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New initiative plans to facilitate global engagement

May 8, 2019

In July of 2019, a newly funded program to help stimulate more global engagement will begin at the UW-River Falls campus.

Heidi Soneson, assistant vice chancellor for International Education and executive director of the International Education office, played a key role in bringing this initiative to campus, called the curriculum integration initiative . Soneson explained, “[The initiative] is focused on how do we identify best program matches for different majors.”

Soneson came to UWRF this past July from the University of Minnesota. She explained that there was a similar program in place at the U of M, as well as at many universities around the country.

UWRF has many core values, one of these being global engagement. This global engagement comes about through introducing students to new ideas, people, cultures, and locations that build understanding and higher learning.

The university’s goal with this initiative is to get information about UWRF study abroad programs reflected on the website, as well as provide faculty with the necessary tools to advise students. “When faculty know what programs are really the best match for their majors and minors, they can better encourage students to study abroad,” said Soneson.

UWRF Faculty Senate worked closely with Soneson on this initiative. Sociology Professor Paige Miller is a member of Faculty Senate. Miller explained the relevance of the program at a campus like UWRF. “Currently we’re one of the top universities in the UW-System in terms of how many students we’re sending abroad. Anything that can make that process easier is good for the university, as well as for students having these experiences outside of the country,” said Miller.

A consultant who is an expert in the area is coming in to advise the initiative. “It’s a one year project with possible funding for two years. The role of the consultant is to facilitate discussions on campus with faculty administration in my office on the steps to take to foster curriculum integration,” explained Soneson.

Though the university encourages students to study abroad, Soneson said there are many factors that must be considered. “I think we have to look and see what is possible for students. Some have families, responsibilities to their parents or their farms. We must think broadly what is doable for them.” Soneson continued, “We want it to be easier for students to see study abroad as part of their four year plan.”

The university offers study abroad programs ranging from a full semester, to a one week spring break trip. Students must consider what is best for them in terms of duration, finances and their field of study. Soneson said there are plans to add even more international locations for students to go in the near future.