UWM awarded grant to diversify study abroad

The U.S. Department of State has awarded UWM’s Center for International Education a nearly $35,000 grant designed to diversify study-abroad efforts. The IDEAS (Increase and Diversify Education Abroad for U.S. Students) grant comes from the State Department’s Capacity Building Program for U.S. Study Abroad.

The goal of the program is to encourage and prepare students to improve their international understanding and increase the diversity of U.S. students studying abroad to reflect the country’s diverse population. UWM is one of only 26 institutions, out of 132 that applied, to receive the grant this year.

The university plans to use the funding to support a cotaught modular course that looks at the Black experience in the U.S. and internationally. The course, Black Lives Matter: A Global Comparative Study, will be offered in the spring of 2022. It will be followed by a two-week summer study abroad program to one of the areas studied, according to Yomarie Castellano, CIE study abroad coordinator and part of the team that wrote the grant.

“This course can give an international perspective,” she said “Racism isn’t only something that affects the U.S. We want to look at how Black Lives Matter is playing out in other areas of the world.”

The grant will support promotion of the course and the five faculty members who will each prepare and teach one of the three-week modules.

“It’s been amazing to have this idea and have so many departments and disciplines involved,” Castellano said.

The idea for the initiative grew out of the Black Lives Matter movement, spurred on by the death of George Floyd, according to Castellano. The themes of the course will be on how the BLM movement has galvanized communities and inspired the push for racial justice, including areas such as global economics, community health, movies and media, and the mobilization of people in various areas.

Each faculty member will focus on his or her area of expertise as it relates to the BLM movement in a particular world region. The faculty proposed to teach the course include: David Pate, associate professor of social work; Ermitte Saint Jacques, assistant professor, and Gladys Mitchell-Walthour, associate professor, of African and African Diaspora Studies; Jennifer Kibicho, associate professor of nursing; and Portia Cobb, professor of film.

In conjunction with the course, the Global and International Studies degree program aims to create a new Global Fellows cohort that amplifies African American global scholarship. Faculty teaching modules of the BLM course will become Global Fellows. The UWM Global Studies Fellows program was established in 2010 to support faculty teaching and research in global themes and issues.

“We really wanted to focus on supporting Black faculty and their engagement in study abroad,” said Castellano. UWM’s campus dialogue on racial justice in summer of 2020 with panels of faculty, staff and students also emphasized the need for more Black faculty and courses like this, she said.

The eventual goal is to make the course a permanent offering at UWM, she added.

The Center for International Education and the Global and International Studies staff collaborated in this successful effort. The team included Sharon Gosz, director of study abroad; Castellano and Ramona Washington, study abroad coordinators and co-managers of the grant; Christine Wolf, assistant director of global and international studies; and Caroline Seymour-Jorn, director of global and international studies and professor of French, Italian and Comparative Literature.

“Putting together the grant and the program took a lot of people and a lot of effort,” Castellano said. “I was proud to work with such an incredible team to make this happen.”

By Kathy Quirk, University Relations