By Lois Gray, University News Services
The University of Iowa will develop a new study abroad program in Tanzania, thanks to an almost $250,000 grant from the U.S. State Department. It is the first semester-long UI study abroad program in Eastern Africa and one of the first of its kind in the nation.
The grant, which will be matched with an additional $139,000 from the UI, is titled “Capacity Building for Undergraduate Study Abroad.”
Janis Perkins, assistant dean of International Programs for Study Abroad, and James Giblin, co-director of the African Studies Program (ASP) in International Programs and a history professor in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, are the grant co-principal investigators.
“This will be the first U.S.-sponsored semester study abroad program affiliated with any Tanzanian university other than the University of Dar es Salaam and the first accredited program for U.S. students in the city of Irigna,” Perkins said. “A primary objective of this grant is to create more diverse geographic locations for our students to study abroad as interest in study abroad grows.”
Since the UI has a flourishing Swahili and East African Studies Program, this new study abroad program will fill a much-needed gap in study abroad offerings, Perkins said. In fact, she added, there are 37 UI students enrolled in elementary Kiswahili courses and 27 in intermediate Swahili courses this fall.
The grant, which begins this fall and ends in July 2012, will fund the creation of a sustainable study abroad program at Mkwawa University College of Education [MUCE] in Iringa, Tanzania. The first year of the grant will focus on program and curriculum development. During the second year, Perkins said the UI Office for Study Abroad hopes to send at least 40 undergraduate students – including both UI students and students from across the country – as part of a nationwide consortium.
Although it’s the first semester-long study abroad program in East Africa, UI students have had the opportunity to study in Ghana and South Africa through various exchange programs in the past as well as short-term programs in Tanzania.
Building on the UI’s strength in East African studies, including a popular and long-established program in Kiswahili language instruction, ASP and Office for Study Abroad (OfSA) are developing a study abroad program in Tanzania. With this new funding, the UI will establish both semester and yearlong study abroad programs. Previously, ASP and OfSA offered a three-week pilot program called “Taking the Classroom to the World” that was funded from a Department of Education grant from the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program.
Perkins added that this will help the UI achieve its goal of having 30 percent of graduating undergraduates have a study abroad experience.
According to the most recent statistics from the UI Office for Study Abroad, 1,283 UI students or 884 undergraduates and 399 graduate and professional students, studied abroad during 2008-09. Comparing the number of undergraduates who studied abroad to the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded by the UI during 2007-08 (4,482) indicates that approximately 19.7 percent of the current graduating class studied abroad.
This new study abroad program will also contribute to faculty and curricular development, as well as build capacity to host study abroad at a new and rapidly growing university tapping into UI’s faculty expertise and connections in this part of the word, according to Giblin, who has done extensive research in Tanzania and East Africa.
Perkins and Phil Carls in the OfSA will be involved with creating this study abroad program, which will be primarily geared toward students studying the Kiswahili language and East African history and culture.
In addition, students will have the opportunity to work on an independent research project under the combined mentorship of one UI and one MUCE faculty member. These projects would be presented to ASP faculty at public presentations upon the students’ return to Iowa.
Students will also be given the opportunity to do service learning by working with the UI’s WiderNet project or with NGOs located in Iringa.
UI interim Vice President for Research Jordan Cohen said this is a prestigious and competitive grant. He added that, to his knowledge, this is the first time the U.S. Department of State has issued this type of funding opportunity for a study abroad program.
“With opportunities for study abroad, service learning, language study, and independent research, this project is exemplary of the types of programs we want to foster at the University of Iowa,” Cohen said. “These high impact experiences are crucial to undergraduate success and will prepare our students for an increasingly global marketplace.”
UI faculty participants will come from the ASP including Giblin and at least eight UI faculty and instructors, most of whom are fluent in Kiswahili.
The goal is for the UI to develop its first sustained study abroad program in Tanzania as well as enhance its well-established Kiswahili program. At the same time, MUCE will obtain curricular development and enhanced ability to host American study abroad programs, Perkins added.