KU Receives State Department Grant to Create First Hybrid Study Abroad Program

Thu, 06/15/2023


Christine Metz Howard

The University of Kansas was awarded a $35,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State to develop a hybrid study abroad program aimed at encouraging underrepresented students to travel internationally. 

KU was one of 34 U.S. colleges and universities to receive a grant from the State Department’s Increase and Diversify Education Abroad for U.S. Students (IDEAS) Program. The IDEAS program is designed to develop and expand study abroad programs around the world and contribute to the State Department’s diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility efforts to engage Americans in foreign policy. 

Elizabeth MacGonagle, associate professor of history and African and African-American studies, and Luciano Tosta, associate professor of Spanish & Portuguese, will create KU’s first hybrid study abroad program to be offered during winter break beginning December 2024. 

The program will explore the interconnections among race, history and health in Africa and the African diaspora. By focusing on Nigeria, Cuba and Brazil, students will examine how the enslavement of Africans in the Americas explains health and social disparities in those countries. The program’s themes, location and hybrid format were designed to attract a demographic of students traditionally underrepresented in KU’s study abroad programs.  

“We are excited to diversify international education at KU by showing how the interconnected histories of Brazil, Nigeria and Cuba affect current health landscapes in each country,” MacGonagle said. “The hybrid nature of the program will provide students with opportunities to examine issues of race, history and health on three continents.” 

Students will spend the first section of the program online, where they will be virtually transported to Nigerian cities and Cuban sites, read primary source materials and watch videos about the historical and cultural contexts of these diverse, yet similar, spaces.   

Following the virtual portion, students will spend two weeks in Salvador, Brazil, home to the largest African-descended population outside of Africa. In Salvador, students will participate in seminars and excursions that highlight how historical and cultural elements — including religion, education, music and art — intersect with Salvador’s health inequities. 

“This course will foster interdisciplinary and comparative studies of Africa and the African diaspora,” Tosta said. “I am looking forward to the many connections that students will be able to make during this exciting learning journey.”  

The IDEAS Program grant will allow faculty to travel to Cuba and Nigeria to collect digital course materials while meeting with healers, healthcare providers, religious leaders, cultural heritage professionals, activists and artists in the region. With these materials, MacGonagle and Tosta will collaborate with a graduate student and the Center for Online and Distance Learning course designers to develop five virtual modules. These modules will serve as the foundation for the hybrid program. 

The funding will also provide support for a KU staff member from a program that supports multicultural scholars to accompany students to Salvador to better create a communications strategy to increase recruitment and outreach to underrepresented communities on campus.

“Within the framework of Jayhawks Rising, KU has emphasized the importance of comprehensive campus internationalization,” said Angela Perryman, director of Study Abroad & Global Engagement. “Innovative programs such as this directly advance this goal by ensuring access to comparative learning and education abroad experiences for a diverse population of KU students and supporting international professional development opportunities for KU staff.”  

Since 2016, the IDEAS Program has awarded 179 grants to 173 U.S. colleges and universities in 49 states and territories to create, expand and diversify their U.S. study abroad programs in 71 countries across all world regions. In addition to the IDEAS grants, the program offers opportunities for international educators at U.S. colleges and universities to participate in free virtual and in-person study abroad capacity-building activities.  

The IDEAS Program is a program of the U.S Department of State with funding provided by the United States government and supported in its implementation by World Learning. For a full list of 2023 IDEAS grantees, visit www.studyabroadcapacitybuilding.org.  

Images: Top, Professors Luciano Tosta and Liz MacGonagle on top of the Casa do Carnaval Museum in Salvador, Brazil. Right, the “Casa de Yemanjá,” the “house” of Afro-Brazilian Orixá Yemanjá, in the neighborhood of Rio Vermelho in Salvador, Brazil.

Thu, 06/15/2023


Christine Metz Howard