Partnering to Bolster Program Experiences: The University Of North Carolina, Charlotte

According to Mary Lynne Calhoun, former Dean of the College of Education at The University of North Carolina, Charlotte, “Professors and students need a road map – a way to get started.”  A College of Education Internationalization Plan, designed and approved by the faculty, provides exactly the kind of roadmap that guides the student experience and faculty development within the college.

Emphasis on Global Perspectives

UNC Charlotte has a uniquely successful approach to accomplishing its global perspectives emphasis. It begins before students ever spend a day in the teacher education program. The university requires two years of foreign language study to qualify for their teacher education program, ensuring that students have at minimum, moderate exposure to another language prior to beginning their studies.  Once students have been accepted to the college, they begin cultivating global perspectives from their earliest experiences in the program. The coursework sequence requires a global perspectives class at the very beginning of the teacher training program. This course lays the foundation for reflection on related topics throughout their pedagogical and subject matter coursework over the next few years.

Building and infusing these courses with global perspectives to complement the early learning requires a dedication to faculty development. At the UNC Charlotte College of Education, leadership takes global activities into consideration for applications for promotion and tenure. Travel, committee service, and research activities related to international content are all equally weighted with more traditional faculty activities.  Beyond the recognition of effort, there is also financial support from the leadership within the college. The dean has sponsored a competitive grant process for faculty to apply for support for travel and research activities abroad.  The application requires a direct connection of the activity back to the college strategic plan and also requires a plan to integrate research findings into the larger community.

Alignment to the strategic vision of the college of education is another way that UNC Charlotte makes conversations around global content central to the work of the college. There is a standing global education committee that elects members through a competitive process and ensures that activities, student engagement experiences, and faculty research all align to the global priorities set forth in the college of education.

Partnerships Enrich Experience and Allow Resource Sharing

Perhaps the most unique element of the comprehensive roadmap built by the UNC Charlotte campus is the way it achieves economies of scale through partnerships with other campuses in the University of North Carolina system. Rather than depending on a singular ability of their college to offer every type of abroad experience, students can access programs throughout the UNC system.  This might mean a teacher goes abroad through a program with North Carolina State rather than UNC Charlotte. This allows students to find multiple types of experiences abroad – both coursework and student teaching experiences - without overburdening any particular campus or international office within the UNC system.

UNC Charlotte is partnering with sister campuses in the University of North Carolina system to make student teaching experiences in international settings available to teacher education candidates. Because North Carolina requires ten weeks of student teaching to take place in a North Carolina classroom, the college has crafted five- and six-week student experiences in China, Germany, and Mexico to balance out the remaining weeks in the semester.  The college has built partnerships and strongly encourages students who are interested in pursuing time in classrooms outside the United States.

Beyond sharing resources on exchange programs, the campuses regularly meet on their efforts to internationalize. In that way, the UNC Charlotte program holds itself accountable to its goals and obtains feedback on strategies. Leadership within fifteen colleges of education and Offices of International Programs throughout the university system meets several times a year to discuss their work, plan forums, apply for funding to support their common activities and engage in sharing of promising practice.  The University Council on International Programs and the UNC Deans Council on Teacher Education provide the leadership to guide this work.

Many of the elements UNC Charlotte has developed have contributed to a state that is rich with opportunity for global understanding in classrooms around North Carolina. Partnerships with other universities in the university system, leadership offering financial support to faculty research and travel abroad, and a systemic dedication to providing opportunities to better understand global ideas and strategies and to offer opportunities to student teach abroad all contribute to a comprehensive roadmap toward an internationalized program.

Questions to consider for your program

  1. What curriculum opportunities for building global perspectives can be integrated into your early stages of teacher preparation?
  2. What language requirements exist for applicants to your program? What language learning opportunities are there for current students?
  3. Are there universities within my system or geographic region that could be a potential partner as we seek to expand our international activities?
  4. What short-term opportunities can be crafted to allow students to obtain teaching experience abroad even if state’s student teacher experiences are geographically determined?
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