The University of St. Thomas has a strong tradition of faculty-led January term off-campus programs – they enroll about half of all students who study abroad annually. These programs typically consist of three- to four-week-long experiences at the host locations with orientations starting during the fall semester. They are taught by St. Thomas faculty members who are encouraged to collaborate across academic disciplines, starting with program design. For their participants, they may fulfill specific core curriculum, major, minor, or graduate degree requirements.
There are two kinds of faculty-led J-term programs: those that are run by St. Thomas for its undergraduate or graduate students only (UST-sponsored programs) and those that are open to the UMAIE consortium (Upper Midwest Association for Intercultural Association) to which St. Thomas belongs (UMAIE-sponsored programs).
As a long-time member of UMAIE, St. Thomas has been able to offer undergraduate programs for which there might not otherwise be enough demand on its campus and which therefore would risk cancellation due to low enrollments. Additionally, UMAIE-sponsored programs benefit from the diverse perspectives contributed by the students from other institutions and the logistical support of Seminars International, an experienced travel and service provider that takes the work of organizing and managing on-site arrangements out of the Program Directors’ hands. On the other hand, because the consortium has its own policies and processes that have been developed for all seven of its member institutions, and because the logistics of including students from outside St. Thomas pose some unique challenges, UMAIE may not be the best fit for every Program Director just as not all programs make good UMAIE-sponsored programs.
Some of the key differences between UST-sponsored and UMAIE-sponsored courses are summarized in the table below.
The UST-sponsored and UMAIE-sponsored program proposal processes have some similarities and some differences. Because St. Thomas’ ARCIE (Academic Review Committee for International Education) vets proposals in both cases, the UST-sponsored program proposal form is modeled on the UMAIE one. The timelines for proposal submission and review are similar as well, with faculty’s deadline to complete proposals set for mid-October, nearly fifteen months before departure, and program approvals being communicated to faculty in early December.
Calls for proposals for both UST-sponsored and UMAIE-sponsored programs are sent to all St. Thomas full-time faculty via e-mail. Staff in the Office of Study Abroad are available to speak with faculty about their program ideas while they are preparing their proposals.
Additionally, faculty who would like to propose programs might first apply for grants either from St. Thomas or from UMAIE to use toward planning trips to their intended off-campus locales to collect teaching materials, establish contacts, scout out on-site services, develop itineraries, identify potential guest lecturers, etcetera. For faculty who would like to re-vision core curriculum courses they have taught previously, Teaching Enhancement Grants are available through the Center for Faculty Development.