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Growing Study Abroad Office Supports Global Learning

New Staff Helps Expand International Study, Research Options

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Emily Brazer, left, has been hired as assistant manager and Fern MacKinnon as manager of the new Office of Study Abroad and International Experiences.

By Jill Gambon

Students and faculty looking at options for study abroad, overseas internships or research collaboration with international partners now have new resources at their disposal. To serve the growing demand for international academic and research programs, the University has created the Office of Study Abroad and International Experiences.

Two staff members with expertise in study abroad have been hired to lead the office: Fern MacKinnon is now the manager and Emily Brazer has come on board as assistant manager. MacKinnon previously served as director of international programs and study abroad at Emmanuel College while Brazer worked as an international programs adviser at Stonehill College.

MacKinnon says the office will be working to support the growing number of international partnerships that UMass Lowell has forged in recent years. At present, the University has academic exchange agreements with more than 60 universities in 25 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, North America and Australia.
The new office, which is based in O’Leary Library, will help students find overseas study or internship programs that match their interests. MacKinnon and Brazer will also work with faculty to develop international academic and research partnerships.
“It’s an exciting time to be here,” says MacKinnon. “We’re here to help students have transformational learning experiences when they study abroad.”

The number of students seeking international learning opportunities has been on the rise. Nationally, the number of students studying abroad has more than tripled in the past two decades, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE).  MacKinnon says students’ goals for study abroad have evolved in recent years, from cultural enrichment and language immersion to acquiring hands-on experience related to their career goals.  According to the IIE, more students are pursuing internships and practical work experience as a component of their time spent studying overseas.

“Students are trying to maximize their experience,” MacKinnon says. “Their study abroad experience needs to be a stepping stone for them.”

One of the office’s first projects is helping to plan four faculty-led international programs scheduled for this summer. The goal is to enroll between 10 and 15 students in each program, Brazer says. Programs are planned at universities in Greece, Spain, the Czech Republic and China.
“UMass Lowell is trying to make international experiences open to all students,” Brazer says. “Our goal is to be a resource to make the students and faculty aware of all the international opportunities that exist.”