The university was recently awarded a $100,000 grant by the Freeman Foundation to help fund select students to hold internships in East and Southeast Asia this summer.
Eighteen undergraduate students will be selected to participate in the program, named UM Experiential Learning in East Asia. Each student selected will receive $5,000 from the grant and $2,500 from the Office of Global Engagement and the student’s school within the university.
The Freeman Foundation was established in 1994 in memory of AIG co-founder Mansfield Freeman. Freeman lived in Asia for a long time and was a well-known Chinese philosophy scholar. The foundation grants around $50 million annually to universities across the country to expand Asian studies.
Oliver Dinius, executive director of the Croft Institute for International Studies, was the principal investigator on the grant and will administer the program. Croft associate professor of history Joshua Howard, associate professor of sociology Minjoo Oh and senior international officer and Study Abroad director Blair McElroy will work with Dinius to design an application process and select students. Dinius said the program seeks the interest of undergraduate students from all schools on campus.
“The Croft Institute will administer the grant, but the target audiences are undergraduate students from all schools on campus,” Dinius said. “All the deans on the Oxford campus have pledged financial support for students from their respective schools chosen for the internship, and the Office of Global Engagement is helping to top off the grant with a very generous financial contribution.”
McElroy said the Office of Global Engagement is excited to help fund students in the program, as the office wants the university to engage globally whether it be through internships, faculty research or study abroad opportunities.
“Student internships, faculty research, study abroad opportunities, faculty and staff exchanges, intercultural experiences at UM, service-learning opportunities, integrating global experiences into the curriculum and more should all be supported by the Office of Global Engagement,” McElroy said. “OGE is proud to support and contribute to UM students participating in international internships across Eastern Asia.”
The Croft Institute was invited by the Freeman Foundation to apply for the grant, after Howard inquired about applying for it last January.
“Dr. Howard had contacted the foundation to inquire about this grant back in January, and we received word that we were invited to apply in early May, with a submission deadline in early June,” Dinius said. “I worked with the university’s Office for Research and Sponsored Programs to bring the proposal into the right format and include required financial and institutional information about the University of Mississippi. We received word about the success of the application and the award in mid-August.”
Students will have to seek out internship opportunities on their own and then apply for the program. Higher consideration will be given to students who wish to intern in East Asia, Japan and Korea due to the university’s close interactions with those areas.
“Students who work and live in another culture gain so much from the experience, from independence, intercultural communication skills, language skills and workplace etiquette to gaining real-world experience in their chosen field or major,” McElroy said. “Students with an international internship on their resume will stand out when they start applying for jobs.”
Senior banking and finance major Sydney Tucker studied abroad in China last year. She said those who participate in this program will not only learn about the culture but also join it.
“There is more to China, and Asia in general, than just traveling somewhere new. Asia holds culture at such a high value,” Tucker said. “Students that are selected for this unique opportunity will not just sit back and learn about the diverse culture but will actually become a part of it wherever they choose to complete their internship.”
If the program is successful during its first year, the university could apply for a renewal for two years and receive a larger amount of funding.
“Other universities that have been chosen for this grant have seen it renewed for several cycles. We certainly hope that the University of Mississippi will be given the chance to build this into a program that is a mainstay of our internationalization effort,” Dinius said.