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NMSU faculty-led courses allow students to see the world

A passport is a ticket to the world, and New Mexico State University students have an opportunity to travel internationally through the Faculty-Led International Program (FLiP).


A group of men and women stand and kneel in front of a sign.
Tim Wright, biology associate professor (fifth from right), and William Gould, economics, applied statistics and international business professor, taught a faculty-led international program course in March in northern Costa Rica. New Mexico State University offered 14 FLiP courses in 2014. (Courtesy photo)

“FLiP is a new program that is designed to help faculty members, who want to teach an international course,” FLiP coordinator Ed Boles said.

In the second-year, FLiP offered 14 courses in 2014, which doubled the number from its first year. FLiP courses allow students the chance to study abroad without interfering with their regular semester classes on campus.

“These are quite different than a standard course,” Boles said. “When you are in travel mode or in the field setting, it’s a 24/7 situation.”

Since faculty members design their own class, each course is unique and travel duration along with the number of pre-travel and post-travel class meetings vary.

“I think what really pulls students into the program is being able to get into the field and learn firsthand about something they have only been reading about, whether that’s business or biology,” Boles said. “When you are on site and you are actually involved with the subject material, it makes for a whole different educational experience.

“There are often students who do not have a lot of travel experience that are gravitating towards these opportunities, especially when we can provide courses that expose students to travel opportunities much cheaper than they could go on their own,” he said. “It also attracts a lot of students who have never been outside the borders of the U.S. It’s a great way for students to become exposed to international travel, because they are traveling with a faculty member who knows the area that they are going to and they are traveling with classmates.”

For spring break 2014, Elvira Hammond, history college associate professor, and Margaret Goehring, art history assistant professor, led the Splendors of Imperial China class on a trip to northwest China as part of the HIST 323/549 and ART 311/511 FLiP course. This was the largest FLiP course to date with 28 members, which included community members for the first time. In addition to 12 NMSU students, the group included NMSU faculty and administration, retirees, alumni and family members, and the age range was 14 to 76.

“We had a very multi-generational mix of people who were sharing this incredible international learning experience and were able to interact and discuss issues and exchange in ways that we typically don’t have available in our society anymore,” Boles said. “We visited some incredible sights. It was a first-time effort for most of the people in this kind of course and many of them want to do it again.”

After arriving in Beijing for the 12-day journey, participants visited many historical sights including the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Great Wall, National Art Museum and Beijing Opera. The group also visited Datong, Pingyao, Yuncheng, XianProv, Luoyang and Shanghai.

FLiP courses have a wide range of topics that span the gamut of colleges at NMSU from languages and linguistics to hotel, restaurant and tourism management to creative media arts.

A research assistant professor in the fish wildlife and conservation ecology department, Boles taught a FLiP course, herpetology FWCE 467/567, in Panama following finals in May.

“It was an incredible experience, lot of frogs, lizards and snakes we were able to collect, identify and photograph and release,” he said. “It was a very successful course. We had 11 participants, and two were non-NMSU students. Most of this course was spent within the field station property.”

Boles said he anticipates that FLiP courses will continue to grow and he plans to talk with department heads this summer about courses for 2015. He also expects NMSU to continue to provide community members the opportunity to participate in FLiP courses.

A FLiP course can be a life-changing experience for students according to Boles.

“A lot of these students end up taking advantage of our study abroad opportunities or sign up for another faculty-led course or begin doing some traveling on their own,” he said. “It opens doors.”

For more information on FLiP courses, visit http://ibp.nmsu.edu or call 575-646-4528.