“Skidmore” New Zealand, A New Study Abroad Option
Currently, Skidmore runs three study abroad programs (Skidmore in Paris, Skidmore in London and Skidmore in Spain), but starting in Spring 2018, there will be a fourth program, Skidmore in New Zealand. At the February faculty meeting, a motion to establish this program in partnership with Frontiers Abroad was passed by majority vote.
Frontiers Abroad is an organization that offers field curriculum and campus-based course work in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Currently, there are two tracks available for this program, the New Zealand Earth Sciences and Geology of New Zealand with the University of Canterbury and University of Auckland, but starting in 2018, additional tracks will be added. The new tracks will include Environmental and Marine science with the University of Otago, Sustainable Economics, Business and Entrepreneurship with the University of Catenbury, New Zealand Earth Systems with the University of Otago, and Physics and Astronomy with University of Canterbury. Originally, the program was developed specifically for students interested in environmental studies and sciences, geoscience and biology, but with these new tracks, students from other areas can take advantage of the program.
“On each track, students have the opportunity to conduct in-depth field work at the beginning of each semester, followed by a traditional semester at either the University of Auckland or the University of Canterbury and soon, the University of Otago,” said Cori Filson Director, Off-Campus Study and Exchanges (OCSE).
For the field experiences, students spend up to 12 hours a day for five weeks out in the field. “Students spend their time learning field techniques and applying classroom knowledge throughout some of the most spectacular environmental and geological settings in the world, in both New Zealand and beyond (for example, in the Cook Islands for the Earth Systems program),” said Geology Professor, Kyle Nichols. This provides students with hands on experience conducting field research. During this time, students start to collect data for their own research project that they will continue during the university portion of their semester.
Isabella Bennett ’17 who went on a Geology program last year explained that through the field experience, students are “learning by doing. It’s just incredible. I got to know New Zealand from the seafloor up.” Students who do not want to do the field experience portion can enroll in only the university part of the semester, or if they do not have time for a full semester abroad, students can instead participate in a summer-only field experience.
Bennett spent the university portion of her semester at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, where students “take three classes of your choice and then a research methods course, in which you pursue an independent research project of your choosing.”
Similar to the three other Skidmore study abroad programs, OCSE will oversee this program, work closely with the on-site staff to ensure the expectations for a Skidmore program are met and students will receive grades that affect their GPAs, since the courses will be Skidmore courses (Skidmore’s departments and curriculum committee will review and approve courses for Skidmore credit).
Though Skidmore in New Zealand is a new program, having students study abroad in New Zealand is not entirely new. Skidmore has been working with Frontiers Abroad as an approved program since 2009. “About 18 months ago, we started talking about developing a partnership that would give them support from a campus that is already invested in their success as they develop new tracks and determine how to grow over the next five to ten years,” said Filson. “It made sense for us to pursue a formal partnership that would benefit our students and also provide a supportive and eager US partner for Frontiers Abroad,” said Nichols.
“Over the years, and through many conversations, it became obvious that Skidmore and Frontiers Abroad has similar goals and aspirations for study abroad opportunities” said Nichols.
The partnership with Frontiers Abroad aligns with Skidmore’s strategic goals of broadening the Skidmore program portfolio to represent the sciences and countries outside of Western Europe. “The new partnership also supports institutional goals around CIS [Center for Integrated Science], provides undergraduate research opportunities that we believe will encourage students to consider post-graduate academic and research opportunities, and allows us to explore new faculty research and development opportunities,” said Filson.
The first group of students will participate in this program in Spring 2018, which means OCSE will begin actively promoting the program in Fall 2017. Before they can start promoting and sending students on the program, Skidmore must work to have the curriculum reviewed and finalize the partnership arrangements. In the Fall, Skidmore will also “begin to explore the possibility of developing a faculty-led program that will allow Skidmore faculty to accompany a group of Skidmore students during the full semester or one of our breaks. This will be a broad discussion involving OCSE and departments that might be interested in participating,” said Filson.
Even though it is a Skidmore program, non-Skidmore students can still participate. Similar to Skidmore students, they will receive a Skidmore transcript with Skidmore grades.
“Everyone always says if you have the chance to go to New Zealand, you're a fool to pass it up, and now I am a part of that demographic,” said Bennett. So, follow Bennett and consider studying abroad on the new Skidmore in New Zealand program.