Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Native American Study Abroad Program

For those of you who know about the Native American Center for Wellness Research (NACWR) and have looked at NACWR’s website, a Study Abroad Program (SAP) is being developed. There are a couple grants the center is applying for that will help create a SAP for Native American students throughout the State University of New York System and beyond. While the project is still in the development stage, the proposed plan is to travel to Ireland for four weeks, studying and traveling around Cork, Dublin, and Galway. Students will have the unique opportunity to experience a different, but somewhat similar culture along with earning six college credit hours.

Blarney Castle

Universities have long understood the benefits of international education. There are lots of data supporting these SAPs. Some of the outcomes for students who experienced studying abroad include, increased maturity, enhanced self-assurance, incredible sense of achievement, improved communication skills, just to name a few of the many.

Although there are great experiences associated with participating in a SAP, universities usually discourage “at-risk” students from enrolling in these programs. Why you might ask? Well…common sense would indicate that at-risk students should not be distracted from the most important factors of higher education – sitting in a dirty classroom listening to a professor talk about issues that won’t be on a test!

Cliffs of Moher

There are differences in college dropout rates for all student populations; however the gap is paramount among African American, Hispanic, and Native American students (see NCES). It has been found that 75 percent to 93 percent of Native Americans drop out of college prior to completion. I would say these figures would make them an “at-risk” population.

At-risk students, according to common sense thinking, should only focus on staying in school. No distractions! Although they are very high risk from escaping…uh, I mean dropping out of college; it is best that they remain in the institution and learn within that environment.  A typical college class is not the milieu for “hands-on” or practical learning, that studying abroad offers. If students are looking for that, they should enroll in a heating and air, auto mechanic, or a specialized course for kazoo technology. Apparently SAPs are for students who are accustomed and have mastered the standard institutional learning environment.

Dublin Castle

Well…as it turns out, SAPs just might be what at-risk students need. In 2000, researchers with the GLOSSARI project started a large-scale effort to document the academic outcomes of study abroad programs across the thirty-five institution University System of Georgia. Some ten years later, they discovered that “students who study abroad have improved academic performance upon returning to their home campus, have higher graduation rates, and have improved knowledge of cultural practices and context compared to students in control groups.” It was also revealed that studying abroad helps, rather than hinders, academic performance of at-risk students.
According to a GLOSSARI associate it has always been the common belief that students who are at-risk of dropping out of college should be discouraged from studying abroad. However, this study finds that studying abroad can actually be an intervention to improve retention rates for college students. Studying abroad does not derail their educational efforts. Instead, it actually focuses their work.
College Cork
So, one of NACWR’s goals is to assist Native American students successfully obtain a degree. By developing and offering a study abroad experience for Native American students, we hope to greatly impact learning and achievement. If you know a Native student enrolled in the SUNY system (State University of New York) or any Native students enrolled in another university and think they would be interested, please have them contact me. If you are a current student, do the same. I will update this blog and the NACWR website as things progress.
Peace, DAP


  1. I wish I could have studied abroad in my undergraduate career! I never thought I would be sad to be a graduating senior!

  2. Hi Krisssssssssssstie, I am very happy to hear you are graduating. Please know that I hope that the study abroad program lasts for many years. could start off graduate school with 6 credits! Peace DAP