington Week. Through this five-day experience over spring break in Washington D.C., undergraduate students will network with and learn from global problem solvers working in federal agencies, international organizations, think tanks and global corporations.
“By meeting and hearing directly from global leaders, Carolina undergraduates will be able to consider their career interests and gain exposure to a diverse range of professional paths in global affairs, foreign policy and diplomacy,” said Sharmila Udyavar, associate director for global education.
The Washington Week program application will be launched later this month with an anticipated deadline of early November.
As the menu of global education opportunities grow, and as more Carolina students take advantage of them, Ward feels confident the University will fully realize the Global Guarantee.
“Alumni often tell us they wish they had studied abroad or done more to prepare for a career in today’s global economy,” Ward said. “The Global Guarantee means UNC graduates will be well equipped when they leave Chapel Hill with the knowledge and skills to achieve their goals.”