More than 250 UGA students study internationally each year through the UGA Global Programs in Sustainability Discover Abroad office. One of many study abroad programs at UGA, GPS has had such an impact on UGA students, faculty and other universities that it has earned UGA an honorable mention in the 11th annual Andrew Heiskell Awards for Innovation in International Education, given by the Institute of International Education.
UGA came in second to the University of Rhode Island's international engineering program in the study abroad category.
"The award is a very deserving recognition of UGA's success in developing outstanding study abroad programming for our students," said Kavita Pandit, the UGA associate provost for international education.
UGA sends an average of 2,000 students abroad each year through a variety of programs in countries all over the world; and one in four UGA graduates have had a study abroad experience ranging from three weeks to a year at the time of graduation.
The Heiskell Awards honor the most outstanding initiatives in international education among the more than 1,100 higher education institutions worldwide. The 2012 awards recognize seven programs being conducted by nine campuses. The categories include study abroad, internationalizing the campus, internationalizing the community college and international partnerships.
Uttiyo Raychaudhuri, associate director of Global Programs in Sustainability, and Kasee Laster, director of education abroad at UGA, will travel to New York City on March 9 for the Heiskell Awards ceremony.
UGA Global Programs in Sustainability, under the direction of Meigs Professor Michael Tarrant, is unique among the university's abroad programs not only because of its interdisciplinary nature-courses offered range from landscape to law and all the sciences, social sciences and humanities in between-but also because of its focus on human-environment interaction and sustainability.
"Our program is centered around nurturing a global citizenry," Tarrant said. "We are looking at the core values of human dignity and humility: Fostering a love and respect for the peoples and environments of the world to which we belong."
Raychaudhuri agrees. "Global education provides each student the unique ability to find themselves and their own place by visiting places," he said.
Students traveling through Global Programs in Sustainability can choose from programs that visit Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Bali, Thailand, Great Britain, Ireland, Antarctica and India.
"The courses are interdisciplinary and experiential in nature," Raychaudhuri said, "focusing on the diverse facets of sustainability from societies to the environment, so that students are better educated and informed with a sense of global citizenship, environmental stewardship and inter-cultural competence."
UGA Global Programs in Sustainability, which is housed in the UGA Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, got its start in 2001 when a group of 29 students traveled with Tarrant to New Zealand. Since then, it has become one of the largest study abroad programs in the nation, Raychaudhuri said. Since 2005, the program has enlisted 250 students each year and, during better economic years, serves up to 400 students annually.
Amanda Lancour graduated from UGA in December 2011 with a double major in psychology and sociology. She was so impacted by her studies in New Zealand, Australia and Fiji in 2009 that she's currently working as a teaching assistant for UGA-and introducing a new generation of students to these countries.
"It's great to be a part of something bigger than you," she said. "Everybody wants that." As a student in the program, "my perspective just broadened entirely. I've looked at some graduate programs abroad. I'm not confining myself to the U.S. anymore because there's so much out there."
Courses offered through the Global Programs in Sustainability are among the most writing-intensive at UGA. GPS is also unique in its research. Since 2008, program administrators and faculty have been working on an empirically based research project to assess intercultural competence and student learning. Their findings will provide important feedback to further enhance study abroad program quality.
As the students are learning, so are the teachers. Georgianna Mann, who received her bachelor's degree in food science from UGA in May 2011, served as a teaching assistant through the Australia program.
"All those students had such a hunger for learning," she said. "It was just amazing to be their teaching assistant. I felt like I was learning more from them than I was teaching them. It was just a really incredible experience to watch them grow."