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UW-Eau Claire joins national study abroad consortium

| Denise Olson

Evidently UW-Eau Claire isn't ready to call it good simply because we consistently rank very high nationally for study abroad — we still want to do more, offer more. Blugold students clearly thirst for adventure and exploratory learning, evidenced by our high numbers of students who study abroad, and the international study opportunities just grew in important ways.

UW-Eau Claire has officially joined the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) as its 34th affiliate campus. After partnering with USAC for more than 10 years, this move to joining the affiliation will provide additional and unique options for affordable and immersive study abroad programming.

Colleen Marchwick, director of the Center for International Education, is pleased to announce this affiliation, which will benefit students and faculty alike.

"We are thrilled and honored to become one of 34 universities in the United States to obtain USAC affiliate membership," Marchwick said. "UW-Eau Claire’s long and strong history of study abroad certainly played a role in this achievement. In addition, USAC and UWEC share a common mission of providing high-quality educational experiences at an affordable cost."

USAC is a nonprofit consortium of U.S. universities that collaborates to raise the quality of international programs and bring student costs down through scholarships and other cost-saving measures. USAC-sponsored programs combine academic experiences, field trips, internships, volunteering and service-learning to fully immerse students in the culture, history and academics in over 50 cities across 28 countries, often beyond the range of most typical Western European destinations.

Megan Jacobson, a junior nursing student from Woodville, recently participated in a USAC program in San Ramon, Costa Rica, and is confident that the nursing, cultural and language skills she expanded during this immersive experience will make her a better nurse in the future.

"This program expanded my cultural awareness, improved my Spanish language skills and helped me form long-lasting relationships with not only other students but also some of the locals from San Ramon," Jacobson said. "This program will affect my interactions with patients as a practicing nurse. Along with advancing my Spanish knowledge and making communication with Spanish-speaking patients easier in the future, I now have more of an appreciation for the differences in any culture."

Because Blugold faculty are equally eager to expand learning and growth on a global scale, Marchwick emphasizes that faculty also will gain additional new options for teaching abroad, for a full-semester term or summer, which in the long term is a benefit to students who encounter a richer, more global perspective from those faculty when they return to campus and infuse their international experience into coursework on campus.

"USAC affiliate membership supports the goals of the Academic Master Plan by providing more opportunities for UW-Eau Claire faculty to teach abroad and cultivate cost-neutral or cost-comparable study abroad programs," Marchwick explains. "Many of the USAC semester programs outside of Western Europe have a similar cost of attendance as a semester at UW-Eau Claire.”

Dr. Robert Hooper, professor of geology, has had several teaching experiences overseas and was a strong advocate of this campus joining USAC. 

"Living and working in Scotland changed my view of both Europe and the United States and it had a direct impact on my teaching at UW-Eau Claire," Hooper said. "It's not possible to spend an extended time overseas without gaining new perspectives, and this is true for both students and faculty. I am very pleased that other faculty will now have the incredible opportunity to teach overseas as part of the USAC program. I thank the staff in the office of International Education for working toward this important goal."

As the Center for International Education and Academic Policies Committee move forward in translating this new USAC membership into additional programs and scholarship funds, students and faculty can expect to see a growing list of nontraditional destinations for learning, teaching and innovative experiences around the globe. 

Photo caption: Senior international business student Angela Gillette participated in the USAC program in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in spring 2018. Gillette took advantage of the opportunity to volunteer at a local school where she assisted in teaching English to young students.