A Reciprocal Approach to Promoting Study Abroad in STEM
Montclair State University and Universidad Mayor in Santiago, Chile partnered to engage MSU and UM undergraduate STEM students, in particular, underrepresented minorities for a pilot program in biotechnology. Because of the globalization of science research, both institutions deem it important to engage students in valuable international collaboration that will prepare them for work among the international community of science researchers and educators. In September 2014, six (6) students and three (3) faculty members traveled from Chile to the U.S. to begin collaborative work that continued in January 2015 with six (6) U.S. students and two (2) U.S. faculty members in Chile. In the U.S., student teams examined and presented their research interests using a variety of modalities. In Chile, students engaged in collaborative workshops, seminars, and field trips, visiting places such as the Center of Genomics and Bioinformatics (Universidad Mayor), Institute of Biotechnology at Talca, Marine Research Center at Las Cruces, BioSigma, Microscopy Center (Universidad de Chile), Fundación Ciencia y Vida, and Estación Costera de Investigaciones Marinas at Las Cruces. At these sites, students were introduced to state-of- the-art biotechnology and learned about the research projects taking place. Students from both countries learned to value similarities and differences—much of which will translate to their careers. As an example, the Chilean students noted their surprise at the level of ethnic diversity represented in the small group of six U.S. students. On the other hand, U.S. students were impressed with the level of research and access to cutting-edge technology in Chilean laboratories and thereafter, saw Chile as a potential partner for future research collaborations. The exchange program is now a model for future exchanges, as a promising new partnership has now been forged between both institutions.