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Sustainable Cooperation: Building a Partnership Network Through Niche Academic Programs

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The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), the coastal university in the North Carolina system, is a comprehensive, master's level mid-size institution in the United States. As the coastal public university for the state, a popular program with in-state, out of state and international students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels is Marine Biology and Marine Science - programs heavily focused on experiential and applied learning.

Over the last several years, the Office of International Programs, in cooperation with the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) has developed a global network of partner universities that share the specialization of Marine Science and/or Coastal Studies, which has facilitated both inbound and outbound international mobility. Outbound mobility in the discipline was traditionally very limited as in the case of many STEM disciplines, but once the network developed and faculty buy in was facilitated, students became confident that they could study abroad and take equivalent upper division courses in their discipline, and the numbers have increased exponentially.

UNCW is currently ranked number six in the United States by Open Doors in terms of outbound student mobility at comprehensive master's universities, and in order to keep pace year after year, we have had to learn to tailor viable programs towards students in this very competitive and popular major. Faculty led programs had been moderately successful, but by definition were short-term and non-immersive in nature. The dean of CAS is himself foreign-born, and a Marine Scientist, so he was naturally supportive of the discipline-driven global focus.

The presentation will address continuing hurdles and successes, how to choose a discipline-driven partner and the need for more of these types of global collaborations in the STEM fields. Ideas will be shared with respect to support for upper division coursework in English and host country languages, and how internships and directed individual study coursework can be an integral part of the partnerships.


Michael Wilhelm    
University of North Carolina Wilmington
United States


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