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K-State Today

April 26, 2017

Office of International Programs Education Abroad looks to expand successful CAT Community model

Submitted by Mary K. Pyle

Short-term education abroad programs are one of the best ways to offer affordable, academically-rigorous options for students who otherwise may not have the opportunity to go abroad. Some students may think that an education abroad experience may be outside of their reach.

Matt Yates, assistant director of Education Abroad, started teaching his global citizenship class on campus in fall 2014. In partnership with K-State First, he redesigned the course into a CAT Community, which provides a forum for students to study across topics with common themes and culminates with an international trip.

"I am really excited with how well the program has expanded both in terms of numbers of students and quality of the student experience," Yates said. "This is a great example of a successful collaboration over the past two years. We are interested in sharing it with other faculty who want to consider this type of program for their incoming freshmen."

Yates and Gregory Eiselein, director of K-State First and Donnelly professor of English, credited the initial idea for a study abroad CAT Community proposal to Marcelo Sabates, former associate provost of the Office of International Programs. The idea became reality as a result of careful planning and specially appointed task forces.

The outcome resulted in bringing together seamlessly multiple high-impact, engaged teaching practices:

  • Learning communities
  • Study abroad
  • Language immersion
  • Leadership and community engagement
  • First-year experience

Laura Kanost from the modern languages department led the first study abroad CAT Community, "Spanish in Action," to Costa Rica in 2013. Yates' first "Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost" CAT Community traveled to Hong Kong in 2016, then to Paris in March 2017. In March 2018, they are headed to Japan.

Yates advises that faculty design their programs intentionally to co-create a rigorous, intense academic forum. This environment best encourages students to develop and vocalize their thoughts and process them in a meaningful manner.

"We constantly analyze and evaluate the coursework, and a lot of thought goes into the selection of the travel destination as well as post-tour student reflection," Yates said. "We set the bar high to ensure that students express intercultural skills and values, develop critical communication and thinking skills, and build their capacities for self-reflection and awareness."

"Dr. Yates' version of the study abroad CAT Community is particularly powerful in the ways he teaches global citizenship, respect and engagement with others, and, I think, confidence and self-efficacy," Eiselein said. 

"We are looking for additional faculty who find this model an attractive one and would like to extend it to their curricula," Yates said. "We have had some superstar students go on to do wonderful things, including several who have engaged in service learning projects and research here and abroad."

"Students learn so much during this yearlong experience, and they regularly report how transformative it was not only to their learning but also their lives," Eiselein said. 

"Now is a good time for additional faculty to consider exploring this collaborative curriculum," Yates said. 

Yates can provide an overview and detailed implementation strategies and can be reached at mkyates@k-state.edu or 785-532-5990.

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