Preparing STEM students to code switch and work across borders as temperatures rise
We are unlikely to find a group of people more aware of the impacts of climate change than ESA members. It is a given that we understand that climate change issues will affect us all, and the most at-risk communities will bear the brunt of the effects. Given this awareness of global ecological and social issues, the status quo in preparing the next generation is no longer sufficient. Students with skills to move seamlessly across international, cultural, linguistic, and disciplinary borders will have a great advantage in the STEM fields because of their ability to code switch. Code switching is the practice of moving between variations of languages in different contexts. When prepared in a way where code switching is second nature, the number of creative approaches that students can take in science increases exponentially. We are taking a comprehensive approach to cross-borderpreparation for STEM students, in the broadest sense of the term, in the Global Science and Engineering Program (GSEP) at Northern Arizona University.
Launched in 2011, NAU’s GSEP program has grown to 160 students, with student participation more than doubling in each cohort. In this five-year program, students declare two majors, one in science or engineering (a BS) and one in language or Asian studies (a BA). Students spend a year abroad in the fourth year of the program, taking courses the first semester and conducting a semester-long research experience the second semester. Students spend the year abroad immersed in the language and culture of the host country. GSEP has attracted and retained a strong number of students traditionally underrepresented in both STEM fields and in study abroad programs; over half of our students are women and 41% come from minority populations in the US. Case study results indicate that the combination of STEM and culture plays a role in the high diversity of GSEP. Students with an inherent ability to code switch are drawn to a program where this skill is paramount.