The number of students from the United States involved in civic engagement abroad grows every year, says Amanda Moore McBride, PhD, associate professor and associate dean of social work at the Brown School and research director for the Center for Social Development. This growth in international service results from two broader trends – increased globalization of American higher education and larger numbers of Americans volunteering abroad.
“This thematic issue highlights six important contributions to the growing body of literature about international service,” McBride says. McBride and Eric Mlyn of Duke University served as guest editors for the journal issue.
The lead article is by Margaret Sherraden of the University of Missouri – St. Louis, Benjamin J. Lough of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Amy Bopp of the University of Missouri – St. Louis. Sherraden and Lough are CSD faculty associates. They propose a “framework for inquiry on international service programs,” McBride says, and pay specific attention to characteristics that may explain varying program outcomes. Other articles discuss topics such as effects of international service on host countries, data collection on student learning outcomes, and guidelines for service trips in response to crises and natural disasters.
The journal issue falls between two symposia addressing the topic. The first brought faculty, administrators, students and volunteer organizations to Washington University in St. Louis in the spring of 2011. More than 40 colleges and universities, and more than 20 volunteer organizations were represented at this convening sponsored by the Center for Social Development and the Gephardt Institute for Public Service at Washington University, and DukeEngage of Duke University, with the Brookings Institution, the Building Bridges Coalition and ServiceWorld.
“The purpose of the symposium was to advance knowledge, practice and policy that support effective international service implemented in the context of higher education,” McBride says. “The challenge before the assembled practitioners and scholars was to respond to the growing thirst of students to move beyond the traditional study abroad paradigm and to work toward institutionalizing international service opportunities that benefit students and the communities they serve.”
Registration is now open for the second symposium, “International Service Learning Summit: Building a Community of Practice,” coming up Oct. 23-25 at Northwestern University. Participants will discuss gaps in the field, move forward with models that maximize impacts for international service partners and determine the most appropriate ways of teaching within this field. The summit will include an opening keynote speaker, one or two plenary speakers, panel presentations with facilitated break-out discussion sessions, and significant time for discussion, dialogue and sharing.
“We view the symposia and this issue of the ‘Journal’ as small steps toward the goal of building this field of study with rigorous research and assessment,” McBride says.