by Sophia Abbot

Last January, I took a class on Engaged Learning in Higher Education. I wrote a little bit about this class in my spring post on Partnership and Mentorship at Scale, but one thing I didn’t mention was the content we were doing co-inquiry about. Three classmates and I spent three intensive weeks researching global learning to understand how it happens on and off campus and to make suggestions for campus improvements. One element of our writing centered on partnering with students to rethink on-campus global learning opportunities. This thinking was influenced by Wendy Greene’s recent edited issue on student-faculty partnership in global learning in the Journal of Studies in International Education. In particular, I’ve been struck by the idea of partnering with students at an institution to internationalize the curriculum (explored in Stanway, Cao, & Cannell, 2019; Thanh Phan, Tran, & Blackmore, 2019; and Trinh & Conner, 2019). I continue to be interested in how groups of students come together to co-design a global engagement experience, and I am now in the unique position of practicing this co-design for an off-campus program.

I am part of a cohort of Masters of Higher Ed students co-designing a short-term study abroad experience for ourselves. In the spring, we met three times to decide on a location for our study abroad experience. In these meetings, we reflected together on the importance of recognizing our individual and intersecting identities. We are all U.S. citizens who studied at U.S. institutions of higher education, but some of us are first generation Americans, some of us hold dual citizenships, and some of us have been in this country–perhaps even the same state–for generations. We have experiences growing up in various urban, suburban, and rural environments in vastly different parts of the United States. All of us speak English as our first language. Some of us have a second or third language. This diversity poses some interesting challenges and opportunities for our collective planning.

When my classmates and I were exploring partnership in global learning in January, we were looking at very small groups of students and faculty doing work together for a larger goal. We recommended that more work in global engagement happen in partnerships among students and faculty. I was not imagining our current set-up, though: fourteen students and three faculty members, working to co-develop something that all seventeen of us will experience in January 2020. 

I am struck by the challenge of engaging in partnership in such a group: is it possible for us to collectively develop deep, trusting, reciprocal relationships among ourselves and with our faculty partners? How will we navigate our various positionalities and identities, and our radically different experiences and kinds of expertise? I am excited to see how answers to these questions emerge and develop over our next full semester working together. I also look forward to exploring in more depth the ways the ideals of partnership are enacted: valuing and weaving together the diversity of our perspectives to create a stronger whole. 

In May, we came to a consensus about our location. We will be traveling to Japan in January! The decision-making process was predictably difficult, but our collective intentionality and establishment of shared goals modeled what is recommended in partnership literature broadly (Mercer-Mapstone & Marie, 2019) and was key to our ultimate success. As we continue our planning over the summer and fall, I look forward to mapping our progress onto some of the recommendations Mercer-Mapstone and Marie (2019) make about scaling and exploring how partnership in global education is experienced in-process. 


Sophia Abbot is the 2018-2020 Center for Engaged Learning Graduate Apprentice and a student in the Masters of Higher Education program at Elon University.

How to cite this post:

Abbot, Sophia. 2019, August 29. Global learning and partnership. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from