Opening Access Initiative Increases Student Access to Global Opportunities
For the next several weeks, Karlo Montegrico and two other students from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will travel through the Philippines to document the migration process of the country’s nurses moving to the United States.
Montegrico, a senior biology major, was 5 years old when his parents, both nurses, immigrated to the United States from the Philippines. His trip this summer is allowing him to travel back to his homeland to better understand his family’s trek and showcase his culture to a wide audience on campus when he returns.
He and the other students are going to talk to nursing students, faculty and administrators who can provide first-hand accounts of the migration process and try to learn if there are institutional practices that help facilitate or regulate the trend.
It’s a trip that wouldn’t be possible without the help of the Center for Global Initiatives’ Opening Access Initiative that helps underserved and underrepresented Carolina students travel abroad. Without the program covering a majority of the costs, including lodging, a living stipend and transportation, the project may have never become a reality.
“The Vimy Global Team award from CGI funds the airfare [and] the film equipment allowance, and then the connections that we’ve made using our partnership with Center for Global Initiatives have helped us get even more partners in the Philippines,” Montegrico said.
Part of the Center for Global Initiatives, Opening Access works to increase student access to global opportunities, especially those traditionally underserved. The center offers campus programs and financial awards that range from a short-term education experience in Puerto Rico to self-designed research projects abroad.
The center was recently highlighted when the University was awarded the 2017 Cooke Prize for Equity in Educational Excellence, which recognizes success in enrolling low-income students and supporting them through graduation.
“We’re not claiming that every student should travel internationally during their time at Carolina, but we think all students should be able to make that decision for themselves beyond institutional, financial and cultural barriers,” said Katie Costanza, research, communication and program manager of the Center for Global Initiatives. “It’s about students having a choice of what their education looks like here at Carolina and not just assuming that some opportunities are beyond their reach.”
The Opening Access Initiative works to provide global experiences to all students through educational opportunities abroad, global opportunities on campus, such as foreign language course work, and globally oriented service in the local community, such as engagement in public school classrooms. By doing so, the Initiative hopes to bring an international experience to everybody, regardless of their academic discipline, age, disabilities, educational or family background, gender identity, racial or ethnic identity, sexual orientation or socio-economic status.
While the initiative works to bring a global mindset to Carolina students who don’t necessarily leave the United States, Costanza hopes the local approach encourages students to get a passport and travel abroad. The goal, she said, is to instill an interest early in the students’ Carolina careers so that they can learn about and take full advantage of other competitive global opportunities like the Fulbright U.S. Student Program or Phillips Ambassadors.
One program designed to make this global introduction is called Global Take Off: Puerto Rico.
This program pays for first-year and transfer students with little to no global experience to participate in an interactive, faculty-led, five-day trip to Puerto Rico, where they meet with Puerto Rican students and community members, tour local attractions and engage in networking opportunities.
The Center for Global Initiatives also offers funding for a wide range of global opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students from any college or professional school.
Through a Carolina Global Initiative Award, for example, nursing student Maria Ruiz was able to go to Spain for her summer clinical experience. Ruiz had limited travel experience, and the idea of heading to another country was intimidating.
“I was scared to travel in the first place,” she said. “I wanted to but traveling just freaks me out because it’s a new culture, new people, new things. I hadn’t felt like a foreigner in a long time. But toward the end of the second week, I felt more comfortable and wanted to know more about the people, about the culture. If I could go, I’d go again.”
Those experiences, Costanza said, are what Opening Access aims to create for students.
“A lot of the students who go through these programs report feeling an increased sense of self-awareness and confidence in themselves to deal with new situations and to adapt to a new environment and culture in a way that they never really had the opportunity to try before,” she said.
For more information on the Opening Access Initiative, visit the initiative’s website.
January 23, 2023