SUNY Oswego looks to continue strengthening faculty-led study abroad


March 1, 2017

OSWEGO – SUNY Oswego has earned acclaim and national rankings for its emphasis on study abroad, and aims to continue building on its variety and depth of offerings.

The college supports approximately 20 of these shorter-term faculty-led programs any given year, said Joshua McKeown, associate provost for international education and programs. "We've worked hard together with dozens of faculty members to design and deliver exciting program options in interesting places students want to visit," he explained.

A pair of deadlines this month invite faculty to add even more options. Instructors who want to propose a faculty-led program with student travel abroad in January 2018 (after fall 2017 courses) are encouraged to do so via an online application by March 15. Applicants have a March 31 deadline for the college's Faculty International Travel Grants supporting opportunities to receive up to $1,500 to travel in advance of proposing a course, conducting research or presenting at international conferences.

"I believe these programs are successful because students see immediately how these faculty-led courses contribute to their educational goals," McKeown said. "Because they are embedded deliberately into the curriculum, students take courses with international travel that not only contribute to their global awareness but also to their majors, minors and general education."

For those interested in developing courses, benefits include "great satisfaction for faculty in seeing students learn what they are passionate about," McKeown explained. "Particularly when the learning comes through intense personal experience together it can be quite powerful. For some faculty no doubt it also contributes to their own research and knowledge of a particular country, or aspect of their scholarship found in that country."

For students, these courses provide "an incredible experience … that is eye-opening for them," McKeown added. "It is not only learning subject matter but it is learning about a place by actually experiencing it."

The college ranking among the top 20 nationwide for participation in mid-length study-abroad programs among students at master's colleges and universities in the most recent Open Doors report from the Institute for International Education and the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The positive feedback of students also shows it is a powerful and effective practice.

Italian art

Benjamin Entner of the art faculty takes students to Italy for around two weeks in "Three Cities: Rome, Florence and Venice," with the next travel installment in May.

"Italian art and culture influences my own research … it seemed like an obvious thing to do," Entner said. While in Italy, he can lead his students through art history while doing his own research studying architecture and sculptures.

The students taking the course "will see probably 5,000 works of art" as well as the Colosseum, Parthenon, Michelangelo's "David," Botticelli's "Birth of Venus," the Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica and other points of interest, Entner said.

The course "really enlivens" teaching art, as "there's nothing like standing in front of the David" to foster appreciation for such famous pieces, Entner noted.

"Any international experience would be great for them," Entner said. "The majority of the students I took hadn't been out of the country at all," but after some initial apprehension the students found themselves wanting to go abroad again.

"It's very affordable for the students," thanks to support from the Office of International Education and Programs, he said.

"Other than being able to see all of the historic art we learned about in art history classes, it was amazing to talk to people from the country, listen to another language be spoken and immerse myself within that culture," said Marissa Specioso, a graduate art student who took the course previously.

"This trip for me is actually what inspired my area of focus for graphic design and photography," she added. "I have now traveled to several countries and have several trips planned for the upcoming future. This trip inspired me to learn about different cultures around the world. Ever since traveling to Italy, my thesis for my master's degree in graphic design has been studying different cultures and capturing them through my lens or in my design work."

Anthropological exploration

Kathleen Blake of the anthropology faculty will lead her first such course, "Dead But Not Buried: A Bioarchaeological Approach to Mortuary Practice" -- a course on what cultures do with their dead -- to Prague and Brno in the Czech Republic in May.

"We don't think about being with the dead in the same way" as other cultures, such as those who keep their deceased relatives around for some time, she said. "In about the last 100 years as a culture, we've removed ourselves from it." She said she considered presenting the course after a couple students showed her places they found on the Atlas Obscura website.

In addition to the beautiful sights of Prague, the class will include a visit to the Seldec Ossuary, a Roman Catholic chapel where some of the bones of more than 40,000 dead who were unable to be buried due to the Black Death and wars were turned into elaborate decorative structures by artist František Rintin the 1800s, and the Hradlicka Museum of Anthropology, which has a large collection of skeletons and fossilized remains.

She suggests that faculty interested in proposing courses do their research and talk to professors who have already done these travel classes, and to explore the travel grant the Office of International Education and Programs makes available.

Studying abroad is something she frequently recommends to undergraduates. "It gives them a very different perspective of the world," Blake noted. "It's important to completing your education, in a way."

For more information on proposing a program or applying for a faculty travel grant, visit

PHOTO CAPTION: Cultural classroom -- Benjamin Entner of SUNY Oswego's art department (in blue with glasses) speaks to students in a previous year's "Three Cities: Rome, Florence and Venice" class with the canals of Venice as a backdrop. The study in Italy is one of about 20 faculty-led study-abroad courses the college will run this year.