COLUMBIA, Mo. — Being adaptable is a major role for a director of study abroad at a university. Directors deal with program changes, passports that need updated at the last minute and students who miss their flights, among with many other important matters.
Shanon Dickerson understands that serving as CAFNR director of study abroad requires her to think outside of the box quite often. That mindset has been even more important as international travel has been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an effort to offer CAFNR students an international experience from Columbia, Dickerson and the CAFNR Office of Academic Programs have developed the Go Global! campaign. The main focus of the campaign is on virtual internships and preparing students for future study abroad experiences.
“One of the reasons I really enjoy working in study abroad is because you are forced to be creative and adaptable,” Dickerson said. “It’s exciting to think outside the box and work through changes. Obviously, we’ve faced some challenges this year, and I’m thrilled that we are able to offer our students opportunities to still attain an international component toward their degree.”
For the first time in her Mizzou career, Dickerson is teaching AFNR 2191: International Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (Humanities). It’s a course that she had developed and taught before coming to MU. This semester, the eight-week course is centered on Europe. Going forward, the class will focus on each of CAFNR’s study abroad locations, such as New Zealand, Australia and China, and will give students an opportunity to prepare for a study abroad experience while comparing and contrasting agricultural practices, and food and natural resource conservation in the United States and abroad.
The spring application deadline is Jan. 15, 2021, and the hours from the AFNR 2191 course can be applied toward a minor in International Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources as well.
“We look at the culture, history, politics, art and food in each of these countries,” Dickerson said. “We have such great study abroad partners and the students are enjoying talking with each of them and connecting with international professionals.”
The Go Global! campaign is also encouraging students to apply for virtual internships.
“I know students probably wonder why they should look at virtual international internships, mainly because they don’t get to travel to the country of choice,” Dickerson said. “However, the benefit of the virtual internships is making students career ready in a virtual world. Plus, if you do one of the virtual internships, there may be an opportunity to study abroad in that country when travel resumes in the future.”
Dickerson added that virtual internships give students a unique opportunity to expand and build their professional network during a time when travel is not possible.
CAFNR study abroad faculty have continued to be very involved throughout the process as well.
“We’re really lucky in CAFNR that our faculty are super involved,” Dickerson said. “Our faculty love study abroad. They have been contacting me constantly with ideas and thoughts. They’re thinking outside the box as well, and it’s exciting to see how we’ve worked together to help our students reach their goals.”
The Go Global! campaign showcases CAFNR’s “RISE” Initiative, which includes Research, International, Service learning and Experiential learning. The campaign falls under the International section, which is focused on creating study abroad programs tailored to a degree program, or an international research program.
— University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
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